Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Cosmic Cafe

Placerville’s got talent.  Yes, that’s a fact. 
You may not know where Placerville is, but I live near the town.  It’s a smallish community in central California about 45 minutes east of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains; kind of a gateway to the south shore of Lake Tahoe. 
You might hear it described by some people as a hick town, a redneck town, a backwater town, or a right wing bastion of conservatism.  And if you visited you might even describe it as such.  And you may not.  But I’m here to tell you that it may be some of that, but Placerville is much more than that as well . . . .  . . . . . . . much, much more.  There are communities within the community, made up predominately of very interesting young people, and the Cosmic Café attracts these different groups like a flower attracts a bee.  

The café is located on Main Street in downtown Placerville.  Sometimes when I feel a change of scenery would do me good I’ll go over to the Cosmic Café to write.  I’ll usually go in mid-morning after the bagel and coffee breakfast crowd has gone, and before the lunch crowd arrives.  I’ll set myself up on the second floor where it’s quiet, and where I can concentrate on what I’m writing, rather than being distracted observing the going’s on, as I might be doing downstairs where most of the people tend to linger.

Yesterday evening I went over to the Cosmic for an open-mic music casserole that they hold every Thursday night.  Just a low-key night out for us, and an opportunity to hear an array of different singers and musicians.  I’ve always enjoyed the open-mic format anyway.  It’s a chance to be entertained, but also an opportunity to encourage young artists in their struggle against their own nerves; another small step for each of them in expressing themselves, and in moving just a little bit further forward in pursuit of excellence and recognition.

Last night the bad performances were good.  The good performances were really good, and the really good performances were great.  There was a mish-mash of young people there, and, in fact, it reminded me of Greenwich Village, or the Haight-Ashbury in the sixties and early seventies.  Different though.  Different in that there seemed to be a broader variety of social subgroups represented.  I remember thinking how glad I was that these young people had a place such as the Cosmic Café to hang out, to express themselves, and to connect with others.  It did seem like many of them might be the outcasts from their schools, and perhaps even from their own families.  It seemed as if they might very well be wandering aimlessly if not for the focus they had with their music, and the embrace they’d found amongst one another at the café.  There was a real sense of acceptance, of family even.  It was quite evident that they enjoyed one another, encouraged one another, and by all appearances seemed to even love one another.

My friends and I never had a place like the Mystic to go to when we were growing up.  So many of them had talent such as I witnessed last night, but nowhere to express it, no place to channel their creative energy and find the acceptance and encouragement of others. They’d been the outcasts from their schools, and some of them even from their own families.  Not only were we not encouraged in our artistic inclinations and endeavors, we were discouraged from pursuing anything even closely related to creative expression. 

Too many of my friends died before reaching adulthood.  Perhaps a Cosmic Café might have given some of them the acknowledgment and support they needed to keep them from wandering aimlessly.