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Desert Companion

Liquid assets

There’s nothing I like more than commandeering a table at The Beat downtown for an epic rot — that is, a long, caffeine-fueled hangout session that is only incidentally (and therefore happily) productive. Surely you do this too at your fave coffee spot, unloading books, magazines, pens, notepads and laptop for a bout of aimless creative ferment or a little restorative catch-up. It’s deliciously un-American, in a way; it’s the rigorous inverse of the purportedly productive weekday grind. Much of our work lives entails doing somethings of questionable consequence in cubicles and under fluorescent tubes; the cafe invites us to do serious nothings in windowed view.

I have to credit much of my modest success in the writing life to this brand of slyly productive lassitude. I’m thinking of the Las Vegas cafes I’ve inhabited — and inhabited is the right word for it — over the years, from the old Cafe Espresso Roma on Maryland Parkway (the generous marble tables making the perfect instant office for creating cut-and-paste skate ’zines) to the dusty, couch-filled cavern that was Cafe Copioh, which by night was transformed into a bustling salon of artists, writers, goths and gutterpunks. And I’d be remiss not to mention downtown’s Enigma, that garden paradise of Fourth Street, where musicians and poets gathered for songs and readings in the shade-dappled backyard. It was at Enigma that I learned pithiness of expression and concise branding strategy via whole afternoons scribbling Enigma Cafe slogans on their blank matchbooks. (As you can see, the lesson in pithiness didn’t exactly stick.) In every case, the caffeine jones was incidental; coffee was means to a meandering end.

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My point: Don’t be fooled. This issue isn’t about drinking. Instead, it’s a celebration of alchemy, of how liquids are transformed into culture, community and conversation. Who among us hasn’t hatched a great idea thanks to a second cup of joe with a fellow creative? Cocktail mixers, we know, are popular for a reason: The buzz makes for great connections. I’m convinced, too, that there’s at least one defensible idea rattling at the bottom of most bottles of wine, particularly when shared. And if you’ve ever braced yourself for yet another despair-fogged day at the office with a hurried, furtive nip of Wild Turkey from a brown bag slipped from beneath your car seat as you guiltily scan the company parking lot … well, actually, can’t help you on that score.

Desert Companion has been walking this talk for several months now. Chances are I haven’t seen you at one of our Desert Companion on Tour events, the perfect synthesis of coffee and community. It works like this: Every month, we do a live Q&A with a Desert Companion contributor or subject at a select location in town. Think of it as an intimate, live talk show with some substance. Since we launched the series, we’ve featured Review-Journal political columnist Steve Sebelius, journalist Steve Friess, aging management guru Dr. Jeffry Life and urban historian Brian Paco Alvarez. Save the date of 9:30 a.m. Oct. 15, and watch the Desert Companion website or friend us on Facebook to learn about this month’s guest and location. You’ll wet your whistle on some good coffee — and whet your appetite for some brain food.


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