Tuesday, August 09, 2016

E. Ethelbert Miller - The Aldon Nielsen Project No. 21 - GIL SCOTT-HERON: Pieces of a man made whole

Q.  What is your opinion of The Last Holiday: A Memoir by Gil Scott-Heron?  Is it an important memoir?  Would you teach it in the classroom? 

I taught this book just last year, as part of an undergraduate course in African American autobiography. The course was organized in a fairly traditional way. We started with the canonical slave narratives, Equiano’s Travels, The History of Mary Prince, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, moved on to the autobiography of Elizabeth Keckley. Then we took a slight turn to W.E.B. DuBois’s Dusk of Dawn: The Autobiography of a Race Concept, every word of whose title could be a seminar unto itself. We read Amiri Baraka’s autobiography and Angela Davis’s, and then turned near the end to The Last Holiday. The syllabus made a powerful circuit. Reading of Gil Scott Heron’s participation in the early days of school desegregation offered an important parallel to Davis’s early memories, and gave us an opportunity to reflect upon the evolution of the struggles in the Americas from the seventeenth century to our own.

But another reason I chose this book for the course was to underscore its literary qualities. Too many have forgotten that Gil Scott Heron was, before anything else, a writer. (This was brought home to me in the years following his death. I organized a series of panels at several conferences to bring forward discussion of Scott Heron’s life and works. What was the one conference that refused us a spot on the program? AWP, the conference of creative writing teachers, who seemingly did not recognize Gil as one of their own.)

When C.L.R. James was on trial in the United States, the federal prosecutors brought forward what they clearly considered their clinching argument to the judge, that throughout history, many revolutionaries had been writers. The author of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was a writer, and his last book, The Last Holiday, may be the best book he ever wrote.

Given that his first two novels and his first book of poetry were all published before he was twenty-five years old, I don’t suppose it should surprise anybody that a book he wrote in his fifties and early sixties should be even better than those youthful publications. Turns out there are many surprises in this book, especially for people who only know Gil Scott Heron as one of the most powerful singer/songwriters of his time, composer and performer of “Home Is Where the Hatred Is,” “The Bottle,” “Winter in America,” “Johannesburg,” “Your Daddy Loves You,” “H2O Gate Blues,” “We Beg Your Pardon America,” “We Almost Lost Detroit This Time,” the list goes on and on.

I imagine that most of Gil Scott Heron’s audience never knew he had once been a creative writing teacher, let alone that he had talked his way into the prestigious graduate writing program at Johns Hopkins despite never having finished his BA at Lincoln University.

I’ve been writing an ever-growing, semi-autobiographical essay about Gil, which I won’t repeat here. (Still have it in mind to edit a collection of critical responses to his work, which would include my essay.) What I will say here is that The Last Holiday should become a classic of the genre.

One sign of the author’s imaginative power is his decision to make the campaign to secure a national holiday in Dr. King’s memory the organizing structure of the narrative. Gil was never short of ego, but this book is not just about him. He was part of that first generation of post-Brown v Board of Education strivers, and the arc of his life, as tragic as it turned out to be, is one we all can learn from. 

The publishers have been nearly silent abut the editorial process that produced the book as we have it. Only a brief comment appended to the British edition tells us much at all. What you can see reading the book is that it had at least two iterations. At one point, Scott Heron wrote the entire narrative in the third person. The book we are given is the second draft, composed in first person, but with one chapter of third person narration retained. I suppose it will be left to subsequent scholarship to determine if there were more than those two versions of the manuscript, and a history of editorial choices that may have been made along the way. Still, he book reads remarkably well for a text that was assembled from manuscript pages left at the author’s death. Another question to be answered is just how much Scott Heron had to do with any of these editorial decisions. The book had been announced by publishers more than a year prior to Gil’s passing, so presumably some version that he approved had been in the publishers’ hands earlier. How does the final book differ, if it does, from what Scott Heron had authored and authorized?

