Imagine What You Like

My partner and I set out yesterday afternoon on an errand run and, as is so often the case with us, we got a late start. Having accomplished the most important, time-sensitive errand, we decided the next most important thing was food, since we hadn’t eaten. I wasn’t in the mood for a couple of places that were close at hand and familiar. I didn’t know what I wanted. Donna suggested an adventure: “Let’s go to Imagine Coffee,” she said.

I discovered Imagine Coffee on my own, a couple of weeks ago. It’s a wonderful place, with excellent coffee and great pie. As it is the season, it’s also all dressed up for Christmas—warm and merry and bright. I had told Donna I wanted to take her there during the holiday, because it’s so festive with all the Christmas trees. We had thought to go over the weekend, but there we were, nearly halfway there. Why not now?

With the sun in the west making a brief appearance in a clouded winter sky, we set out on Walnut Boulevard, a long winding road through the rural outskirts of Corvallis. We had no idea if Imagine Coffee was open, or would be closing as we arrived, or if they had anything besides baked goods to eat. Unlike so many others, we have no iPhone to check out the entire world as we make our way through it. Like hobbits, we set out on our adventure not knowing what lay ahead. If Imagine was closed, we would have had a pleasant drive along a beautiful stretch of countryside. And if they were open, we could certainly have pie and coffee. Lead on, Gandalf.

Imagine Coffee is at the border of Corvallis and the neighboring town of Philomath. It opened last year. The people who own Imagine were interested in making a place for the arts and artists—visual artists and craftspeople, theatre people, poets, writers, musicians, performers—all of us who are creative and/or enjoy and support the work and play of creative people. I first went to Imagine because my friend Linda Hamner, author and funny person, was there for a book signing event. I walked in and found myself in a little bit of coffee house heaven.

That coffee-house-heaven feeling was there again yesterday evening. We opened the door and heard live music; a trio was up on the small stage area, playing lively tunes. There is some art work by children in the wide hallway as you walk in, along with beautiful quilts, which are everywhere inside. There is an entire wall of brick to one side, deep warm colors all around, black chairs at wood tables that are covered with an expanse of white paper. Color pencils are provided at each table, so anyone and everyone can draw what they like, write what they like. And there are wreaths and red bows and tiny white lights on seven Christmas trees placed all around the large main room and in the entryway. There is also a splendid five foot Nutcracker soldier standing beside one of the trees on the stage.

Though it may be especially welcoming during this holiday season, Imagine Coffee feels to me more like the coffee houses of yesteryear—before Starbucks, before there was espresso everywhere. It has warmth and vigor, and an environment that, to my mind, suits the sensibility of the independents and iconoclasts among us, individuals who make their own kind of unpredictable community.

Donna and I each ordered coffee and a slight variant of the breakfast sandwich, both on an English muffin. And two pieces of pie, one peach, one cherry. Last time I was at Imagine, I had triple berry pie. It is my intention, God willing, to try them all before 2013 is done.

And as long as we’re on the subject of next year—yesterday was End-of-the-World Eve.  (I am writing and posting this on December 21, though WordPress is insisting I am already in Tomorrow Land, December 22.) That brings me to a relevant exchange I overheard at Imagine. As I was cutting into my cherry pie, two young women walked in and went to the counter to place their order. I was especially struck by one of them: she was wearing a black leather jacket and tight black leggings, black tennies with white soles on her feet. But it was her hair that really drew my attention. Where one might wear a part at the middle, her dark hair was streaked with a wide band of deep, fluorescent red, and it was caught up high near the crown of her head in a tight pony tail, so that the red and black hair flared up like a stiff plume. It made me think of how-to-wear-your-hair if you are an Indian on the war path.

The woman at the counter asked, “Where are you two headed tonight?”

The Indian warrior replied, “We’re going to an End of the World party.”

That’s the spirit.


About Cristina

Urban Addict: London, San Francisco, Portland, Paris. Island Girl: Manila, Manhattan, Maui. Life-long: Writer. Reader. Artist. Dancer.
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2 Responses to Imagine What You Like

  1. Linda Hamner says:

    I’m delighted your second visit to Imagine was also a success. With all the festive Christmas decorations, it’s hard to imagine — but true — that in the summer it is equally dressed up with a “gazebo,” beach umbrellas and all manner of other iconic summer items. It’s always dolled up to match the season. Imagine, to my mind, is close to perfection, and as you stated in your beautiful post it so reminds me of the coffee houses of the 60’s and 70’s as opposed to present day places that only pretend to be coffee houses. Yes, Starbucks, I’m talking about you!


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