Blending a black cup of coffee & a beacon

There’s a place in town that holds a special place in my heart.

And it’s not what — or where — you’d think.

It’s the restroom at Starbucks on the hill.

Because of polished granite countertops? A fancy waterfall faucet? A spectacular view?

Nein.

It’s where I went when I was homeless.

March 2014. I’m winding down 1-1/2 months of homelessness. Of extended time on the road crossing a few Western states. Of sleeping on dirt at primitive campsites — aka dispersed camping, aka boondocking — places with no services and no fee.

Weather permitting. Where it doesn’t, I sleep in my car. My beloved Subaru. I got that down to a science. There’s a story waiting to be shared.

Crude homemade curtains to block the light and create privacy and safety. A small assortment of worldly goods — bedding, change of clothes, camping items, health & hygiene goods, my teddy bear Berr Symon, a Goodwill rescue some 6 years ago — artfully organized in tight quarters at bedtime. Which comes early, VERY early!, when you’re sleeping with the sun and moon.

My Nocturnal Nature is not pleased. But it adapts. 🙂

When I arrive in this town I increasingly call home, I’ve no job, place to live, friends, family.

Contrary to most people’s needs or perceptions, this ain’t a disadvantage. I oft quip: “Wherever my family is, I hasten the opposite direction!”

Familiarity is NOT my guiding force, rather reason is venture another direction! The stranger the terrain, the more unfamiliar, the more attracting. Weird, no; unique and in the minority, yes.

I’m sleeping in the mountain forest at a primitive site. The only signs of civilization amid towering pines are very uneven hilly dirt roads rutted by monsoons and vehicles and campfire rings bordered with rocks.

The forest service maintains the area. This is drought country so during the fire season, they lay yellow strips across rings banning campfires. Dunno how many people respect that. I would.

But I’m not there in summer, rather late winter/early spring. Chilly nights have me slumbering in my Subaru.

There’s no water whatsoever. Not even a rusted old tap gone parched! I meet my hygiene needs with bottles of water I refill in town — a mere 15-minute drive.

If you’ve ever been homeless or camping at length or backpacking, you know how much you miss, want and need! a shower!

More than that, you realize the beauty of running water. Absolute beauty. From a sink. A hose. A well pump. Any device that delivers clean flowing water — cold, hot, lukewarm, matters not! — is paradise.

That’s how that Starbucks restroom becomes special.

My spot in the forest is some 8 miles from the Starbucks on the hill.

It’s my link to hygiene, to upscale living, to the comforts of modern living that far too many people take for granted.

That ladies’ room is one room, one door that locks (so if it’s in use, you stand in the hallway and wait).  It’s tiny. Half the size of a single prison cell.

To me, it’s a mansion of luxury!

There’s a sink! I scrub my face with their liquid soap, rinse, pat dry with fresh paper towels (instead of the one washcloth in my car) — and as many as I might need. I wet my scalp, do a partial sponge bath (without fully undressing, of course).

There’s a mirror! I can see the whole of my face, finger-brush my bed-hair. Or is that car-hair?

There’s a flush toilet! With all due respect to my inner Survivalist and Nature Girl — and much is due her —  it’s pretty darn spiffy compared to spots by bushes and trees!

There’s a door that locks. The room becomes my own lil’ caretaking spot for a spell.

That means so much at a time when the only space that I know and have is my Subaru. (That’s not changed and lordie I do love that car!)

One ladies’ restroom. I keep no one waiting; that would be wrong. But in early morns, most customers are at the drive-thru getting coffees before work; scant restroom demand.

That Starbucks on the hill becomes a beacon during the rigors and peculiarities of homelessness.

It’s where I can go any morning for needed or desired running water, more luxurious “bathing” than afforded by a blue washcloth and bottle of water (use sparingly!), for an actual sink for spitting during toothbrushing, for a toilet that whooshes AND TP too!

I still live in that town and frequent that Starbucks but not for the same reasons. Now it’s just about the coffee and Wi-Fi.

And yes, perhaps, sentimentality.

That time of homelessness is some 2-1/2 years my rear-view mirror.

That lil’ restroom is basic as it gets. Beige (or eggshell?) walls, beige tile floor, basic white fixtures, a mirror above the sink, a single skinny stainless steel shelf, a black paper towels dispenser.

Would its make the pages of Better Homes & Gardens? Of course not. But to my eyes, it’s one of the loveliest rooms I’ve ever been in.

It supplied care when I needed self-care.

At that Starbucks and just that one, I can’t but feel a rush of memories from a very uncertain and challenging chapter.

I feel powerful emotions.

Appreciation.

Gratitude.

Tender affection.

Shhhhhhhh. I’ve a secret soft spot for that Starbucks. To my worldly and humbled eyes, it is a beacon to civilization, a veritable Hilton on the hill.

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