November 3rd, 2010
Good Grief: An Ode to Cafe Agora
“You’re going to have to find a new hangout,” said the text message I read on Sunday morning through a glassy-eyed hangover.
“What do you mean?” I asked in response.
“Agora burned down last night.”
No, this can’t be true. Agora? My favorite spot in Houston. The place that I bring any newcomer to the city to show them the kinds of unique places that this city has to offer can’t have been ravaged by fire. Sure… they have candles lit on every table, but I’ve seen them blow them out as they do the rounds to close out. I’ve been there too many times as the clock strikes 2AM to not see them take every precaution. My friend must be talking about somewhere else. April is five months away. This isn’t the time for practical jokes.
More texts come in as people roll out of bed and turn on the news. “Sorry for your loss.” “Just heard. Are you OK?” “Sucks. Sorry, dude.” Don’t be sorry for me. I’m sorry for you! You never learned to appreciate Agora like I did. You thought it was just a phase in my life. Why didn’t I go one last time on Saturday morning? I SHOULD HAVE GONE!! My satchel was in my car full of notebooks ready for scribblings. How could you do this to me, cruel world? I blame you, Halloween! Just another reason to hate your existence.
If I could only just have one more moment with the coffee shop. Perhaps they’ll let me sit inside the charred remains. It will smell like the good old days when 90% of the patrons waved cigarettes around as they debated Kierkegaard vs. Kripke. To hear the Greeks yelling above the fray about Americans’ poor taste in beer. There has to be one coffee cup that survived the blaze, right? Hopefully it’s one of the bottomless cups… Perhaps it will act as the eternal flame, always self-filling of Texas Pecan coffee. Just one look inside, that’s all I need.
Who am I kidding? Writing just isn’t worth it anymore. If I can’t sit in those uncomfortable chairs, my knees barely able to fit below ridiculously low tables bolted to the walls on the second floor, then I’m just not going to do it. I retire. I quit. Take me away. Here’s the Visconti pen my sister gave me for my birthday. The only thing I’ll be writing from here on out is a rent check and possibly power of attorney paperwork to keep decisions out of my hands. This world is not fit for me. Hopefully there is an Agora in the sky waiting for me.
Maybe they can rebuild? It’s a brick building. The structure couldn’t have been damaged that badly. The Greeks won’t stand for this. They are resilient. THEY ARE SPARTA! Did they roll over and quit when Alexander the Great came to power in the North? Well, maybe a little bit, but they survived. They made due. They united. Eventually they borrowed too much money and the economy around them collapsed, but that’s why God invented the European Union. They will be bailed out. We will bail them out. I’m starting a collection. Here’s 50 cents. That’s enough for a refill and a first step toward a new Agora.