Black Dog Cafe
I loved Tallahassee, even with that inescapable, awful, and sticky heat. It’s been a year and a half since I left. When I close my eyes and think about my stay, I smile. I learned a lot about myself back there. As I said in previous entries, I wanted to make friends. But there’s something that I didn’t say before: when you’re in a different country, you’re constantly imagining how your life would be if you actually lived there.
I wanted to do things that would make me feel like one of them, one of them Tallahassians. They have a beautiful city. It has its ups and downs, like any city. It has beautiful landscapes, parks, lakes and some scary neighborhoods where the stores are closed by 8 p.m. It is exactly like any other place on earth, with the same extraordinary condition that only travelers can possess: being a complete stranger. When you’re strange, no one remembers your name (said a certain lizard king). So I wanted some people to know my name.
An Offbeat Discovery
I believe it was Thursday, maybe Friday. I remember because I was in the mood for some noise and a beer. I wanted to explore a little bit – just enough to find a cool place to hang. I’m not a fan of crowds. A club is not a place where I would be by myself, ever. I’m a bohemian kind of guy. I like to walk around while singing to myself. Well, correction, I love to walk while singing along to songs. And that’s what I did that day.
My steps went down towards Gaines Street’s way. There was a family playing in a fountain; they looked happy. I’m a shy person, so I look a lot at the floor. It has its perks – sometimes I find interesting things just lying there. As I looked down, I saw a little green snake in the grass. Naturally, I’m scared of the dangerous ones, but typically I think they are beautiful. So, I went after the little snake, conscious of his lack of venom due to his species. I followed him through grass that was large enough to hide it but short enough to walk in without any trouble. But soon, I lost him when the grass receded, and the asphalt reappeared. I looked up, and there it was: a little wooden house, painted in blue with purple details.
The Best Things Are Hardest to Find
It was just lying there so fresh, so unaware of the heat; so joyful with that insolent blue and purple in a sea of neutral colors. With a beautiful porch and a little garden with some tables, a big sign said gave this small treasure a name: “Black Dog.”
“That’s a Led Zeppelin reference,” I thought, while my feet forced their way into the house. And then the magic happened. It was exactly the kind of place where I would like to hang out with my friends or girlfriend. It was a café that offered a bite to eat, a beer, an iced tea or a glass of wine. It had live music, which was great for a bohemian night out. It had amazing soda-pop (avocado pop is heavenly), board games, nice and tasteful decoration, and great music. The best part is that they put so much effort into bringing culture to people through literary nights, concert nights, and open mic nights. It was amazing!
New Friends and New Experiences
I made great friends in there. My friend César and I hung out there on my birthday, where I met Justin. He was a great guy with whom I shared really great talks about life, philosophy, poetry, people, music, and even a few stories about girlfriends. He’s great and I’m glad I got to meet him. I hope he’s doing great, now, wherever he is!
I met a group of Tally writers as well – a great group that supported each other on their journey to being published. I met El Habib Louai, a great poet that reminded me a lot of the beat generation. I met some awesome strangers who were companions in wine that gave me great bits of advice on life and writing. It’s the place where I met Jack Levine, another great guy that I remember with joy. He was so nice to me, and I hope he’s doing great as well.
So please, if you travel, you have to find your own Black Dog Café: a place that creates a bond with the city or town that you’re visiting. A place that creates possibilities, anecdotes, friendships, laughs, and teachings. And please, if you’re in Tally, I strongly recommend visiting the Black Dog Cafe, in the Industrial District of Railroad Square, between FAMU Way and Gaines Street. And if Justin, Emile or Brittany are in there, taking care of business… tell them Carlos said hi.
For more posts from Carlos Balbuena, click here.