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Sunday, August 07, 2016

Coffee, biscuits and gravy and goats

The Wandering Goat

The smell of freshly brewed coffee, pastries, incense and - unmistakably - pot envelopes us as we walk into the coffee shop in the funky Whiteaker neighborhood. A tall, dread-locked young man with several face piercings and about a week's worth of grime on his face almost runs into us, as we enter. He smiles. My husband smiles.

We came out early on this Saturday morning in search of good coffee and a good breakfast. The Wandering Goat has fabulous coffee, the kind that slides smoothly down your throat and warms you to your toes with just enough caffeine to satisfy your soul. We tried it at a recent festival and became fans, and that's why we find ourselves in our conservative "over 50" apparel and seeming slightly out of place at their establishment buying coffee and asking if they sell breakfast. "No, not really," responds the burly looking young man, dressed in black jeans, a black sleeveless shirt that shows off his tattoos. All of the baristas here are dressed likewise, black sleeveless T-shirt, black jeans with just the right amount of tears, tattoos and a smattering of piercings. "But we have baked stuff," he points to the window of tempting pastries, "and we have biscuits and gravy."

We order coffee and biscuits and gravy because where we grew up, biscuits and gravy always made for a good breakfast. We find an empty table and sit down. My husband looks at the plates of biscuits and gravy. I had a half order and the plate overflows with a brownish thick concoction with lumps of what appears to be fresh mushrooms. "Uh, this does not look like gravy," my husband says. "At least not the kind we eat for breakfast." After a bite or two, I give up. It also does not taste anything like a biscuits and gravy breakfast should taste. "I think this might be some sort of vegan concoction," I say. The biscuits don't taste like the ones I've ever tasted. My husband, a firm believer in not wasting food he's paid for eats on, occasionally grimacing.

Fortunately, the coffee delivers where the breakfast does not. So, I settle in to enjoy my cup and check out the environment and watch the people coming and going.

A steady stream of 70s psychedelic rock blares softly. The art on the wall, all labeled "untitled," features globs of red, white, and black paint on varying sizes of canvas. Maybe someone split their paint on it?

There's a smattering of gray-hair in the crowd, with the familiar piles of papers or laptop and reading glasses that make us decide most of them are professors from the local university. The rest of the crowd is young. I decide the best way to describe the crowd is "hip," but not like the hipsters we knew in our former city with their well-groomed beards and expensive clothes designed to make us believe they bought them at a thrift store. This hip is almost 70s hip, a step back in time, where people just were and didn't care what others thought about their clothes, hair or hipness. The customers are a blend of college students, artists, young and old hippies and the occasional homeless guy -- they all walk out clutching a cup of coffee. A man, early 20s, wavy shoulder-length hair, sits at a table near the front; he leans against the wall watching the crowd. He looks like a reincarnation of Jim Morrison. A group of another five young men walk in together -- a band? Their wild, long hair, well-worn jackets and jeans and camaraderie suggests they know each other well. I wonder what kind of music they play.

When we are done with our coffee and our paper, we linger -- people watching, soaking in the ambiance. Finally deciding it's time to go on with our day, we walk out. The fresh air greets us like a welcome friend. It's a beautiful sunny, cool -- yet not cold -- morning. The shops in the area look industrial but we see a wine cellar, a brewery, another brewery,  a soul food cafe that we promise to come visit soon, another is a music venue. All are trendy, yet mainstream and traditional businesses, for Eugene. My husband has found brewtopia and he's coming back.

The urbanite in me misses the big city. And, I miss the neat Texas neighborhoods with mowed lawns and I miss the wide streets that you don't share with bikes, skateboarders and pedestrians -- whom I'm always terrified I'm going to one day hit here. But I'm slowly acclimating to and appreciating my new surroundings.

On the way home, we stop and buy a few essential oils and an infuser from a young woman I met on a barter site on Facebook. I realized last week that when we need something at home, we usually swing by the Goodwill first to see if they have what we need before we run to Target to buy it, so yes, I'm accepting, I'm changing, to this new place. I still occasionally have outbursts about the "damn hippies" but a year from now, I could well be wearing my Birkenstocks, riding my bike, brewing my own beer and eating vegan biscuits. Keep Eugene Groovy, y'all.

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