Travel Tales: Black Dog Cafe

Travel Tales: Black Dog Cafe

Black Dog Cafe

I loved Tallahassee, even with that inescapable, awful, and sticky heat. It’s been a year and a half since I left. When I close my eyes and think about my stay, I smile. I learned a lot about myself back there. As I’ve said before, I like to make friends. But what I haven’t said is that when you’re in a different country, you’re constantly imagining living there for good.

Being here, I wanted to behave just like a Tallahassian. They have a beautiful city with ups and downs, just like any other city. There are beautiful landscapes, parks, lakes, and equally some scary neighborhoods where the stores close by 8pm. It is like anywhere else on Earth that’s not home. So, you’re a complete stranger. And when you’re strange, no one remembers your name (said a certain lizard king). I wanted some people to know my name.   

An Offbeat Discovery

It was a Thursday or maybe Friday. I remember because I was in the mood for some noise and a beer. That made me want to explore a little bit – just enough to find a cool place to hang. I am not a fan of crowds. A club is not a place I would be by myself, ever. I’m a bohemian kind of guy. This means I like to walk around while singing to myself. Well, correction, I love singing to myself. And that’s exactly what I was doing that day.

My steps took me down towards Gaines Street. A family played in a fountain; they looked happy. I’m a shy person, so I look a lot at the floor which does have its perks – sometimes I find interesting things just lying there. As I peered down on this occasion, I saw a little green snake in the grass. Naturally, I’m scared of the dangerous ones, but equally I think they’re beautiful too. So, I went after the little snake, conscious of his lack of venom due to his species. I followed him through grass that was large enough to hide it but short enough to walk in without any trouble. But soon, I lost him when the grass receded, and the asphalt reappeared. I looked up, and there it was: a little wooden house, painted in blue with purple details.

The Best Things Are Hardest to Find

It was just lying there so fresh, so unaware of the heat; so joyful with that insolent blue and purple in a sea of neutral colors. With a beautiful porch and a little garden with some tables, a big sign gave this small treasure a name: “Black Dog.”  

“That’s a Led Zeppelin reference,” I thought to myself, while my feet forced their way into the house. It was magical, exactly the kind of place where I would like to hang out with my friends or girlfriend. It was a café that offered a bite to eat, a beer, an iced tea or a glass of wine. It had live music, which was great for a bohemian night out. It had amazing soda-pop (avocado pop is heavenly), board games, nice and tasteful decoration, and that great music. They put so much effort into bringing culture to people through their literary nights, concert nights, and open mic nights. It was amazing! 

New Friends and New Experiences

I made some new friends there. My close pal César and I hung out there on my birthday, where we met Justin, a great guy who we talked to about philosophy, poetry, people, and music, and shared a few stories about girlfriends. I hope he’s doing great now, wherever he is!   

At the Black Dog Cafe, I met a group of Tally writers too – a warm collective that supported each other on their journey to being published. I met El Habib Louai, a fantastic poet who reminded me a lot of the Beat Generation. There were awesome strangers, companions in wine who gave me useful advice on life and writing. It’s where I met Jack Levine, another great guy whom I remember with joy. He was so nice to me, and I hope he’s doing well too.  

You’ll find your own Black Dog Cafe on your travels: a place that creates a bond with the city or town you’re visiting.  A locale that creates possibilities, anecdotes, friendships, laughs, and teachings. In Tally, that’s the Black Dog Cafe, in the Industrial District of Railroad Square, between FAMU Way and Gaines Street. And if Justin, Emile or Brittany are in there, taking care of business… tell them Carlos said hi.

by Carlos Balbuena

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