I see the poster when I order my coffee. It’s for their tenth anniversary block party. Bands, DJs, art vendors, and a bouncy house for the kids. I see John outside unloading tents and other materials. He looks harried. Says he’s never prepared for these parties. I ask whether there’s room for one more vendor.
I’ve been coming to Jackalope since I moved to Bridgeport in 2015. Its carnivalesque color scheme, collection of kitsch monsters and tiki decorations, and the friendly, talkative staff make it a coffeeshop like no other I know. It’s a little like spending time in Peewee’s Playhouse sometimes. It’s tough to feel maudlin and misunderstood looking at half of the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s scaled torso coming out of a brightly painted wall.
Saturday morning I roll my suitcase of books down the 31st, the folding table strapped to my back. I turn south on Halsted, the left into the cul-de-sac. The DJ booth is set up and a few vendors are putting out their wares. I ask Jan where she wants me and she says pick anywhere. I choose just right of the coffeeshop door so I can use their wifi. The block fills up quick. Soon there’s music pumping from the PA and I line out the door for coffee and sandwiches and pastries that remains till I pack up to leave at 6pm.
The young woman set up next to me sells prints of mushrooms. She tells me about spending a couple May to October seasons working at a hunting lodge for the ultra rich. Accessible only by sea plane, she says she felt like a prisoner. But she made enough money not to work the rest of the year. Now she’s given in and gotten a “real” job. Something in hospitals, monituring patients after spine operations. The mushroom pictures are a hobby that her boyfriend is encouraging her to turn into a career. He’s sick of her giving him art. Says she should be making money off it.
I joke she could recite my book spiel by heart after having to involuntarily endure it.
This collects thirty years of sketching musicians and the memories connected to those drawings.
This is about my twelve years as a cabdriver.
This one’s bar stories. Set in two Chicago bars. Just barely fictional. Had to change names to protect the guilty.
I feel like a hack repeating these lines but what else is there to do. My job sitting behind this table is a literal sales job. I do a lot better than I expected. Especially considering I didn’t even know I’d be here three days ago.
The party’s scheduled to run till nine but I’m spent by six. I roll my suitcase back up Halsted just as Phat Kiss is about to start their set in full makeup and costume.
To run a coffeeshop ten years is a real accomplishment. It’s at least as much community-building as business. Judging by the happy crowds who kept coming all day, Jan and John are a complete success. A little before leaving I run into Jan in the back filling a bucket with ice. I ask whether this is the busiest block party they’ve ever had. She says she’ll have to check. She knows they gave away three-hundred-fifty hotdogs and people bitched there weren’t more.
—Listen to my talk with Azita then, Wednesday, with painter James Jankowiak. Also: Mallory and I talk Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation.
—A play review and a movie review.