The front window of Grounds for Thought, looking out onto Wooster St.

Flowers in the window, another thing we don't really see in NW coffee shops.

The appeal of small towns and (some) college town communities is that ordinary places become extraordinary. Extraordinary places, however, like Grounds for Thought become legendary. I took a recent sojourn back to Bowling Green, Ohio, my old graduate school stomping grounds (no pun intended) where, for three years, I lived close enough to Grounds for Thought coffee shop that it was significantly faster for me to buy coffee than make it.

Grounds is greater than the sum of its parts, which is saying a lot since it is a used bookstore, used record store, coffee shop (with pastries and sandwiches), and community study area all in one. It sits in a prime location on heart of Bowling Green. So prime, in fact, that a Google map search for Bowling Green puts the pin less than a block from Grounds’ roasting center. Grounds for Thought is the kind of place where—provided that you are a resident of Bowling Green—you imagine who you want to see and they just may appear. An understated hub of the community, where you’ll find college and high school students alike all congregating, studying, and chatting well into the late evening.

A city shot of BG.

Am I in "real" America? I think I might be.

Of course, I can’t mention Grounds without mentioning Cosmo’s Coffee, a poorly managed offbeat coffee crash that was my true first coffee love in Bowling Green. Cosmos was the misbehaving, underachieving kid that lived next door (or a couple blocks away, in this case), whose parents couldn’t help but look over at your honor student and say “why can’t you be more like Grounds?” Cosmos would then shrug, and say something like, “I dunno, but we’re out of espresso today.” It goes without saying that Cosmos eventually went out of business, but not before throwing a rather impressive funeral which featured live music, belly dancing, and a lot of alcohol.

Anyways, on a personal note, Grounds aided me in building the foundation of my record collection, which consists mostly of Paul Simon, Billy Joel, a couple Stevie Wonder, and a few jazz records that I keep saying I’m going to listen to. Their record collection has expanded from being a half-dozen rows wide to now taking up an entire wall (…though they still didn’t have “Listen Like Thieves.’ Come on, guys). I still have the entertaining memory of showing up at Grounds to search the “S” section for Paul Simon records, and finding thirty-seven unique Barbara Streisand records. I’m sure there’s a great story there.

Have I not said anything about the coffee shop? Oh…um…okay.

Coffee, water, pastries, and gift certificates for the band.

Guest performer shwag. Oh, I'm sorry. Did I not mention The Student Loan performed here? Well, we did. It was awesome.

Well, first of all, Grounds for Thought uses a whiteboard, rather than a chalkboard for their menu. It seems trivial, but when practically every damned coffee shop in the greater Northwest area defaults to the chalkboard, it’s a refreshing change–not to mention just a bit…brighter. They make sandwiches, and their pastries are excellent. They roast they’re own coffee, and should you find yourself on vacation in Bowling Green, a bag of GFT coffee grounds is a popular gift. They’ve got a number of roast flavors that I can’t tell the difference between (hey, I never claimed to be a coffee reviewer), but all taste pretty good to me. My only strike against them is that they still use Styrofoam cups, which would get them a vicious liberal-lashing if they were based in the NW.

But they aren’t and they shouldn’t be. Grounds for Thought is Bowling Green, only with better climate control and fewer college chachis.

The Boondocks: Public Enemy #2

The Boondocks: Public Enemy #2

The Boondocks begins by chronicling the adventures of Riley and Huey, two African American boys who live with their grandfather in the suburban community of Woodcrest. Where Huey represents the ignorant, pop-culture brainwashed side of contemporary black youth, Huey represents the informed, radical antithesis. As the comic progresses and McGruder finds his voice, the plot and supporting characters fall to the wayside in favor of McGruder’s message. This shift coincides with the comic’s Doonesbury-esque shift from the funnies to the op-ed section, and this seemed to only fan McGruder’s flames and he took blatant shots at everything from the Bush and Regan administrations, to Kobe Bryant, O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, to Star Wars, Vivica A. Fox, and Anna Kournikova.

McGruder–like another author whom I admire but have mentioned waaaaay too much–likes to play with extremes. He uses caricatures, rather than characters. He’s rarely subtle and when he is, it goes over my head. More so than most comics, The Boondocks give you near-unfiltered access to the mind of the author. Reading a Boondocks anthology can be compared to getting to know a highly functioning sociopath: initially the quirkiness is funny, but eventually you read their interviews and realize they’re actually bat s**t crazy. In this case, however, it’s still funny to me and I’m not sure why. What perplexes me most is that in most cases, listening to artists/writers/directors rant through their characters makes me want to set things on fire. For some odd reason, Aaron McGruder’s blatant rants entertain me. The possible reasons why can only be troubling:

Possible Reason 1) Rather than the comic, I’m actually taking delight in the frustrated dissatisfaction the radical left.

Possible Reason 2) I find the decline of our society–and particularly black culture–side-splittingly amusing.

The Boondocks: A Right to be Hostile

The Boondocks: A Right to be Hostile

Possible Reason 3) I’m entertained merely by the fact that this “anti-comic” of sorts sticks it to mainstream media.

Perhaps I don’t mind because when it’s all said and done, I don’t really disagree with him. In a spirited interview with Hard Knock TV, McGruder admits that in regards to the problems with our country and particularly our government, awareness of the issues is no longer the problem. I’d agree with him. If you’re an activist today (which I’m not), you aren’t fighting ignorance, you’re fighting apathy. Apathy fueled by information over-saturation brought on by conduits like mainstream news media, the entertainment industry, and self-important wannabe muckrakers who regurgitate their dissatisfaction into blogs, tweets, and…

Whoops! This was supposed to be classified as a “review” and not a “rant.” Scratch that last part from the record.

I don’t think Aaron McGruder is bat s**t crazy, he’s passionate. He’s also living proof that when given direct line to the masses such as a nationally syndicated comic (or a blog…) if you’ve really got something to say and try to sugar coat it, it will sooner or later come out in a way that ain’t always pretty. If the syndicated run of The Boondocks comic and the movie Me, Myself, and Irene have taught me anything, it’s that you either let it out or shut yourself away before you hurt someone. In the spirit of that idea:

National Blog Posting Month is an ill-conceived idea that can have nothing but adverse effects our quest to build collective knowledge. Encouraging individuals with an over-inflated sense of self-worth (bloggers, tweeters, etc.) to make a special effort to increase the frequency of their spewing into electronic vomit bags known as blogs only contributes to general epidemic of information apathy that continues to plague our society.

Aaahhhh. That felt good. I’ll see you tomorrow!

Breakfast @ Mamacita's Mexican Cafe

Breakfast @ Mamacita's Mexican Cafe

I’ve performed enough improvised music to recognize the odd, chaotic way related events can line up to make fortune or misfortune alike. Buying Douglas Coupland’s All Families Are Psychotic on a whim a couple days before my own family life played a variation on that exact theme was, if anything, musical. Long lost uncles who work on fishing boats dropping in from Alaska and unheard-of cousins calling me on my way home from work, for me, is getting off light.

Am I complaining or am I celebrating? Neither. As I said, this is business as usual for me. Attempting to

I'm gonna' need glasses too? Oy...

I'm gonna' need glasses too? Oy...

genetically decipher your future balding patterns, discomfort with flying, and condiment preferences from people you last saw before you lost your baby teeth is simply part of the fun. I quote a purple haired vixen from a fanfiction novel based on an anime series from the mid-‘90s:

It’s just nice to think that there’s a reason why you’re so messed up. That there are people somewhere that just by the sheer power of their genes made you this way. It’s nice to think the way you are isn’t an accident.

Wise words, Ms. Valentine.