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The International Writers Magazine: USA- Travel in your Backyard

Phoenix - Arizona
• Rosemary Cross
A few weekends ago, I decided to embark on my solo traveling adventure.  I went downtown Phoenix to all of the places that I normally go to with all of my friends, but this time I went alone to have a completely different kind of experience and see these places from a different perspective.  My adventure began at Lola Coffee Bar.


Lola Coffee is located on Roosevelt and 3rd Avenue downtown Phoenix.  This location was opened in 2009 by Daniel Wayne; a local coffee artist who is originally from Spain.  I love going to locally owned spots to help support the community, and Lola Coffee is one of my favorites.

Inside it’s gorgeous; huge windows with lots of sunshine pouring through with its light reflecting throughout the room off of the glass of the chandelier that hangs from the ceiling.  The walls are painted a calming sky blue and are decorated with paintings.  These paintings change from time to time; they are created by local artists and sold here at Lola Coffee.  The paintings that hang today are quite ‘modern’ in the sense that you have no idea what they are supposed to be of; just splashes of color on a canvas.  These paintings went well with the interior of the shop, which was furnished with sleek modern couches and chairs.  The shop isn’t large by any means, but the way that the furniture and lighting is arranged it seems to make the space appear quite large because of the minimal design. 

Around the perimeter of the room there are antique chairs of mismatched patterns, sizes and materials.  I chose to sit in one that was upholstered with red velvet material; I was drawn to the color red.  I sit in this chair with my book, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, and with my mocha latte.  I read a few chapters then put the book down and just stare out the window for some time. Lola Coffee seems to be playing Beatles Radio by Pandora, because about every three songs is a Beatles’ song.  I think that this is awesome.  The song, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is playing and I close my eyes for a minute. 

Crescent The next place that I go to is Crescent Ballroom.  Located on 2nd Avenue and Van Buren, this place is both a restaurant and music venue.  I have seen a lot of shows here with my friends, and sometimes we just come here to eat.  The kitchen at Crescent Ballroom is overseen by famous Chef Bianco; creator of the popular Pizzeria Bianco.  The menu is Mexican food; they offer nachos, burritos, and quesadillas.  The venue is relatively brand new to Phoenix, as it just opened its doors in September.  Sitting by myself at Crescent Ballroom, I understand the atmosphere and its inhabitants on a whole different level. Usually I am here with a friend, too busy wrapped up in conversation to notice all of the details around me. I might seem peculiar sitting at a bar with a beer, writing in a journal like I am some sort of.....who knows. But after the next beer, I just don't care.

It's interesting to see who is here and why. There are several couples here, there are some obvious first dates, there are groups of friends, there is a couple girls scoping out what men are here and then there is myself. I am watching some of the servers/bartenders behind the counter as they discuss their weekends and what they are going to do when they get off of work. One of them starts to tell a story about some customer from hell and how she left an inequitable tip. I listen to the manager order some server around and talk to her like she is a two year old. I listen to music played by a guy sitting on the stage who is playing music from his laptop. I am drinking a Guinness, and eating some Mexican food. The food here is AWESOME. They have this salsa, it's green, and it's amazing. I feel like I could just drink a cup full of it by itself, but I don't. 

There are small white tea candles on each table that give the room a soft glow, but it is outshined by the sunlight flooding in through the large, wall-sized windows.  The sunshine is so bright that everything around me looks white, as if I am in heaven.  And that is exactly what it feels like, heaven.  Drinking my Guinness, eating a quesadilla and listening to beautiful music I suddenly realized that this moment was quite phenomenal and I am so fortunate to be able to appreciate a time like this.

The Lost Leaf was my last stop in Phoenix. It's an old house that has been converted to a bar. Inside the walls are made of exposed brick and painted ceilings. It is also an art gallery; with local artists' work hanging on the walls. Every time I come here there is different art hanging on the walls. Each piece has a price tag with an amount that the artist wants for the work. I wondered how successful artists were selling their works at a bar. I would think that it would work quite well; most art is beautiful after a few beers anyway.

But this art is good, I see a few that I really like.  One in particular is framed in such an ornate golden circle; it is like a piece of art itself.  Inside is the bust of a woman seen from the back who is wearing a turban.  The whole piece is quite glamorous and I stood staring at it for a few minutes just taken in by its beauty.  I wish I could have bought it!  They were asking $200.00 for it though, and I didn't think that it was worth that much money. 

Lost Leaf Art I love the beer selection here because there are so many random imported beers here that you don't find at most other places. There is always live music, which is really nice but sometimes it is so loud that you can hardly hear yourself speak when ordering a beer.  It’s also so loud that it is hard to have conversation with other people. Tonight the caterwauling hurts my eardrum and tickles at the same time.  It’s making the annoying creekle noise that both is a sound and a feeling.

I cover my ear with my hand and wonder why it is necessary for it to be so loud.  The noise level would be appropriate for a large outdoor concert, but not in a modest-sized house.
While standing alone thinking about how loud the music was that I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone, a guy came over and asked me a question.  “What did you say? I’m so sorry I can’t hear you.” 
He asks again. 
“I’m so sorry I still can’t hear you.” 
The guy just smiles at me and then motions with his head to go outside.  We go out onto the porch and he asks if he knows me.  “I don’t know, do you?” I replied.  His name is Mark and he says I look familiar.
 “No, I don’t think we have met before, but I’m Rosemary. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Did you bring your diary with you? And a camera? Are you a tourist?” Mark asks.
“No, I am just writing down some things, things I observed today.”

It’s always awkward at a bar when someone tries to flirt with you by initiating conversation in such an obvious way, but Mark and I ended up having some good things to talk about.  We ended up talking about all sorts of things such as movies, student loans, beer, art, and funny jokes.  Eventually he went to go smoke a cigarette and I went back inside to the music.
Music fills up the tiny little house and it is usually packed with people on any given night.  The tables are all dirty and the smell of cigarettes is all around me, which makes me feel sick for a minute. I walk outside and sit on the benches on the side of the house. I look up into the sky and see all of the stars sparkling like diamonds against black silk and I just enjoy it and think about my day.
© Rosemary Cross  May 2012

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