8. Thea Tracanna // tat714
If I had to break down my favorite place, my writing space, into just one word, it would be a color: maroon. It’s represented everywhere, from the big plush chairs, to the back wall, the counter tops, and even the felt covering all five pool tables. The basic essence of the Basement Brewhaus at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point: a dark purple-red that is visible no matter which direction a patron is sitting, lounging, or standing in line as they wait for their daily dose of caffeine (or three). Even the maroon shirts of the baristas, one of the most coveted work positions on campus, radiate a vibe of warmth and comfort. The bhaus, as it has been affectionately named by its regular crowd, rounds out its laid-back setting with mellow music flowing from Pandora 24/7 – unless one of the baristas is feeling late 90s pop or 80s classic rock. This change occurs most commonly on Thursday nights, when a decent percentage of campus’s over-21 crowd descends to unwind and kick back dollar bottles of popular domestic beers.
“Illigitimis Non Carborundum” gleams down from the room’s entrance way. This UWSP staple commands, “Don’t let the bastards bring you down.” There are no public TVs or computers located in the space, and soliciting in verbal, pamphlet, or poster form is strictly forbidden. However, there are ample amounts of gossip, news, and nature magazines to read from, and taking a board game (guaranteed to be missing at least two pieces) off the shelf to play with friends goes unnoticed. But the second someone starts playing Youtube videos, Skyping, or even talking too loudly on their phone, dark looks and mutters of disapproval will likely be directed their way.
At any given time, there can be up to eight people fully stretched out sleeping, plus the ones simply reclined and dozing between reading assignments. The bhaus becomes a haven from the non-stop rush of college life, where a forty-minute lunch break between classes magically stretches into enough time for half a dozen activities, including the aforementioned nap.
I was not always an ordinary customer. For my final (and best) year of college, I was lucky enough to be one of thirteen baristas perfecting my milk-steaming abilities, rattling off beer specials, and knowing certain regulars’ exact drink specifications without ever knowing their names. It has been over fourteen months since the end of my employment, and it took all that time for me to reconcile that I would never again be the only person there at 7am on a Saturday, the comforting motions of brewing coffee and turning on lamps waking me up to tend to the weekend’s early birds. Much more often I was the weekday and night closer (I’m terrible in the morning, really) – instead of being the one starting fresh and new, I was the one shutting down and cleaning up messes. Stocking shelves, wiping down tables, and kicking people out, all the while singing along to Disney songs. Content with my basement fortress and making everything look pristine again.
So what does all of this have to do with writing? I have been graced with the gift of memory. I remember vividly what it feels like to be covered in coffee grounds and sticky beer, sometimes every day for a week. I remember the night there was a concert upstairs given by some blind rapper and Justin (my coworker) and I cleaned out the entire beer cooler, each making forty dollars in tips in less than three hours. I remember frustrated coworkers who left reprimanding notes everywhere, and every time we ran out of sweet chai during that never ending winter. The Brewhaus is more than my writing space; it is my writing inspiration. I go back there now, and everything hits me again. Some of it gets filtered through time, becoming more bittersweet or perfect in my head. Other memories stay just as sharp and clear as ever, bringing a sad smile to my lips as I lose myself for a second and let the moments wash over me. There is no place on earth like it, not for me. And I think what I’ve learned the most looking back over the past three years, but especially during that one year right in the middle – I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.