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Vapid City does have a little soul left, if you no where to look. This completely unpretentious little cafe, on a corner you've probably passed 500 times, is like stepping out of the self-consciously hip capital of tech and and progressivism and kink and into any roadside truckstop anywhere in America. They make a killer tuna melt and, most importantly and least easily conveyed on facebook, they have a Bunn coffee maker that fills the place with the scent of Genuine American Roadside Luncheonette. As many of you know, I spent 7 years without a fixed address or phone number back in the 90s, and the smell of coffee simmering in a Bunn-O-Matic as I slumped into a booth with 10 hours of driving behind me and two yet to go until making camp was such a ubiquitous, familiar touchstone that if I had to pick something as "the smell of travel", that cheap, consistent coffee aroma would be it.
So I like to come here, as with my few other favorite hole-in-the-walls that getrification somehow missed, to catch that vibe, to remember on a visceral level what it feels like not to know where I'm going to sleep tonight or where tomorrow will take me, that I'm open enough to life that the odds are better than not that something wonderful will happen, sooner or later—probably sooner. I loved poring over my maps like a miser poring over his hoard.
I come to a place like this, and, past the surrounding buildings, I can feel the horizon around me in every direction again.
Shortly before posting this, a guy who looked like Jeff Goldblum walked in and ordered a hot pastrami sandwich. When was the last time you heard someone in San Francisco order pastrami? That's what kind of place this is.
How he eats that without rye bread, I can't possibly imagine.