The book also holds a tragically odd position in the history of Scott Heron’s final years. At the time Gil was arrested in New York for drugs he spoke with the press about his situation, revealing in the process just how deep in denial about his problems he could be in those years. He told reporters he had an 800 page book manuscript completed, insisting that in itself the writing was evidence that he could not be in the grip of addiction. When I read that my first response was, that’s just the kind of thing a writer on crack might do, though I prayed that Gil would conquer his dependence and that we would one day see the book as a late manifestation of his brilliance. That first prayer remained unanswered. Many now recall with deepest sadness our feelings upon reading a profile of Gil in that last year by a journalist who had been in Gil’s apartment as he periodically lifted a small blow torch to his crack pipe.

And that same air of regret and sadness hovers over the reading of this book. Gil Scott Heron is one of the starkest instances of wasted talent and life in recent memory. Reading his memoir you find yourself over and over again yearning for him to escape the fate he is heading towards and to give us more of the writing we hold in our hands. For that matter, most of us would have been content with the work he had already accomplished, and just want him to be alive in the world, even if he never wrote another word.

But that’s all he wrote. We had one last CD, short, combining covers with recordings of work he had  written long before, a ghostly reminder of what he had been. “New York Is Killing Me,” was one prophetic title. The CD’s ironic title, “I’m New Here,” signaled more than just Scott Heron’s wry humor, though. (Those of us who knew him could easily imagine him announcing “I’m New Here” with his characteristic lop-sided grin.) There were elements of the collection that showed the artist in much the same mode as his final book. The CD was book-ended with “On Coming from a Broken Home,” a sort of capsule version of his memoir. More mischievously, the album featured a piece titled “Your Soul and Mine,” which long time fans recognized as an adaptation of a poem titled, like his first novel, “The Vulture.” That poem had appeared on Gil Scott Heron’s LP Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, an album that bore the heading “a new Black poet” back when he was new here. Still, to play upon another of Gil’s pieces, this was deep. “The Vulture” appears as an epigraph to the novel of the same name and the suggestion is that it comes from the character “IQ,” Ivan Quinn. The poem is premonitory not only of the character’s fate, but of his author’s. It begins, “Standing in the ruins of another black man’s life” and ends, “Only promise me a battle; battle for your soul and mine.” On the one hand, Scott Heron’s ironies were well placed; he was in so many ways still new here, even as his final recordings drew so heavily from the work he gave us when he (and we with him) was still new here. “Plastic Pattern People” was another of IQ’s works that had appeared in subsequent publications as Scott Heron’s own. IQ was Gil’s creation and projection, an alter ego, another piece of the man.

Reading The Last Holiday is wrenching. When we arrive at the last pages, we witness Scott Heron writing that his former wife and children were probably better off without him. It’s hard to disagree with his judgment, and at the same time wish to god he’d had such clear judgment early enough to have saved himself, for his children if not for the rest of us. Another sign of Scott Heron’s sureness as an author, though, is right there in that moment. He knows that many of us will agree with him, but he also knows that moment comes to us as we are holding in our hands evidence of just how much he has left us, for the book is a testament to the triumphs of his artistry even as it voices his own regrets and missteps.  He also writes, and expects us to agree even though so many of us will be surprised by the revelation, that he did his best writing during the brief period he was a teacher of writing at Federal City College, and before that as a student-teacher at Johns Hopkins. From the beginning, Gil Scott Heron wanted to be a writer. (There was even a moment when he considered following the example of Brian Wilson; leaving the road tours to the band, staying at home writing the songs and other works.) 

