Welcome to the little Ersatz Tea Cafe

Ever wish you could drop by a side cafe and enjoy a hot cup of tea with a group of kindred spirits? Imagine a feeling of ease, settling into the comfort of being in the presence of thoughtful listeners willing to share their careful insight into your unique experience. You'd sit with this group and lose track of time, left immobile by perpetual enlightenment and humbled by the immensity of the human experience that surrounds you. These deep thinkers have a certain weightiness to their character but a warm and earthy presence all the same. They'd delight in welcoming you to their society at the little Ersatz Tea Cafe.

When I was a middle school teacher in New York, I frequently visited a Barnes and Nobel Starbucks on 3rd Avenue and 51st Street in Manhattan. I spent countless hours in the cafe grading papers, making lesson plans, completing assignments for graduate school, and trying to sort through the confusing, moving parts of my life. I remember a group of very kind gentlemen who would gather there each day to fellowship and discuss current events.  They looked to all be within the ages of 60-75 and had developed quite a ritual of meeting up with each other daily- sometimes gathered around the same exact table.  Their conversations were never for their ears only- to the dismay of some of the patrons.One of them revealed to me that he had been visiting the cafe for 20 years!  I was certain that store would last forever and to say I was rocked to my core when it closed down permanently in June 2016 is an understatement. So many of the experiences I felt or endured were also felt in that space. So in a sense, my creation here is almost like a tribute to those experiences- forever etched into my heart and to those gentleman and their little informal society. 

Ersatz Tea Cafe is the inspiration for my online writing presence. It's a collection of essays and or musings I've written and continue to write. Thank you so much for visiting here and reading my words.  I hope you enjoy.


The Blue Wall

Prompt: I have been contacted to travel to a small town by the name of Evening Rose in Missouri to write a piece on the town's "Blue Wall."  Upon the successful completion of the article, it will be published in a small community magazine.  

Sitting at my borrowed desk on loan from the town of Evening Rose, I stare from a short distance away at my subject.  I wonder and I ponder with great depth and deep sincerity how I can capture the spirit of this wall that means so much to the townspeople.

The wall isn't blue.  It's a simple red brick-remnants of an old long forgotten factory building that was demolished completely many years before anyone's recent memory can recall. 

Time stands still here as I breathe in slowly and deeply, attempting to tap into the creative writing expression that courses beneath the surface- presently held siege by my own writer's block.  I note with 'matter-of-fact' interest that the brick facade stands about 15 feet- overlooking my tiny office and dwarfing all other surroundings.  The top of the wall what was once attached to a roof is uneven, several missing pieces of brick giving it a depleted, slightly crumbling effect and the likeness of a once great ruin. 

And yet for all its run down quality and appearance, there is life surrounding this Blue Wall. Wild grasses have made their way home here, around the wall in a natural, disorderly progression of life and growth.  Blooming rogue wildflowers of violets, pinks and blues are the sprinkled mix that color the landscape along with the unfettered, wispy seeds of dandelions. The sky is a whimsical twirl of soft blue and baby pink and the sun is slowly beginning to set on this calm, serene late summer day.  The carefree laughter of children playing is heard in the distance, and for a second, I lose myself in this bountiful sensory experience that surrounds me.  
The wall stands tall and imposing.  Cars whip past on this busy paved main street- none ever bothering to stop or slow down to pay homage to this enigmatic remnant. I sit and I wonder, my mind roams and I process the significance of this Blue Wall.      


The Airport

Sitting in the airport chair, my once hopeful eyes are downcast, full of despair and regret over what's lost.  A different loss than the one before- the one that caused this powerful, internal revolution that has chosen me to be its unwilling participant and has placed me in this position to begin with. The truth is there is this sinking feeling, which feels so heavy- heavy enough to cause me and the chair to collapse right through the floor.  I don't care- I wouldn't fight it- but I worry there is no one to pull me up from the wreckage once it's all over.
The people around me are engaged in their lives- unaware of the struggle that I silence within. And maybe that's for the best for anyone else laden with this burden or even privy to it, I worry, would succumb and collapse under its weight. Their eyes are unchanged by my unseeable albatross and their lives appear to be filled with hope and promise as mine appears to be ending.
All around, the chatter and good natured frenzied energy of the airport which once enlivened me is now dead to me.The only thing of significance, the only thing that really matters anymore is the weight of what's lost.  I sit.  The receptors on my brain that control my body's learned response to the invigorating sights, the sounds, the images have become inhibited and the beautiful promise of what a wait in the airport once held no longer generates warmth. I liken myself to a mute.  But what I cannot say with my mouth radiates from my body like the fatal rays from a gamma ray burst.
This airport suddenly morphs into all the other airports I've been through before and that served as a portal to varied undirected destinies- one of agitation and gross uncertainty, hope and love, resolute enduring to push forward and finally a sad and final end- it would seem.  How can I?  A rush of nostalgia mixed with memories of piercing, fleeting cheerfulness and the certainty of one what was supposed to be a never-ending promise now render me will-less. 


