Flagstaff cafe reflects '60s spirit
Angela Cara Pancrazio
You won't find Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation poet-writer, author of that manifesto of yearning, On the Road, in here.
But you will sense him. Or better yet, you'll think you'll write like Kerouac if you sit on a wobbly wooden chair at one of the worn wooden tables inside Macy's European Coffeehouse.
Part Kerouac, part Take Me Home Country Roads, Macy's has been a Flagstaff institution for more than two decades, while other businesses have come and gone in this college city that relies on tourist dollars.
At Macy's, on South Beaver Street, the circle of life persists. There are Northern Arizona University students who grew up in this mountain city of 53,000 who recall going to Macy's as toddlers. Now, in their 20s, they take study breaks here.
There are bearded, wire-rimmed professorial types reading books like Roots of Neuro Linguistic Programming. Nearby, 18-year-olds recharge their cellphones in handy outlets and recharge themselves with double mochas.
The impetus for Macy's eclectic mix of folks might very well come from founder Tim Macy.
Macy, 56, is of the Bahai faith - "the biggest effect it has on me is that all are welcome in the spirit of unity" - but he is not preachy.
Instead, he slips inspiration worth pondering on the blackboard menu in Day-Glo hues of orange, green and fuchsia chalk, next to sandwiches like the Super Bird Tofurkey and the Black Bean Burger.
"The Earth is one country and mankind its citizens," he'll write, or "Ye are all the leaves of one tree and the fruits of one branch."
The lived-in look of the well-worn linoleum floor, furniture and artwork defies "the corporate places," Steve Buckley, 27, says while perched on a stool sipping Irish breakfast tea. The late afternoon sun creates a kaleidoscope of light and shadow across his newspaper.
"With a place like Macy's, the only thing that changes is the artwork," Buckley says. "It makes it believable."
Buckley's tea-mate is 20-year-old Tasha Varner, a native of Flagstaff born a year after Macy's opened who remembers morning pilgrimages here with her mother. She always downed an almond cream cheese Danish. Varner not only comes here for nostalgic reasons, she says, but for the scenery: the people.
"Even if you don't know everybody, you see the same people," she says. "It feels like a small town."
In a disposable culture embodied by the "Me Generation" of the 1980s and the dot.com-itis that swept through the 1990s, Macy's represents for its loyalists a small monument to a bygone right-brain era of freedom, spontaneity and revolution.
Phil Hughes is of that era. He sits in one of Macy's corners, resting his flannel plaid shirtsleeves on a book about neurolinguistics.
Ask Hughes, 58, about the topic on which he rests his elbows, and the conversation will range from the arcane to the mundane: such as how to "cure" people who don't like washing dishes.
"Some people hate to wash dishes," Hughes says, "I find the program that's in (their brain) and collapse it."
In other words, ideas are spoken here, making a place like Macy's a hippie vestige of the 1960s and pre-disco 1970s.
Mexie Meyer, 18, looks like a hippie vestige in bellbottoms and flowing red hair, but behaves much more Third Millennium. Slapping her broken cellphone every few seconds so it won't shut down, Meyer is eating a huge chunk of buttermilk carrot cake and stirring her double mocha at a frenetic speed.
"I like the laid back, mellow atmosphere," she says.
For some, Macy's is somehow proof that the rustic aroma of roasted coffee and an occasional waft of patchouli are so deliciously potent that, even if you are 18 and even your parents missed the '60s, you feel as though you have come home.
Outside in the gathering dusk, a woman carrying bags shouts out in the night. She may not be making sense to you . . . but she is welcome in Macy's, too.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or (602) 444-8126.
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