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Letter to the Editor: Wake Up and Smell the...?

A requiem for Paddy's Coffee House by Frank Gonzales.

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.

Be one.

-- Frank Gonzales

Frank Gonzales is a screenwriter and longtime Paddy's Coffee House patron. He can be reached at hesgonz@gmail.com.

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Johnny C. December 17, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Very thoughtful view of our little corner of the world and the broken hearted town in Conn tool
Jonathan Candaza December 17, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Well said Frank. Thanks to you and many others my memories at Paddys on Smith street will never be forgotten.
Paddy's Coffee House December 18, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Frank, our good friend, your words are inspiring to say the least. We would rather read the headline as "An Ode to society". As members of society, it is our collective responsibility to take care of each other. Even though our business has closed, we have not not closed the doors on our responsibilities and duties. We still assist families that cry out for help to deal with mental health issues amongst their kin. If it were not for the wonderful counselors at FAJ, we would be adrift as well.
Noelle de Leon December 18, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Very moving write uo Frank. I have a 8yrs old son that goes to Alvarado right now, after the incident Friday I couldn't think straight what if it was our school! it was devestating specially for us being a parent. This little neighborhood of Union city was a true blessing to us, we love it here, the people, the local businesses and everything around it. Thank you Paddys for making a difference and making us together one cup of joe at a time.

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