Wednesday, July 27, 2011


(We all just carry our human toll).

(That’s what Jared said to me two weeks ago at the counter). 

Let’s talk about where we live:

Question:  Who hangs out at MoKaBe’s?
Justin’s Answer:  Freaks.

What makes this place a comfortable environment?
Why do people feel that they have become more “themselves” since becoming regulars or working at MoKaBe’s?  

What makes it home?

Home might be where your heart is.  Or it might be where you leave your stuff.  Or it might be where your family lives or where you grew up or where your friends hang out or where you sit without moving for someone else’s entire shift. 

George (sitting at the MoKaBe’s counter):  Liza.  Move your shit.  You don’t live here.
Liza:  ?
George:  You don’t live somewhere unless you have two sets of clothing and a toothbrush there.

Results are in:  I live several places.  I live way too many places.  I have to say I think I like it.

But what place is home?

If my home is where my blood-and-bones relatives are, then I am a white-walled county brat, familiar with country clubs and private schools. 
If my home is where I go to school, then I am an eccentric attic hermit with four grad school roommates.  I avoid the kitchen and am scared to drive in the snow.  (Big hills).
If my home is where I sleep in St. Louis, then I am a vagabond, a highway explorer in a variety of cars and people’s clothes.

Several people have told me that MoKaBe’s is like a home to them—in different ways.

It is sort halfway house.

I live upstairs.  I manage this building.  My work is to fix broken things and broken hearts.

I was raised Southern Baptist and needed MoKaBe’s to help me quit lying to myself. 

It was a sense of…you know…coming home to a community.

It’s made me change my definition of what “having your life together” is.  Here, I’ve learned…that’s not fair.  Too much importance had been placed (in the past) on standard, white picket fence things.  I’ve realized here that you don’t need them.  As long as you’re making it work…that’s all that matters. 

If my mom could love it...anyone could feel comfortable here.


When I ask people to give me a few words to describe the MoKaBe’s environment, nearly all say home first.

But what makes it a “home?”

Firstlyletmejustsay that there are some things about MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse that make it distinctly unlike my mom’s house.  (Another place in St. Louis I might consider home). 

1.  No blood relations.
2.  I have to wear my shoes.
3.  I don’t say things like “fuck this shit” at my mom’s house.  (Wait, that was completely a lie—I lied).
4.  I don’t sleep with anyone who also lives at my mom’s house.  I’ve never wanted to do that.

Let’s talk about things that are not okay.

I just walked into a coffeeshop.  WHAT?  No.  I did.  It is in Brooklyn.  Where in Brooklyn I can’t say…it still all looks the same to me.  Dry Cleaners.  Garage.  Alley.  Church.  Nail Salon.  IPhones.  Dry Cleaners.  Garage.  Alley.  Church.  Nail Salon. 

Anyway, I’m in some place in Brooklyn that I really could never point out on a map.   The doors are open, there’s a tin ceiling, the light fixtures are hip, the walls are brick, and everything including the floor is fairtradeequalrightsorganicgoodforyou.

This coffee was exactly 200% of the cost that a MoKaBe’s iced coffee would be.  (A bargain in this cit-ay.)

I walked up to the counter…


Guy:  (Silence…glare)
Me:  Hi!
Guy:  (Silence…glare)
Me:  How are you?  (Smile…the reallyImeanit smile).
Guy:  What having?
(Ps:  What?  Is this a text message conversation?  What?  I am too slow to talk like that!)
Me:  Uhh. Mm.  Iced coffee? 
Guy:  Size.
Me:  Small.
Guy: Three.
Me:  Thanks.

So then I sit down, and I cross my legs, and I sit at my computer, and I sort of look like the girl who is in front of me and I sort of look like the girl at the window, and I sort of look like the boy behind me except for the facial hair.  SO WHY IS THIS PLACE ABSOLUTELY NOT HOME?

MY HEAD HURTS!  And why is it not socially acceptable in this place to smile at people who enter a room?  Why do people not do that?  Is that weird?  Am I like…really weird?

Here’s the thing.  In my hotpinkAmericanApparel (ohmygoddon’tsayhipster) crop top, I might sort of fit in here.  But I am not MYSELF here.  I don’t know WHAT I AM here.  I am a stranger to a bunch of strangers.

At MoKaBe’s, even when I was a stranger to strangers, I still felt at home.  Why? 

Home might be where your heart is, where the homos are, where you drink your coffee black or where you keep your toothbrush or where you are with that special someone you like so much, but it also might be WHERE YOU CAN JUST BE.

"With so many different personalities…it’s fun.  It’s different every day.  We were so freakin goofy.  Every night. " 

Yaknow?  Where you just ARE what you ARE and there are no apologies for it.

So you don’t have to wear a certain thing, be a certain way, hide away some pieces of yourself that aren’t okay in your mom’s house. 
You just.  Are.

“And that was the first moment where I was like…wow they must think I’m really annoying.  But they at least know who I am.”

There are no tall people here.  Or short people.  Or, maybe, Jared, there are tall and short people, but you’re right:
They are just carrying their own human toll. 

The VARIETY of the people at this place make it that way.

The experiences.

The clashes.

The differences.

The hopes.

The whatever.


Something about this place makes it just OKAY TO BE. 

Justin:   It’s the coffee shop that people go to that feel like they don’t fit anywhere else.  I don’t want to say outcasts, but I feel like it’s this place where it’s safe for people who don’t always feel welcome.  The politics are part of that. 

I feel welcome at a lot of places, I might be an outcast, but I’m not really sure.  What I am sure about is that I don’t have to look like or talk like the people around me at MoKaBe’s to feel at home.  When I walk up to the counter and am immediately insulted by someone I trust, I have to say I like it.

Because it’s home.  It feels like coming home.

It’s no wonder that when I say at school that I’m “homesick,” I’m not envisioning Creve Coeur or my childhood bed.  I’m remembering a counter with a bunch of stools, sitting between people I know and don’t know, who look like me or don’t, who are regulars or tourists, who are just carrying their human toll.

I don’t know what my human toll is yet.  Or what yours is.
But let’s think about that for next time.