As the title suggests, the book builds to and away from that moment so many of us recall so vividly, that one cold, snowy day in the nation’s capitol when Stevie Wonder led Gil and all of us in singing “Happy Birthday.” That day we all sang of making a dream into a reality, and the sign of that possibility now shines from our calendars. It may not be the last holiday, but it was the first to be achieved by such a union of artistry and activism. Gil Scott Heron didn’t have that end in view when he wrote The Vulture, and by the time he wrote The Last Holiday he was a shattered piece of a man. But this book stands as a monument to a life and to Gil Scott Heron’s art. If we keep this book from slipping out of consciousness, we won’t have to rely on later generations to recover what should be seen as a canonical text of American autobiography and of African American culture.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

E. Ethelbert Miller - The Aldon Nielsen Project No. 20 - "WAS OLIVER COX THE BIG O BEFORE OSCAR?"

Q. Caste, Class and Race by Oliver Cox is often not mentioned these days. How important is Cox to black intellectual thought?

How do we speak of the importance to black thought of someone who we have been in the act of forgetting? In at least one describable sense, Cox’s influence remains visible and active even in the conversations of people who do not know of him: an unspoken, but not unspeakable legacy.

I first heard of Cox from C.L.R. James, who shared his Trinidad origins. The one book of Cox’s that was still readily available at the time was his first, and still his most widely read, Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics. That Cox was in ways affiliated with the Chicago Schools of Sociology and Economics might have given me pause, but I didn’t know much about them at the time and so came to Cox with none of the cautions I might have later carried into the reading. The book’s title may sound strange to the contemporary ear, but in the era of Cox’s writing it was especially cogent. There were many who argued that American race was a type of caste system. Cox saw the pitfalls in that explanation for racial antagonisms, and was having none of it. His book offered a thorough examination of the ways in which capitalist labor relations produced “race,” and even naturalized racial ideology. Race was, as his subtitle indicated, a social dynamic, not a biological fact. This was not the dominant way of thinking in 1948, and Cox could be, to put it mildly, unstinting in his dispraise of other prominent scholars and activists he thought mistaken. Against the tide of most sociology of his day, Cox wrote in that first book: “it should not be forgotten that, above all else, the slave was a worker whose labor was exploited in production for profit in a capitalist market. It is this fundamental fact which identifies the Negro problem in the United States with the problem of all workers regardless of color." A fuller history of African diasporic thought would give close attention to the far reaching influence of three men from Trinidad: C.L.R. James, especially through his master work, Black Jacobins (1938); James’s student Eric Williams, and his Capitalism and Slavery (1944); and Cox’s Caste, Class, and Race four years later.  In the span of one decade, these three men overturned the standard model of history and economics and set a new path for scholarship and political theory.

Melvin B. Tolson once wrote that “If Mr. Eliot had read Dr. Oliver Cox’s Race, Caste and perhaps Class, he would not have written his ‘Class and the Elite.’” Whatever T.S. Eliot might have written if he’d ever read Cox, there was little chance he ever would read Cox. African American philosophy and social thought were not high on Eliot’s intellectual agenda. But Tolson was wise to offer Cox as a counterpoint to one of the dominant strains of modernist thought. Cox and Tolson had both taught for a time at Wiley College, though Cox was to spend the greater part of his career at Lincoln University (the one in Missouri, not the one in Pennsylvania), and taught during his final years at Detroit’s Wayne State University, at a time when Detroit and Wayne were still the locus of the political thinkers and activists associated with C.L.R. James. These sorts of intellectual lineages are important for us to keep in mind. Cox later published Foundations of Capitalism (1959), Capitalism and American Leadership (1962), Capitalism as a System (1964) and his last, Jewish Self-Interest and Black Pluralism (1974). As important as these works are, they are little known today and certainly weren’t read by the likes of Eliot during Cox’s life time. It was not just that Cox was working from small, historically Black universities, whose scholars are even now too often neglected by scholars at Research 1 universities, it was also simply the fact of his blackness. 

But Cox always had readers. His work figures importantly in the late Cedric Robinson’s classic Black Marxism, and readers wanting an introduction to Cox today can find a paperback edition of his Foundations of Capitalism along with Caste, Race, and Class. When I moved to Santa Barbara, I met Chris McAuley, who was well versed in the Detroit circuits of Black radical thought, and who was to publish The Mind of Oliver C. Cox, a valuable introduction to Cox’s works.  

