There is a tall tree of a human named Mark who owns a fantastic, barely real Bohemian coffee house called The Alley Cat Café. It’s not part of the world, it’s just in it. When you go inside you know it immediately. The whole joint is done in sepia. From the moment that you walk up the stairs that lead from the alley and push open the door, everything you see is cool and it appears that every cool thing you see has been there for years. As though nothing is new, but it’s not true. I’ve seen the ebb and flow of art, décor and architectural design over the course of fourteen years, and even though the management has changed a time or two, the character in the visuals stays deep and vibey.
I go there for the coffee and the slightly vibrating barely contained pulse that draws me back. The U-shaped counter is wrapped in copper sheeting that has been beaten and burnished to perfection over the years. Every acoustic ceiling tile is an original work of art, in mediums ranging from oil paint to Sharpie, and each one was done by a patron. The music playing reflects the tastes of two twenty-something java sorcerers working a shift, and it moves from Coltrane to Kraftwerk and Avenge Sevenfold to Etta James, Trance, Jam-grass and everything between the cracks.
The cadre of Baristas is well curated and vetted in the refining fire of the most successful coffee house in Fort Collins, Colorado. Their educations range from BA, MFA, Master’s to ‘I just dropped out of high school and lived on the streets until The Alley Cat took a chance on me’. Some were born abroad and some here. Big, little, Rasta, Bald Girl, Man-bun, Yoga pants, ripped jean, cargo shorts, performers, writers, engineers. The Baristas are a tribe unto themselves.
The taco joint downstairs doubles as an over-night bakery for The Cat, and the duties in the past year have been split between three bakers, all of whom take great care and add their individual character to every sinfully decadent bite that we wait to experience. If you’re fortunate enough to be there at 4 or 5 a.m. when the fresh hot trays come up from that amazing cave, the sensory overload is enough to kill you.
I can sit at a table and stare off into space, slack-jawed and unaware of my appearance, and at any given time there will be half a dozen others doing the same thing. To the one’s who don’t know me, I’m “Older dude with the cool hat”. I’m in my mid 50’s, and there are a few of us around the that age range that are regulars, but for nine months of the year, most of the customers are chai-drinking college kids with fire in their bellies and in their eyes. And about them I have to say; they give me hope for the future and God bless the creator of Yoga Pants.
The Alley Cat – If you haven’t, you should and if you don’t get it, it’s okay, you never will.