Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ryan Stark

It is safe to assume that most people
reading this
won’t personally know
an upstanding Gentleman named Ryan Stark,
who was raised in the Old Southwest of Reno, Nevada
and who currently resides in Oakland, California
where he owns and manages a coffee shop called
The Black Spring Coffee Co.

But despite this
I believe
if you stick with me
to the end

you will probably have
a fair idea
of who Mr. Stark is
and what he is all about.

The thing is
I like coffee shops.
Doesn’t matter.
I enjoy the vibe.
It helps me concentrate.

But I can only abide them during a
brief window of time;
Just after they’ve opened
to just before the morning rush.

I sit here, so happy,
despite the fact that
in just a couple short hours
The pastry display will look like Normandy Beach
with a ripped in half
Red Berry Cheesecake Danish
left bleeding out in the arms of some
crumbled Blueberry Scone
and all those luscious BMT Chicken Salad Sandwiches 
will be snatched up,
leaving their far less desirable Turkey Havarti counterparts
to face this miserable world all alone.

And the napkin dispenser will be empty
And the trash will overflow
And the infants will scream
And the crazy homeless dudes will need corralling

And this silent air will be shattered
by the barking
of some bitchy dude,
Or some dudey bitch,
in a slick business suit

Who has to take a single precious second away
from his or her
Bluetooth conference convo
in Japanese, no less,
to yell at this poor barista chick because



And then the barista will say,

“Gee, dude, I don’t know, man.
Maybe we boned up your order,
maybe we didn’t . . . 
but either way,
I feel like you might be
over-reacting just a smidge.

"Because if you being
five minutes late to work today
is really going to effect your life
that much,

"then maybe you shouldn’t have
stopped in here to get a coffee
in the first place,

"And maybe
just a little bit of this 
you’re experiencing right now
is, like, I don’t know, maybe
just a little bit
Your Fault.

"Perhaps I’m just like 
a tiny insignificant integer
In the gigantic, unwieldy,
cluster fuck of a math problem 
that your life is turning out to be,

"The same way that Welfare
for instances
is only a tiny fraction of one per cent
of the United States Federal Budget,

"And maybe this whole entitled,
self-destructive, narcissistic thing you’ve got going on
is like,
the true culprit here . . .
not me.

I'm just some chick 
who makes coffee.

“And dude:

“Just a nice thing.
Not the end all.
Not the be all.
Just a good thing.

“A thing that brings comfort
'Joy' is even too strong a word.
It's a friendly chemical nudge
that eases you towards all the shit
you just gotta get done today.

“And I get that you’re important
and I bet you’re even a tolerable,
hell, even likeable
when you’re not being a
total fucking cataclysm

"But you gotta understand, man,
I got tons of other people just like you
every minute of every day,
and they're all having their own personal meltdowns

"Over nothing but,
let’s face it,
over priced,
heated up,
bitter water.

“And I’m like an artist,
or something,
and I only took this job because
I thought it was kinda romantic
or something

"And as stupid as it probably sounds to someone like you,
I just want to use my dumb art
to share all the beauty I see
in the world,
with the world
And right now,
You are killing that for me.

“Because I want to like you, dude,
I really do!
But for real,
You make me feel nothing but contempt and disgust
for everyone on earth.

"And sometimes
I just want to set this whole goddamn place on fire
And watch you
And all these innocent little squealing babies
And that poor old homeless crazy veteran fuck
And all the rest them
just burn the fuck alive

"because you just treated me
like garbage
when I just gave you 
my best.”

for me at least,
None of this has happened

The hour is still early.
The sun has barely begun pulling
itself out of the mighty Atlantic.

It is calm.
It is serene.

The pastry display is immaculate.
The sandwich cooler looks like the White House 
after a fresh coat of paint.
The napkin dispensers, the straw cups, and the coffee sleeve holders are all
Locked, Cocked, and Ready 2 Rock.

Each stone-faced piece of 
metal and plastic and paper and compost 
looks completely undaunted
by the impossible task
that lie ahead.

Besides myself,
there is only one other customer
in the coffee shop.

He is a regular looking guy
of average height and middle age.
Dressed plainly,
he does not stand out
to me
or anyone else.

I watch the man order
a medium cup of coffee.
He pays for his drink,
tosses a buck into the tip jar,
then continues on to the milk and sugar table.

He pours himself a moderate amount of cream
along with a single serving of Sugar In The Raw,
and then proceeds to give his brew
a slow, methodical stir.

No rush.

Nowhere he needs to be.

Just taking a moment to make sure 
that his coffee
turns out
just how he likes it.

He has shown up early
after all
For this express reason.

Then he drops the stirrer and
the sugar packet
straight into the bottom 
of the empty waste-basket.

And that's when this man,
this stranger
does something
that I find 
So beautiful

So inspiring
that I am forced to forget 
all my plans I had for the morning
to write this instead.

Because it is at this moment when
this Gentleman before me
swipes a single napkin out of the dispenser
in one crisp motion
like a Marine saluting a Five Star General.

He leaves no millimeter of napkin
still inside the dispenser
and doesn't draw the next napkin out
leaving it to an undignified end
where it would have been left to languish
devoid of purpose on the counter.

He uses his single napkin
to mop up not only whatever slight mess
he might have made,
But he also wipes down
the greater Napkin, Sugar Packet, and
Milk Holder Region.

He leaves the entire area looking as
as it was when the store
first opened.

It’s a simple, modest gesture
But it tells me
a great deal.

It tells me that there are still a few people
Rare people
A criminally minuscule percentage of people
Who know the score,

They recognize the circus,
They can smell the animals,
They know that despite all our best intentions
And our utmost due diligence

This Crazy Train we're all riding
is leading us straight to the heart of Pandemonium,
The State Capital of Hell itself
No matter what.

Can't stop it.
Can't change it.

But they won't participate in it.
They won't retreat from it.

They’ll fight against it
knowing they don’t stand a chance.
Accepting certain defeat
Before they even begin.

And it reminds me
of the first man
besides my father 
that I ever really admired,

The first Stoic, 
True Blue
Righteous Dude

I ever did have
the distinct pleasure
of knowing.

And I think of Ryan Stark
who was raised in the Old Southwest of Reno, Nevada.
And I smile.


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