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The Deadline Café: Episode 1

The first installment of our ongoing story series, written by local authors and set in Evanston.

What makes an ordinary day extraordinary?  Someone you meet?  Someone you lose? Finding a dollar?  Falling in love?  Or does your whole world change—like mine did—with words scrawled on a piece of paper by a stranger? 

Call me crazy, (or Hank, like everyone else does) but to tell you the truth, one of the things I really like about Chicago, well, Evanston, to be exact, is the winters. I don’t mind the snow or even the ice because the landlord shovels the steps and I don’t have to worry about shoveling out a parking spot because I don’t drive. What I really like is when the doors of the El rattle open and the wind hits you screeching in the face and it’s come all the way down from Canada, whipping up waves and picking up speed over Lake Michigan, just to slap you awake. Always reminds me of that line in Solzhenitsyn where the guy says, “How can a man who’s warm understand a man who’s cold?” 

Never could explain why I like the cold, especially that wind. Must have been an Arctic explorer in a past lifetime. I have to confess that I also like the mystery of winters here and watching customers, especially the women, come in, all wrapped up, and seeing them unfurl their scarves and then unbutton or unzip until the truth is revealed and there they are, sitting in my café. Spring and summer just don’t have the same mystery about them.

Ok, maybe I am crazy to like Chicago winters.

But am I crazy to love coffee? Because coffee is what I love. The smell of it! Tea’s nice, and sure, we sell it, but it doesn’t have that smell. And I love the colors of coffee. The dark roast that’s so dark you can’t see your spoon in it. The color that cream makes when you pour it in slowly and it curves back up from the bottom of your cup to turn the coffee three shades of brown until you stir it in and maybe add some sugar if it’s been a long night. I’ve loved coffee as far back as I can remember, back to when my old man would dash off to work and leave just a little in the bottom of the cup and I’d sip that last bit of his coffee there just to see what it was like to be grownup.  I love coffee and the memories it brings back. Not every cup, sure. But now and then you’re having a cup and before you know it you’re thinking of that cup of coffee you had with that brown-eyed girl in college the next morning. Your first cup of coffee with a woman.

Winters I like, but coffee I love. Which is why coming in to work today, early enough in the new year that people who made resolutions might still be keeping them, was such a shock. Finding that note under the door. Thought it was a piece of ice at first that I’d kicked off when I stomped my boots. And I wish I could say that that’s what it was, but it wasn’t and everything changed when I read it. You finally think you’ve got some things figured out, then something like this comes along--some little asteroid--and life changes and things start to get real serious real fast.

“90 days.” That’s all the note says. What’s this? I think. The hell? “90 days?” I look up and down the back alley. No one there. This someone’s idea of a joke?

tomaplomb January 18, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Enticing! Can't wait for the next sip.
Judy January 18, 2011 at 03:06 PM
I am hooked already ... J
Michele January 18, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Like it
Dia Walsh January 18, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Cool! I'm bitten.
Hilary rose January 18, 2011 at 03:46 PM
I'm in! And more enthusiastic than this mini-type would imply (don't know how to enlarge it!)
Wes Lee January 18, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Thanks much to all who have left such nice comments and recommended Deadline Cafe. And thanks to Evanston Patch for hosting. FYI: if you are on facebook, you can sign up to become a fan of The Deadline Cafe and receive updates.
Henry Kisor January 18, 2011 at 04:29 PM
What's the address of the Deadline Cafe? I want to go hang out there!
tomaplomb January 18, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Hey - just learned you can become a fan of the Dealine Cafe on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/deadlinecafe
Linda Gartz January 18, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Drawn in by the love of warm coffee and cold winters. As a life-long Chicagoan and regular Peet's junkie I'm identifying all the way. Love the connection to Dickens -- if he could make a serial novel work back in the day, why not now?
Sue Gelber January 18, 2011 at 07:51 PM
Hooked already. I look forward to seeing what happens over the next 90 days.
Jane GL January 18, 2011 at 10:03 PM
Feel like I'm living in the 50s waiting for the next radio episode - loving it.
Scooter McMoneagle January 18, 2011 at 11:27 PM
You've got me salivating...not only for a cup of hot, aromatic, rejuvenating java but also to find out what magic is afoot within 90 days!
AJfromtheBronx January 19, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Who's going to be walking in the Deadline Cafe door? Ready to find out.
Larry Gritton January 19, 2011 at 12:56 AM
Great start. I will follow. TrueGrit
Penny Swartz January 19, 2011 at 01:54 AM
I'm totally intrigued. Can't wait for the next episodes.
judy January 19, 2011 at 03:32 AM
so excited for this and what steam lies ahead. Want to reread Solzhenitsyn as well...
piguano January 19, 2011 at 03:35 AM
I enjoyed this evening's read.
Shelley Goddard January 19, 2011 at 04:44 AM
How fun! Can't wait to read the next one.
Ruth Rose January 19, 2011 at 06:40 AM
Ruth 1/18/11 I'm hooked.
Wes Lee January 19, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Stay tuned, friends. Episode 2 is brewing and will be ready soon today.
Laura Temkin January 19, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Cool idea. And a good read so far too!
JSBissell January 20, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Ah, this is great, can't wait for the next installment. JSBissell
Julia Sage January 20, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Wes, great idea...can't wait to read the rest!
Diane Charney January 21, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Hanging in NH, and waiting for more - thanks...Diane
jim February 06, 2011 at 12:37 AM
Pretty good - got to say I recognize the cup and biscotti from Unicorn Cafe, true to the Evanston Patch ideal in keeping it local.

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