Turns out the Mayans were off by a week.
For many of us, Saturday's closing of Paddy's Coffee House signaled a shift, not necessarily of an apocalyptic nature, but certainly one that ended an era in our community and our lives. Our paradise is lost.
Of course, with Paddy being Paddy and Paddy's being Paddy's, Saturday was more a celebration than a funeral as folks turned out for one last chance to have some joe and thank the Paddymeister himself for years of serving kindness, wisdom, and laughs along with his famous Ethiopian blends.
As I stood on the corner of Smith and Watkins looking inside for one last time, my thoughts moved down the street to Alvarado Elementary School, where I once taught summer school. Then I thought about those kids in Connecticut, their families, their community. And then I thought about the shooter, just 20 years old. Another kid.
Unlike many, I see him as a victim, too. I can't help but question how he got to his mental state without someone, somewhere down the line, trying to give him some help. And I can't help but wonder if things would have been different if he had a Paddy's in his neighborhood. Because beyond the caffeine and studying, Paddy's was a gathering place for my fellow freaks, the confused and frustrated, the poets and musicians, the activists and healers, the crazy dreamers who can't accept the "reality" that's been manufactured for us.
Does that mean that we were trying to solve the world's problems as we drank lattes and chain-smoked cigarettes? Not always. But we were connected. And that's what always struck me about Paddy's — when I was there, I never felt alone.
But the simple truth is none of us are alone. We are all in this together. That's why I don't look to government or society or religion for solutions — I look in the mirror. And I see that I can do more.
So can you.
I'm not one for specifics, so what you do is up to you. I just ask that you help out in any way you can. That you don't become apathetic. That you don't lose hope. That you keep trying.
Paddy tried. And succeeded. From his little corner in this little town, that crazy dreamer changed the world, one cup of coffee at a time. Now it's our turn.
So hug your loved ones. Write a song. Plant a tree. Smile at a stranger. Be yourself. Be together.
-- Frank Gonzales
Frank Gonzales is a screenwriter and longtime Paddy's Coffee House patron. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.