On my week off from work I spent a lot of time at Noisebridge. We have a little set-up there with coffee and tea supplies, coffee makers and so on, which people keep stocked with donations. As I sat there waiting for my tea to brew I cleaned up the shelves with a rag and straightened out all the supplies and cups. I had a sudden strong memory of Arrakis Co-op in Austin, where I lived briefly in 1986 after I got kicked out of the women’s co-ops on campus.
Arrakis was a beautiful but dusty and run-down little house in West Campus. (I think it was partly burned down at some point, and has now been rebuilt.) I just remember sitting in the kitchen there having tea with Jimi and Dennis as they talked with me about moving in. I was 17 years old, a little bit wild, instantly in love with the collective house’s feeling of comfortable chaos, its porch swing, and everyone’s laid back attitude. The main thing I remember about sitting there is being absolutely blown away by one thing, the 10 or so boxes of different kinds of tea. They had all these boxes of Celestial Seasonings tea. I had never seen that before in my life. Someone could have 10 different kinds of tea, in their house! The boxes had nice art on them and quotes from Emerson and funny little sayings and it was like HIPPIES had made a real THING… a business. You better believe I sat there and read all the boxes to see what they had to say. I couldn’t wait to move in and try all of the different kinds of tea one after the other. In fact I did, and I wrote them all down with my ratings so that I’d remember which ones were good.
Digressing further I remember having a similar hilarious epiphany a few months later while studying with my friend Abbey in 21st Street Co-op. She declared we needed a break and some ice cream so I followed her to the 7-11 where she bought an entire pint of Haagen Daas rum raisin ice cream. My mind was once again blown. It had never occurred to me that a person could just go buy a container of ice cream and personally eat all of it right then. I didn’t drive and I had never really helped my parents with shopping and when I bought food it was things like bread and cheese or a can of soup to get through the weekend. And we had “dessert” sometimes but it was occasional and a bit ceremonious, it wasn’t just like we had ice cream lying around at random. My realization was that $2.50 or whatever it was the ice cream cost was not completely impossible. I just went, OMG, it is not outside the realm of possibility that, not only could I have 10 kinds of tea someday, I could also, at any moment, if I have two dollars to spare, exercise my free will to indulge myself in a giant container of ice cream that is just for me. It was not so much about buying things but more about “things I could do that are amazingly luxurious”. And perhaps “joys of being a Grownup”.
I could wax rhapsodic in the same way about when my boss at the library would buy a bag of Milanos and put it on the table in the break room. Or the occasional Departmental Event or talk where some of us would horn in on the meager plates of brie and grapes like there was no tomorrow. These people at college were living the life!!
This has nothing to do with anything but the memory made me resolve to buy a whole lot of tea and put it at Noisebridge this week so that some young person might have that mildly pleasant experience of a random encounter with abundance. If someone ends up stuffing their pockets excitedly with the free tea packets, I completely understand.