You must be very strong.

For me, I can’t say I’ve really lived in a place until I have a coffee shop there.  The coffee shop can’t be a chain, those don’t count.  It has to be some weird local place that represents the feel of the city.

My hometown is a coffee-rich city.  There are probably more than a dozen independently owned, quirky-in-their-own-way coffee shops about town.  But, when I’m in Gainesville, my go-to place is Coffee Culture.  It is low-key, the wifi is fast, the baked goods are eclectic and delicious, and the music selection always pleases me.  And, of course, the coffee is delicious.  In fact, the coffee is so good that my parents- adorable coffee snobs that they are- love it.  Coffee Culture is the golden standard to which all other coffee shops are measured.

It took me almost the entire 6 weeks I was in Miami to find somewhere that wasn’t a chain coffee place.  When I finally did find a place that was quiet enough that I could study and delicious enough I wanted to go back, it wasn’t even really a coffee shop.  It was a donut shop. It just happened to sell coffee and have free wifi.  I spent a couple of pleasant afternoons there researching OB/GYN and stuffing my face with donuts, wait, wait, I mean, studying and daintily sipping lattes.

Shitty Shitty Shreveport even had a delicious coffee shop.  They had the best cheddar bacon biscuits I have ever had in my life.  This coffee shop was one of the nicest things about Shitty Shitty Shreveport and I don’t even remember its name.  That should tell you a lot about Shitty Shitty Shreveport.

Oooh boy, New York though, New York has a coffee shop on every corner.  The little coffee shops sing their siren song to me.  They beseech me to come in and stay a while.  There ended up being four around the hospital that L and I would frequent on occasion.  There was the multi-generational Korean Coffee Shop that served delicious ramen noodles and so-so lattes.  There was the Italian bakery that made the best and cheapest baked goods I have ever had the privilege of eating, but the coffees were more of an afterthought.  There was the delicious hipster coffee place a couple blocks down from the hospital where everything was excellent, but you always knew you were paying more for attitude. 

Then there was my favorite place: The Cypress Inn Café.  L went there on a date once and immediately reported back that I would love the place (the date she didn’t say much about).   She described it as sort of macabre and eclectic and delicious and homey and she was right on every front.  I did fall in love with it. 

It is family-owned and operated by a married couple (the wife used to be a nurse) and their intermittently charming and surly teenaged daughter.  I’m pretty sure they’re Italian (they sometimes have intense discussions in a romance language that isn’t French or Spanish or Portuguese…).  This became my place.  I would go there on Sundays to read for hours.  Sometimes I would study, but sometimes I would just go and lose myself in a good book.  I would drink a latte and eat a cookie or an empanada (of course, my favorite place has to have empanadas) and just take a deep breath and relax.

Once, as I went to pay and leave, the husband/owner asked me what I was doing there every Sunday.  I said that I was there to study, that I was a medical student.  He sort of looked at me quizzically while I impatiently waited for my change.  Then he said “You must be very strong” and handed me back my change.  Since that day I have turned that phrase over and over in my mind.  If you change the inflection, it can become a statement of fact and wonder, or a prophesy.

YOU must be very strong.


You MUST BE very strong.

Either way, it felt very apropos for medical school and Brooklyn and life.  The coffee shop man a big difference to me with that one little phrase.  It was a good reminder that our words can have pretty major consequences, whether or not we realize it.

So, just remember that you, too, must be very strong.  (Whichever way you need to hear it).


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