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Coffee Shops: Halcyon

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vite coffeeHalcyon, from Austin’s old Ruta Maya downtown location? Same coffee place is now also open in San Antonio’s Blue Star.

Or it’s a satellite of the original Austin location. Ever since I saw the notice that Halcyon was opening in Blue Star Arts Complex, I’ve had the “Mercury is Retrograde” reverie about the old Austin and its environs.

One of those experiences, there are two, one of which involved a buddy yelling into a cell phone, arguing with customer service person about the delivery of flowers. Weird.

The other experience that sticks out, and this one counts as it was one of those seminal events that foretold Austin being so cool. Back in the day?

Ruta Maya was a fledgling coffee roaster company located in an un-air-conditioned warehouse space, just about a block or two west of the cool places in Austin. 218 West 4th Street, when 6th Street was the place to be.

No air conditioning, warehouse with open loading dock doors, and Amy’s ice cream, home-roasted — the big roaster was part of the front room’s display — and rudimentary beer, wine, sandwiches. Tobacco products. Very civilized coffee in an urban setting before the location was cool, hip, just mostly scary.

As an astrologer, I’ll recall a Gemini, from Cuba, feisty, hot-tempered, and always Gemini-quick with an accented retort. Flashing brown eyes against the olive skin, mocha-color, like soft-roasted coffee beans.

While I’d discovered the nascent coffee culture in Austin, and that was its home, at the time, there was something else that made that place better, and sets a tone.

Unisex bathroom, at the old Ruta Maya.

While I’m comfortable with no AC, and I’m comfortable with a unisex bathroom, in this day and current building codes, I’m sure that no longer works. It set a tone, though. Important tone. That’s what made Austin, well, Austin.

Times and changes, the old Ruta Maya became another, higher-end place called Halcyon, and the bathrooms were no longer unisex, and the humidor was moved to the side. AC. Still, the last time, and it’s been more than a year, the place had excellent coffee.

After “the change,” and Ruta Maya decamped for more southern climes (way down Congress Ave.), Halcyon moved into the location and changed little, at first. Eventually, they added a bar, and that was very cool. I could get coffee, cigar, and my “date” could get liquored up. My perfect combination.

The very first time, it was disconcerting and I tried to be cool, but I was still slightly rattled. I stepped away from a urinal, and women emerged from the stall next to me. Swimming naked at Hippie Hollow? No problem. Unisex bathroom? Unsettled, at first.

Got used to it in a hurry, and that was, back in the day.

It was that moment, stepping away from the urinal and almost running into a female.

The very first time I stepped into the new Halcyon location, in the Blue Star Arts Complex, I wandered back to look at the bathroom. More out of an homage to the old ways and the old days.

Oddly enough, there was another Gemini in the old Austin Halcyon. She left town shortly after I did, and she claimed we left at the best time. Bit of the sour grapes, but also part of an observation.

What made Austin cool, then, was unisex bathrooms and urban settings with no AC. I’m guessing it’s no longer a cool feature.

Funny, or coincidental, really, one Gemini replaced another. And that Gemini is better off as a tale told elsewhere.(1)

    (1) Why do I always like the smart ones? What’s up with that?

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  • Of course you always like the smart ones. Likes attract like.

  • Sooner or later, “ya gotta talk to ’em …”