Adventures in Shepherdstown: A Writer’s Life

I grab my jacket and my wallet and my cell phone and my room keycard and my Sportsband and I head out of the Clarion Hotel, down a hill or two, and walk for about a mile until I spot an old white building which is almost blocking traffic. It’s the old library here in Shepherdstown, West Virginia and as crazy as it sounds, the damn building was not so much built around the street as the street was built around it.

I peer into a window of an old red brick building and try to make sure that Hypnocoffee is open and it is, so I open one door, step into a vestibule, and open another door, which takes me into the best coffee shop I’ve ever visited. Maybe that doesn’t sound right; after all, this is a small town and a small shop that lacks name brand recognition, but it’s the truth and I swear it.

I’m on a working vacation with my husband. He’s working, that is. I’m supposed to be working too, but I’m a writer and I spend most of my time walking around and taking the sights in and trying to find stuff to write about. Travis is busy from eight to five. Anyway, this leaves me lots of time to search for stuff to write about and to me, that’s another way of saying that I’m going on an adventure.

Before we left, that fine man of mine spent hours researching coffeehouses in Shepherdstown. “ I just want to make sure you’re really comfortable,” he explained. He’s either really solicitous or I’m a pain in the ass when I travel, or it’s a combination of both. The truth is, he researches coffee as if he were the coffee version of an oenophile and I’m downright picky about what beans I drink.

There is a really popular coffee house here, called Lost Dog Café. Fortunately Travis warned me that there baristas were rude; their coffee, bland, so I didn’t take it personally when the young woman at the cash register tossed an empty cup at me when I ordered a large brew. She barely made eye contact, and I felt out of sorts and shy as I paused and looked around. Lost Dog is a cool place. It’s all funky, with lots of color, a kaleidoscopic array of chalk scrawled all over chalkboards, t-shirts and mugs for sale, and a directive to be artsy-cool or drink coffee somewhere else. That made me laugh because I’m making my living as a writer. I write real stuff. But looking at me, in my 41-year old mother of three very imperfect body, baggy jeans, running t-shirt and Brooks running shoes, well, no one would ever know that I’m a creative type. And that’s all right with me.

After all, it’s what you do, what you create, not how you look when you create it, that really matters.

And that brings me back to Hypnocoffee. They are first, and above all else, a coffee roastery. You won’t find any t-shirts in here, or fancy mugs, or poseur political slogans. And that’s okay with me. Because what you will find, or what I’ve found, is the best cuppa Joe I’ve ever quaffed.

“Woooo. Check this out. They employ the pour-over approach.”

I glanced at my husband, barely paying attention. “Uh-huh.”

He shifted his iPad in his hand so that I can see it. “Look. Check it out.”

I nodded, and he showed me what looked like a giant hourglass, with a white paper filter filled with fresh-ground coffee and almost boiling water on top.

“They say this makes the best coffee, ever. It’s the latest thing, and it’s taking the coffee house by storm.”

“Mmm, nice,” I murmured, my eyes searching for the pages of my book.

“So you’re going to like, no, love this place.”

And you know what? From the moment the coffee hit the roof of my mouth yesterday, I loved the dark brew and the place that brewed it.

The barista is a young guy, and yeah, I’ve reached the age where all creatures under thirty are young guys. Getting old can be a bitch, you know? This young guy wears a bow tie and his eyes twinkle when he talks, especially about coffee. “Yeah, you’re going to love the pour-over,” he predicts, with a smile that starts near his eyes. “It blows the doors off French Press coffee. And I know French Press coffee,” he adds, in response to my own benchmark for comparing coffee brewing methods. “I used to work at a place where we made coffee out of these industrial size French Presses.”

I take a sip and smile, again feeling shy. It’s hard for me to know what to say to people, so I usually stop trying to figure it all out and just tell the truth. “It’s awesome. Great coffee.” I tip my 12-ounce white cup at him and smile, crossing the small shop in about seven steps before I reach the inner door.

That was yesterday. It’s Tuesday, and I’m back again. It’s my kind of place. As Hemingway would say, it’s a clean, well-lit place, and I’m comfortable here. I’ve met Tony, the owner, and he’s a runner and a father and a busy man who, like me, is doing what he loves, loving what he’s doing, and doing it pretty damn well.

29 comments on “Adventures in Shepherdstown: A Writer’s Life
  1. simplytrece says:

    It sounds like a method. When I was in college, it was what they used to make coffee in during the English Dept.’s Coffee Hour. Made good coffee.

  2. Anita Hohl says:

    ‘After all, it’s what you do, what you create, not how you look when you create it, that really matters.”
    I think I needed that reminder. Great post…

  3. hiddinsight says:

    Have you heard about monkey poo coffee beans? Apparently they are doing this with elephants now (as in feeding the the coffee beans and brewing them once the come out roasted on the other end). Are there no elephant poo coffee shops there? No? Well, I guess you have to be none the wiser with this stuff cuz who really tries that *shit* anyway…? One day I hope for a review from you, El. Don’t keep me waiting or I’ll forget I asked…

    adventure? or avoidance?

  4. I love working business vacations when H2 is actually working and I’m “working”. Fun!

  5. April Sawler says:

    Hi there, I’m not really a coffee drinker, good tea is my way to start the day and a cuppa helps all sorts of things, but I am curious. This pour over coffee sounds like the Melitta method where coffee in a filter is placed in a cone shaped holder and boiling water poured over it. When I do have a cup o’ joe this is my method and it’s been around since the 70’s and makes a great coffee. Are they the same thing?

  6. I just love the way you write. I just felt like I was right there beside you as you ventured into these coffee shops. And I agree with Anita. This line got me, too: “After all, it’s what you do, what you create, not how you look when you create it, that really matters.” Thank God for that. I do my best writing on a treadmill with the same workout outfit I had on yesterday — hair brushed or not — but the writing flows. And that’s all that matters. Thank you for your brilliance.

  7. kasey8 says:

    Ah, the little things!

  8. Elyse says:

    Sounds wonderful. And I love that little town. But why is the entire university bile YELLOW?

  9. –what a gift you have to make the simple things magical and beautiful. I believe I could read your words forever…. Xx

  10. I love this, coffee! There is no point spending time or money in places that pretend to be special enough they can get away with rude! This is especially true when somewhere else there is something better.

    Please do not ever refer to yourself as anything but beautiful again.

    I adore you to pieces.

  11. I love the fact that you found a place that is warm and inviting. Especially a place that serves good coffee and you can be yourself. Tony, the shop owner, seems to have added to this memorable experience as well!

  12. Hypnocoffee sounds cool and exciting. To me any new coffee out there is one awesome adventure. Great post. Happy Holidays and best wishes to your family.

  13. Sounds intriguing. I’m never sure how to interact with strangers. Sometimes they catch me on a good day and I can be almost extroverted. Other days, I’m the mute girl who runs away. 🙂

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