Mindful Breakfasts

MIndful Breakfasts

It all started out with a thinly sliced, hot off the grill piece of boneless steak, a fresh baked potato no butter or salt added and a cup of steaming hot, sugar-less black tea... I was ravenous.  As the one who must always engage in an internal tug-of-war over what she should or should not eat, I surprised myself at how swiftly and effortlessly I was able to evade any ensuing battle with my conscious over the nourishment that was placed before me (or rather quickly disappearing).  I barely had time to process my typical ensuants of eating a cow (environmental impact of both ranching and methane gas and the drawbacks of industrial agriculture) as I tore into the succulent, well-seasoned and tender beef and hearty, wholesome baked potato.   This Combination of foods resulted in one satisfying experience and a glimpse into into the world of minimally processed foods. And it dawned on me- if this is what good food tastes like, when why have I been denying myself the exquisite pleasure of making the acquaintance of the supermarket perimeter where there exists a mecca of possibilities to explore?  

In my previous life in New York City, I had neither the time, money or ideal setup (think roommates) to develop a relationship with the foods I ate.  My standard rations were Kraft mac and cheese, packaged tuna with saltines, pasta in tomato sauce and various assortments of soups and sandwiches from Pret a Manger.  Now I feel my spirits life when I think about the exciting breakfast meals I can create with just a few simple ingredients. 

Making mindful breakfasts to me means being conscious of how I feel physically and emotionally and how what I consume for breakfast can either enhance or take away.  I had a terrible sore throat for almost two weeks and I simply could not imagine having cereal and cold milk so instead I made a hot breakfast.  I was feeling a little blue and wanting something comforting and warm to soothe my blue mood so I set out to make homemade oatmeal. I was craving something sweet but light and by this point, foodstuffs were running low around the house so I toasted some bread, found some peanut butter and cut up a single banana that was on its way to the dumpster in the next day or so and voila! A satisfying, healthful and filling breakfast. Other items in my breakfast lineup have included:                      

  • White toast with butter and a cup of coffee
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter, topped with bananas
  • Spinach sauteed in olive oil and lemon juice with scrambled eggs
  • Homemade oatmeal simmered in milk with sugar and raisins 
  • Blended shake of Chocolate nutrition mix with bananas, milk, peanut butter

Now that I've discovered the richness and value that eating wholesome goodness can add to our lives, I'm looking towards preparing more mindful meals. Why? Because it felt good to me. Providing my body with natural, minimally processed food helped me to feel good and to appreciate starting my day in a positive way knowing that I'd done something good for my body by doing without  unnatural inundations of  salt, sugar and preservatives. 

Simple, basic, minimally processed.


Ice Cream 'Daze'

The color of the sky as the sun began to set today reminded me of the rainbow ice cream I loved so much as a child. Stepping onto the porch, I shivered in cold as memories of forgotten childhood slowly revealed themselves to me- triggered by the significance of the vibrant hues in the sky.  And it was as though I took an involuntary leap back in time- a vivid image of the gravely road I walked along as a little girl resurfacing as I headed with my mother towards Macio's- the neighborhood mini grocery.  And I remembered Mr. Macio selling delicious hotdogs and even more delicious ice cream.  I always got a hefty helping of "rainbow"- a mix of blue, cream and pink flavors with an impalpable, subtle relation to vanilla.  My mother always preferred the butter pecan. Even though I knew mine was the much better tasting of the two, I couldn't resist the temptation of tasting hers too.  While I savored every fine second with my ice cream, I keenly remember a feeling of impatience and agitation as my rainbow always left a messy, runny trail down my little hands- melting faster in the southern heat quicker than I could eat it.  And sticky hands were the result!  Sticky hands were no fun for a little girl who viewed going inside as punishment or the end to a long, satisfying but tiring day of fun outside. 

 I long for, I miss the days where you could have ice cream, where ice cream was marked by some celebration or some sign of comfort.

Lost by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows
Where you are.  You must let it find you.