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Saturday, November 6, 2010


selma saying, no, no, you're not paying for that

This is Selma of the Backwoods Bean Coffee Shop on Main St between Kermit's barbershop and the Jubilee. She's relatively new to the community, here from Miami. She's a good one to have here. She's the kind of people that come here from outside that we want among us. She contributes to the well being of the county and town with her pleasant disposition, the good desserts she makes, the good coffee, the good tea. Coffee from all over the world. I'm not much of an adventurer when I've found what I like. When I first tasted Kenyan coffee, that was it. I don't want any coffee but Kenyan now. I love it. I told Selma it's like honey to my palate. It's not quite as thick and doesn't taste anything like it, but it gives me the same taste sensation I get from a taste of honey. A taste much sweeter than wine.

I've tried Ethiopian, which I like almost as much as Kenyan, Indian, which is good too with a little high pitched flavor that puts me in mind of a sitar played really fast, Sumatran, which is also good. Like the Indian and Ethiopian, the Sumatran tastes like Kenyan is its base, each a variation perhaps due to climate and soil composition. Vietnam is growing coffee. Evidently, at the equator or near it is where coffee trees grow. It's kind of like Kenyan coffee is the base of the coffees of Africa and the east. South America grows Columbian, a very different flavor from Kenyan, the base flavor of South American coffees. Isak Dinesen's memoir of a European woman living on a coffee plantation as owner and manager in Kenya, Out of Africa, is what piqued my curiosity about Kenyan coffee when my friend Lucas Pasley started grinding coffee beans and selling the coffee in bags. I like to support my friends, so I took an interest in Kenyan right away and remain satisfied.

5 stools at the bar make for conversation when 2 or more people are in there. Selma talks with everyone, listens like a good bartender who doesn't ever have to deal with drunks. Chairs all around and a couple of tables. She keeps a public computer going online every day. The place has air connection to internet, making it a good place for people with laptops to spend time in a private corner. Selma's presence in the place gives it a good spirit that welcomes everyone who walks in the door. The air you breathe in the place is welcoming. People who don't know each other talk freely like they have known each other a long time, and listen when somebody else is speaking.

Selma identified her customers the other day an eclectic collection of people. People from everywhere stop in there. It's a place people passing through Sparta stop, come in and sit for awhile and have some coffee and/or dessert. It's friendly in there too. People who live here frequent the place, both people from here and people from someplace else. Selma likes the people who come in there, she welcomes every one as to her own table at home. She doesn't welcome gossip and doesn't tell any. If you go in there, you feel like Selma is your friend who could be counted on in a time of trouble. She's an honest woman with a very real personal integrity she lives by. It's Selma's integrity I feel in the space inside the walls. She treats everyone who enters the door with respect and in turn she's regarded with respect.

On a day when I have to go to town for however many reasons, I'll not drink coffee at home that morning, will stop at Selma's for some good brew and spend a half hour or so sipping it and enjoying conversation with whoever is in the place. Four years in my store eased my inhibitions talking with people I don't know. Now I can jump right in and start talking with somebody I've never seen before. Where you from? is usually my first question. I like to know where people came here from.

Somebody actually asked me a couple days ago if I'm local. I had to hold back laughing. It was somebody who was here a short time and hadn't enough experience to tell on sight and accent I'm not from here. Nobody from here has ever asked that question. I'll always remember Clinton DeBord looking at me, kind of upward and sideways with curiosity in his eyes, saying, "I don't know you." I could see he had a good humor about him, so I said, "I don't know you either." I shook his hand and told him my name, how long I'd been here, where I came here from. From then on, it was like we'd known each other for years. Selma's coffee shop brings to mind the song about Basin Street where a wide variety of people meet. Selma is the hub in her international cafe.


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