In my coffee shop fiction novel, Tripio, Jay works at a Starbucks located on north side of Chicago on the corner of Clark, Diversey and Broadway. In Tripio, for the sake of brevity and authenticity, I refer to it simply as store #204 ,or even just #204. This was a very early Starbucks location as there were fewer than 100 Starbucks up and running as Tripio opens. But, #204 was showing sings of decay from 1,000 transaction Saturday mornings when Jay arrives there as the new Lead Clerk. Jay liked the store’s physical character and the stories it told. His co-workers were mostly aspiring to make a living at one art form or another, so Jay felt he fit right in.
There are several passages in the book when Jay feels at home at #204. He finds comfort settling back in there for a shift after returning to the city from a trip downstate: “ I had spent too much time here not to treat #204 as a home away from home”So, it was no shock that I had a strong desire to go back and revisit store #204. I also wanted to look again on the Days Inn that stood diagonally and across the street from #204. There were many, many nights I closed #204 and had to get back to open or at the very least be back for a morning shift. If I closed, I locked that door after midnight. If I opened the next morning, it was at 5:30 or 6 a.m. The Days Inn stood just across the street on those nights, calling me, tempting me. A shower and bed was just minutes away. My apartment was a long bus ride up Clark. It could take almost an hour before a shower and bed there. I would then have to make the return trip on almost no sleep. All that could be fixed by a night at the Days Inn. But no money, no way.
As summer 2017 arrived I took the opportunity to drive to Chicago and see both places. I wanted to confirm the details of #204. After all, it had been 20 plus years. My trip to Chicago was also a gift for my daughter. She was headed to college in the fall and we went together as a going away present. That is why I did no research on whether #204 still existed. I was going anyway.
Not surprisingly #204 was no more. If it is true that you can’t go home again, at least you have a shot if it still standing. I could visualize where it stood in the new collection of storefronts that had taken over the whole building that housed and surrounded #204. I can’t say I was crushed or even surprised. I could still hear the thud of the filter basket hitting the bar across the dump bucket positioned on either end of the espresso bar, the grinders clicking on and the shriek of the hot steaming wand entering the cold milk. All that was still in my mind.
As I think it over now, perhaps not having a physical confirmation of #204 made me work harder to recreate #204 in Tripio. I had to work to rebuild it, and I did. Look for proof when you read Tripio in the scene where Jay dusts off an “order here” sign that hung unnoticed by almost every customer and most partners who had ever entered #204.
So, the trip worked, just not in the way I anticipated. One thing that did work out more to plan was that I finally got to stay at the Days Inn. Now it is called The Versey https://www.hotelversey.com/ but the ghost of the Days Inn was still there. And it was put to rest. But best of all, my daughter and I had a grand time in Chicago…
“May I help who’s next?”