While Cox is mostly unknown within the general public’s discussions, there is a small revival of interest that may well lead to his getting his due at long last. It is now possible to get an ebook version of Caste, Race, and Class. And there’s been a crucial recent publication. In the early 1970s, C.L.R. James delivered a series of talks at The Institute of the Black World in Atlanta, talks I have written about in a chapter of a forthcoming collection, The Black Jacobins Reader, out shortly from Duke University Press. One of those talks was devoted to the legacy of Oliver Cromwell Cox. I supplied a recording of that talk to Ravi Malhotra, who arranged with Derrick White and Paul Ortiz to have the talk transcribed and published for the first time in New Politics. You can read an introduction by White and Ortiz online at this URL:

We can hope that these recent publications will attract more scholars and activists to Cox’s work. They will find much that is familiar there, because Cox has had such an extensive, but unacknowledged, influence on thinking about race and class over the past decades. 

“What the ruling class requires of race prejudice is that it should uniformly produce racial antagonism; and its laws and propaganda are fashioned for this purpose.”

– Oliver Cromwell Cox

Friday, July 29, 2016


When Justin Perez posted this link a little while ago, my response to the headline was just what you would expect from me. How delicious that a young Republican attempting to fan the flames around the email story would, following in the glorious tradition of Melania Trump, plagiarize in the most egregious way. Delicious, yes, though I wished it had happened at some other university and not the one where I teach.
But then I read the stories. The College Republicans issued an apology, as they should, but in that very apology they undercut their moral position even further:
"We took this matter seriously and acted swiftly to address the concern when it was called to our attention. The Chief of Staff’s final and rough draft have been reviewed, and we have concluded that he had no mal-intent, but this is still a serious issue to deal with accordingly."
A writer does not accidentally commit rampant plagiarism. Whatever else the staffer thought he was doing, he was clearly representing other people's (copyrighted) words as his own. This would be the subject of immediate disciplinary action in any class of mine.
As if that were not bad enough, the problems were compounded by the editors of the Daily Collegian. They pulled the piece as soon as the plagiarism was brought to their attention, a proper course of action. They apologized to their readers for failing to thoroughly vet the submission, again a proper action. But then they wrote:
"This mistake was one created without intent; we have no reason to believe the author knew the extent of his transgressions when his article was submitted. "
How in god's name does anyone copy passages from other people's columns without intent? How does anyone copy multiple passages from a variety of sources and claim not to know the extent of their transgressions.
As a professor who teaches writing at the university where this has happened, I am profoundly disturbed by the messages these ameliorative statements convey.
But maybe I am over reacting. Maybe I have all along misunderstood the purpose of a university newspaper. In their statement, the editors of the Daily Collegian make clear their own intentions:
"It is our job as a news organization to dispel both factually and ethically honest information to the public . . ."
An officer from the College Republicans plagiarized multiple media outlets in a letter to the he wrote that was published in Daily Collegian.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

3099 Que Street

I didn't see much of teachers and friends from Wakefield High School after age 17, when I graduated and headed into D.C. to get schooled. I did run into Mr. Haygood, the Algebra teacher in 10th grade who had shared his recordings of Lightnin' Hopkins and Sonny Terry with me, at a Muddy Waters show in Georgetown's Cellar Door. And I saw a lot of the beloved musicians with whom I'd worked in a band all through high school.  As I kept moving around in D.C., it seemed most of the people I had known moved either farther out in Virginia or out of the area all together. So it wasn't until we all got onto social media decades later that I started to reconnect with a few folk.
Recently some of us were remembering the experiences we'd had our senior year in an amazing Art - English - Music seminar we'd been in, and that led, as these things do these days, to googling our 12th grade Art instructor, Joann Crisp Ellert. William Kaffenberger and I made the discovery that she was listed as the author of two novels, and we both immediately ordered up copies.

