The walk down to the Circle-K gas station each morning takes about 10 minutes. Sometimes I drive to the Dunkin Donuts for coffee, but even though the coffee is better lately it's just been easier to walk. Somewhere amongst the dozens of boxes in this house is my French press, but I haven't been able to find it. Starbucks? Several miles away. So, I've been letting Maggie out in the morning, feeding her, and then throwing on my coat and hat and making my way down the hill towards the Circle-K.
This 10-minute walk each morning has been my re-introduction to Akron, where virtually every morning has been overcast, gray, cold, and sometimes snowy. My Akron is not the Akron of the Merriman Valley. The Akron that greets me is in the form of Clark Auto and Towing, with its multitude of cars dismantled or up on blocks. My Akron is Darrow Road, just north of I-76, where its just as easy to find a check-cashing store as it is to find a Circle-K...or a vacant building in a strip-plaza for lease or for rent. My Akron sometimes even has billboards with nothing on them.
I pull the hood of my jacket against my ears and trudge through the snow, making my way past the Scoreboard Lounge and Club Energy, where several cars with ice-caked windows have been parked all night. I side-step a couple of the empty Monster Energy Drink cans that dot the parking lot and shuffle over to the Circle-K. It's busy, especially since it's the week between Christmas and New Year's. A portly man with a Cleveland Browns ski cap pulled tightly over his head is struggling to open the hood of his car so that he can empty the contents of a black plastic quart-of-oil bottle. He doesn't look happy. It is only 14 degrees and he isn't wearing gloves. I reach for the handle of the door but a young girl with purple medical scrubs on underneath her tattered white winter coat exits first and holds the door open for me. I thank her, but she doesn't speak. So far, that simple act of kindness hasn't happened a great deal since I've been walking down to the Circle-K. My Akron has a bit of a rough exterior, and the softer side, I suppose, has to take a while to reveal itself.
Starbucks this is not. Oh, well. I see that they have both "Kona" and "100% Columbian" as selections this morning. I've tried both in the past 2 weeks and they taste unremarkably similar. I grab a 16-ounce cup and fill it with the Columbian. I unpeel several of those thimble-sized containers of cream and look around. Radio station WONE-FM is on, playing a George Thorogood song...the same George Thorogood song that I played countless numbers of times when I was a disc-jockey at WONE back in 1993. 4 or 5 people wait in line, staring straight ahead with that vacant I-wish-I-had-the-week-off-between-Christmas-and-New-Year's-look on their faces. Some buy coffee and others buy huge 32-ounce cups full of soda. Some buy lottery tickets and others buy cigarettes. $5.00 for a pack of cigarettes. I'm certainly glad I don't smoke anymore.
This is my lucky day. For some reason, Donna gave me a Circle-K Coffee Club card, where each time you buy a cup they punch a hole in the card. Well, as I approached the cash register, I discovered that all of my holes had been punched, so my authentic 100% Columbian coffee for the day is free. I feel a bit warmer as I prepare to plunge back into that 14-degree weather.
I bundle up, rip the plastic tab off the cup so that I can sip and walk, and try to follow the same footprints that I made in the snow on the way down. I walk around the gigantic Budweiser truck that is unloading product and make my way slowly down Darrow Road. The salt trucks have been out most of the night and the traffic has made the roadway more wet now than snowy. I also begin to think about my day, most likely filled with emptying boxes or trying to solve some of the studio-sound issues that I've been experiencing. I turn east down Newton towards home. Someone is already at Dodd Brothers Optical shoveling snow off the sidewalk. I nod and say "hello" as I pass, careful not to step on the newly-shoveled space. He says nothing and continues to shovel. That's ok. Like I said, my Akron puts on a slightly tougher outer shell, especially in the winter. I can't imagine anybody being too terribly friendly in 14 degree weather.
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