As I headed out of town on my last day in Salt Lake City, I decided to make one final stop at a coffee shop I'd heard about called Nobrow. When I walked in I thought I'd been transported to Portland; several fixed-gear bikes lined the front of the shop, and the inside was full of skinny boys in tight pants sporting emo haircuts, not a smile in sight. Let's just put it this way: if the place was a coffee cup, it would be overflowing with hot stuff, no room for cream, and the coffee extra bitter.
After a few minutes, I looked up from my laptop (THANKS KELLY!) and saw a blond, slight young man entering. You know how your brain can sometimes remember a face, but not the circumstances surrounding how and where you first encountered that face? Instead you only get a vague feeling like, "I've seen you before," or "I don't remember why, but I didn't like you," or "I remember havinig a conversation with you, but I can't remember what it was about." Well, I got a distinct feeling of having spoken with this gentleman before, so I stopped him and asked if he was from Portland. With jaws dropped, we realized that we both worked at PSU together! What are the chances?
My old Portland buddy, Mike, sent me to lunch at a little cafe called One World Everybody Eats, which is a for-profit restaurant following a very unusual business model. All ingredients are organic, most are local, and the mission is to reduce waste as much as possible and to feed everyone healthy organic food, regardless of their income. The restaurant cooks a small number of seasonal recipes each day and serves them up cafeteria-style. You tell the server how much you want (you're expected to clean your plate, and you can always come back for more), and after you eat you pay whatever price you feel the meal was worth. If you can afford more, you should pay more. Every day, the cafe features at least one meal which is absolutely free, in line with their mission of ending hunger.
The coolest thing about this place is that you can volunteer your time in exchange for a meal, which is how I ended up spending the afternoon there, cleaning green beans. It turns out, I needed the work as much as I needed the food. Snapping the stems of the beans gave my hands something to do, made my head stop thinking about the lousy night before, and gave me time to really get hungry. In my hour of work I made new friends and came to feel that I was an important part of something cool. And then I stuffed myself full of good hot food, cold food, coffee, dessert, and fresh veggies. Unlike most of my meals these past couple of weeks, none of it came out of a can! And it was all free. Actually, it was the opposite of free. I was compensated for eating this meal. I was paid in joy.