This is the twelfth of a 19 part list of my favorite things about 2019. There are books and movies and artists and albums and places and experiences. Making the list has been a helpful way of looking back and taking stock of my year. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important items. No doubt in 20 years I’ll look back at several things on the list and ask, “Huh?” But this is an attempt at this moment in time to remember…
In the early 2000’s I lived for several years in a house at 29th and Austin. I would often go for runs or walk my dog into downtown, which measured a perfect two miles from house to Heritage Square. At that time there was an old row of office buildings between 23rd and 24th, set off from the road a bit. At the end of the building closest to 23rd street was a comic book store that went out of business sometime early in my time living in the neighborhood. I’m a big daydreamer and dreamed often of having enough money and business acumen to open up a small neighorhood bar on the corner where the comic book store was that catered mostly to my friends and neighbors. But I have neither money nor business acumen, so it never happened. The building was eventually bought up by a developer who had (has?) plans for townhouses on the property. The offices and other business left and the building was torn down, leaving just the parking lot.
But two years ago Pinewood Roasters, which had occupied multiple locations over the previous few years, moved into a building on Austin, just across 23rd from where my original dream was. I’m not a coffee snob, but I do love good coffee and when I first tasted their product, I wondered if it was my Waco bias that convinced me it was the best cup of coffee I had ever had. I would later have friends who ARE coffee snobs relieve me of my curiosity, letting me know that it is among some of the best they have ever had.
On top of this, the space is special, and has become one of “my places” in town this year.
Don’t judge me for my financial habits (many of y’all pay way more for multiple streaming services, car and house payments, diapers, etc.), but I am there almost every day before work when the crowd is still light. Cup of coffee, (usually bottomless; if I’m running out of time, Americano), and a vegan cinnamon roll that tricked me into eating vegan things. I take my place at the bar, made of, well, pine wood, (the owners, like me, are from East Texas), and listen to the vinyl they have playing. The baristas knew my name long before I learned theirs. (I’m still learning some.) Usually the first album of the day is Sons of the Pioneers, often followed by Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. I look at my phone to see what he’s tweeted already, get angry, check my email, and play Two Dots. When certain regulars come in I realize it is approaching time for me to head to work.
This year, across the courtyard, Pinewood opened a pub. So sometimes I return at night, though not as often as in the morning.
In a city that wrestles with the complications of its newfound prominence, it is hard sometimes to embrace “New Waco.” But the folks at Pinewood have created something that, at the risk of sounding too nostalgic for the present, can be described as good and pure and worthy of all the attention and accolades it is getting.