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Sam & Heather

Sam & Heather are gone from The Beanery.   I feel their absence as another internal tear of emotional awareness.  They were not large components in my life.  Barristas and students, they made my coffee and chatted about their lives.  It's how they shared with open and upbeat unvarnished enthusiasm that granted them special status in my mind. 

Before they left, Eli, the marvelously talented painter, proficient guitarist and passionate teacher left.  Chelsea left before him.... 

About sixteen have left in the seven years of my visits.  Each one's departure, going back to Heidi years ago, is another mark of change.  I can't say any of the changes have been bad.  It's always with the best plans in mind that people leave here and take up a new residence and challenge so I'm happy for them to continue their pilgrimmage. 

Heidi was the first Beanery employee to ask me my name.  Heidi was the manager when I began my run of Beanery patronage.  I'd learn their names by eavesdropping.  Nobody spoke my name so it was never known.  But one day, Heidi asked, "Would you mind telling me your name?  I see you around town and say, 'Oh, there goes organic double shot skinny Mexican guy.'" 

So I told her my name.  My name and my drink became passed from employee to employee, shift to shift, year to year, creating a river of continuity for me.  The old hands introduce me to the new people when they begin their training. Jokes accompany the introductions.  I joke about the truth that I can't remember my drink but fortunately everyone else knows it (thank God).  They joke that I don't know the drink but I can tell you its price and will correct them if it's rung up wrong.  We all joke about my role as a regular, part of the cadre of regulars.

I've seen several of the departed barrista since they've left.  Chelsea works at another coffee shop and eatery during the school year and lives not far from me.  She's a biker and I'm a walker so we run into each other frequently.  Adam, now married, now with two children, works at the Planned Parenthood up the street.  I see him almost every week, almost every day.  Emi, a student here for eight years who now lives in her hometown of Portland, returns to Ashland to visit friends.  Tai came down from Portland to audition for a role at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

I've always said that its The Beanery's energy and spirit that attracts me.  That's almost wholly true although they make the best damn Mexican mocha that I've tasted anywhere, and I prefer their Mexican over other fares at other places. 

But I'm sure The Beanery's energy and spirit begins with those people behind the counter, smiling and greeting me not because that's corporate policy but because they're friendly and intelligent human beings.  Heidi had that going when she was manager and so have the other managers.  Emi, Adam, Tai, Piper and the rest instilled that spirit in each new person that came onboard.  Now Brian, like all of them, gifted and intelligent, remains to teach the rest.  He's aware of his role and takes it on with comical seriousness.  He has a goal to be the barrista that worked here longer than anyone else.

So Sam and Heather are gone.  Heather doesn't plan to return.  She's continuing her education at OSU at Eugene, closer to home.  Sam has a girlfriend here and plans to come back at summer's end after exploring Alaska for a few months.

I plan to be here, drinking coffee and writing.