[paintings by Washington Color School artist Ken Noland]

I wish I could say Ms. Ellert had proved to be a compelling novelist. Let's say that in the same sense that I am a poet/critic who probably doesn't have a future in painting, she was a painter/sculptor/educator whose fiction is probably not destined for the syllabi of the future. Just the same, I'm glad that it was her second book that arrived first. 3099 Que Street may not be Fitzgerald, but it is a valuable look at the D.C. art world in the second half of the twentieth century.

The book is a roman a clef set among the artists of the Washington Color School and the gallery scene from the late fifites through the nineties. Many of the gallery owners and journalists appear under their real names, but the primary painters, like the protagonist, have pseudonyms.  I kind of wish the publishers had added identifications. Even without them, I think I knew a couple of the painters who make brief appearances. 

The writing isn't great. (Four of the women we meet are "angular," including the protagonist.) And there are odd slipups. The description of Gallery 10 correctly places it across from the Dupont Circle Metro stop, but then says you can see Wisconsin Avenue from the window. That's Connecticut Avenue reflected in the gallery's door you see depicted here. And the narrator describes walking down the "Exorcist Steps" to Wisconsin Avenue. (What is it about her and Wisconsin Avenue?) -- As legions of fans who have made the trek from all over the world will confirm, walking down those steps (as opposed to being thrown down them by Satan) brings you to M St.

The novel takes place among a social class about which I know little. This is the world of people who subscribe to and might get profiled in Washingtonian magazine.  The rest of us were always from "D.C." -- 

But even though folks like me didn't get invited to Georgetown soirees, radical art is radically available.  I've been to all those galleries. I've seen those shows, even been in the room as some of them were hung. I got to meet many of those artists.

Reading the book, though, I wonder how it is that I never again met Ms. Ellert. With several of my musician friends, I'd played at a party Ms. Ellert held at her Virginia home, a Frank Lloyd Wright house, in the years before she lived in Georgetown. But over and over again in reading this book I realized that I had been in many of the same places (Kramerbooks, The Old Ebbit Grill, the Corcoran, the Hirshorn, Luigi's restaurant, Washington Project for the Arts, the Childe Harold [first place I saw Bruce Springsteen, Pinetop Perkins, Emmylou Harris, so many . . .] ). At one point in the book she is standing outside the Harriman house, in whose basement in those days lived Rick Peabody, publisher/editor of Gargoyle Magazine. At the end of my D.C. time I was living just a ways up the street from the house whose address provides the novel's title.  I remember, even in the years before my short sojourn in Georgetown, walking past and seeing that mischievous mannequin head she placed in a fourth floor window.

Since I was part of what the narrator terms "a lower strata of a metropolis," I wasn't going to run into her at one of those fancy parties she and her husband attend in the book (and unlike the main characters, I don't own a vacation home outside town with a second studio in it, nor do I get invites to Virginia hunt country), but D.C. is a compact space, and it would not have been at all unusual to run into her, as my own college students often ran into me around town.

But this may be the only novel that really depicts the D.C. art world in any detail at all, and it's a fascinating picture.  Putting two and two together, I gather she must have been doing her graduate work when I knew her, and the connections to the Washington Color School that I now know about probably explain how she was able to get the then young Sam Gilliam to visit our school and show us his work.

There was one other shoe to drop, though. This book lists the small number of Ellert's publications, and that's how I learned that not long after I graduated from Wakefield, my art teacher published an essay in the Journal of General Education (published by Penn State, where I now teach), titled "Bauhaus and Black Mountain College."  If only I'd known back then. I remember sitting in her class and reading poems by Charles Olson, Ed Dorn, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, the whole Black Mountain poet crowd I was just discovering, originally by way of their New York cousin LeRoi Jones. It would have been lovely to talk with Ms. Ellert about Cage, Albers, Black Mountain.

