Goodbye old friend

August 3, 2012 

The doors at Joshua Cup are closed. The lights are off. No cookies are baking and no coffee is brewing. What fond memories I have in that coffeehouse.

In the grand scheme of things, the mass market nastiness brewed up in mass market coffee shops -- admit it, the coffee is disgusting and the pastries are full of stuff no human should ingest -- actually opened up the market for small, independent coffeehouses.

As Americans tasted mass market lattes, those who wanted good coffee instead of being trendy hipsters and urban yuppies wrapping detritus around their tastebuds in the name of hip and urban chic pretension sought out independent coffee shops that took care in their craft. The tar on the burner turned to a pleasant Costa Rican aroma that delighted the palette instead of poisoning it.

The independent coffeehouse began to take on a new life. For 12 years, Joshua Cup served up Jericho Slides, cafe au lait, and the best chocolate chip cookies in Macon outside my wife’s kitchen. It opened its doors shortly before I left law school. It became a haven for late night exam studying for Mercer’s undergraduate and law school community.

As I left law school and started practicing law, it was a refuge from billable hours and clients and an afternoon reward for a long day at the office. One of the guys I used to work with would come by my office and, without a word spoken, we’d head out through the copier room in our office, down the stairs to his car, and off we’d go for a caffeine fix and conversation.

After I left my law practice, Joshua Cup was a home away from home. When I was not in Washington, it was my office. After President Obama’s win in 2008, Newsweek wanted to profile me. It was natural to take them to Joshua Cup. On page 14 of the Nov. 24, 2008, edition of Newsweek, I am sitting at a table at Joshua Cup staring off into the distance.

The photo shoot was as much a novelty for me as it was the shop. For two hours I sat, pivoted, stared and worked as the shutter on the camera closed and opened. It might have been the last real film camera used to take a picture. Once that magazine was printed it became harder to go to Joshua Cup without having others waiting for me to show up.

Joshua Cup became a treat instead of an office. My wife and kids would go with me at night. We’d get the kids cookies and my wife a Jericho Slide. The constant stream of students would fill the place with an energy that could have been scripted in Hollywood. Local politicians, professors, preachers all mingled, visited, and shared stories over good coffee.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and New York Times showed up in Macon to interview me over the past couple of years. Even as we moved further north, Joshua Cup was still my preferred place for these sorts of interviews. It was open and comfortable.

Comfortable isn’t a word to describe many restaurants and shops. But Joshua Cup was comfortable. Plop down on a sofa or pull up a chair and everybody made you feel at home. What had started out as a mission raising money for a project to help kids morphed over time into something else. But it remained comfortable even to its last day open.

It is sad to see such a great venture close, but few things are permanent.

Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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