In my day, Cafe Coco
was Cafe Elliston
but we called it "Ellistonia.” Quite often it was known by its true name "The Vortex."
That, of course, was before the reign of Coco. Before we were Coco-dependent, we lived in Chuck Cinelli's odd but exciting world. The glory days
– ladies and gentlemen. One could wander from room to room, from ratty couch to broken chair with a clove in one hand and a beer in the other. Greg Garing
and Paul Deacon (of the Mavericks
) lived upstairs and beautiful unearthly bluegrass and western music could be heard floating down from the back porch on the more peaceful nights. (And yes, the smell of grass wafting through the windows as well.) I would go every night around 8. Back in those days the regular bar tenders were Ashton and Randy. Those two were great. Before the bar had become all filled with muffins and cookies and fancy tea, you could actually pull up a bar stool, light a smoke and talk to the other regulars right there. I had my own stool and my own mug. They used to let you keep your own mug there.
Such a parade of interesting people! Actors, photographers, gardeners, healers, psychics,comic book illustrators, teachers, students, psychos, dancers, politicians – all with one thing in common – broke. Almost no one with money was a true regular. Sure – people might stop in to see how the simple freaks lived from time to time – but it was a place to spend 2 bucks on coffee and make it last the night and then drive home in your crappy piece of automobile on an empty tank of gas before the sun rose. My parents hated it. ‘Nuff said.
My younger brothers hang out there now. I go back from time to time when I am in town. It has changed too much for me. The front yard is gone – the smokers are all crammed in one little room. The women’s lounge was destroyed for a bigger kitchen. I still see Tiwana – the resident cop. Ray still runs around – it’s always good to see the Fabulous Ray. But the rooms are filled with strangers who are quite happy in their world of Coco. Not knowing what a fantastic and free environment had been there before. Marriage changes everything doesn’t it, Chuck?