There is now a gallery named for our art teacher in Florida, where she and her husband had gone before their deaths. One day I hope to visit her paintings. And in the meantime, I hope I can search out that profile of her in Washingtonian and the Post's reviews of her shows. I was never going to be a painter. (a fact which somewhat exasperated her -- I have found over the years that people who can draw and paint are puzzled by those of us who cannot. Thank god I have cameras.)  She was never going to be a poet. But there is still a lot of what she gave me in my work, for which I am grateful. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016


September 7, 2012, I was sitting near the front of the River Run Centre in Guelph, Ontario, Michael New nearby, for ROVA's reimagining of John Coltrane's Ascension, performed by the expansive Orkestrova. 
I had known the program was to be filmed. Lyn Hejinian had earlier alerted me to the fund raising campaign ROVA was mounting to make possible an ambitious film project around the piece.
The hall was even more than usually well lit with a striking blue design, and there were five cameras on hand. (We were particularly impressed by the overhead dance of the boom camera, which often swung just over our heads for a view corresponding closely to our own.)

Available now from Rogue Art, the package includes three disks, with an accompanying essay by Stuart Broomer. Disk one contains a standard DVD of the concert, and the documentary Cleaning the Mirror, by John Rogers. The second disk, the one I played first, is a blue ray disk with full surround sound in Dolby 5.1.  This came about as close to the experience I had in the concert hall in 2012 as one could hope for. Disk two also has a distinctive feature which allows the viewer to feature a particular musician, raising that performer's audio for closer study. Disk three is a standard CD with the concert audio.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


The Spring semester having ended, I was able to turn my attention to the growing pile of books on the living room floor that I had been wanting to read for some time. Over the years, I've read most of the biographies of Ezra Pound, and I'd been looking forward to having time to work my way through the three volumes of A. David Moody's Ezra Pound: Poet - A Portrait of the Man and his Work, looking particularly for information that might not have been available to earlier biographers. But as I proceeded through the volumes, I found myself increasingly suspicious of Moody's use of his sources, especially those sources touching on Pound's antisemitism, his racial thought, and his activities during the second World War. There were moments when assertions made by Moody (such as his suggestion that we think of Pound as having worked through the Italian Fascists rather than for them) seemed directly contradicted by quotations from the primary sources just a few pages later.

and then I came to this:

"'Elder Lightfoot' is celebrated in canto 95, as being 'not downhearted' and observing 'a design in the Process'; but a possibly tone-deaf critic has found in that abbreviation of his name evidence of anti-African-American racism." Moody counters that tone deaf assertion of Pound's racism by recounting stories of Pound's good treatment of individual Black people, all but testifying: "Some of his best friends were Black."

As some will have recognized, and as readers learn from Moody's notes, I am that possibly tone-deaf critic.

Now we could spend time wondering just what exactly tone has to do with anything in this context, but more to the immediate point, this is simply a lie.

In my first monograph, Reading Race, I supplied the full name of Elder Solomon Lightfoot Michaux, suggesting that Rev. Michaux was the likely referent in canto 95, and not, as the widely read Guide to the cantos had it, a fellow patient at Saint Elizabeth's hospital who had a theory that evolution was running backwards. Nowhere in that book do I suggest that Pound's abbreviation of the name was an act of racism, though I do in that volume offer ample evidence of Pound's life long racist thought and expression.

I returned to the subject of Elder Lightfoot's appearance in Pound's work in an essay titled "Ezra Pound and 'The Best-Known Colored Man in the United States,'" which appeared in the Pound studies journal and in a volume collecting essays on the subject of Pound and African American Modernism.  One of the goals of that essay was to explore the complexities of Pound's racialist thought. The only comments I make regarding the suppression of Michaux's last name have to do with the absence of that name from the existing scholarship. On the first page I remark simply that the extant scholarship yielded little useful information on the identity of Elder Lightfoot, the chief exception being George Kearns' 1980 guide, which supplies the full name and notes that Elder Michaux had broadcast sermons on Washington radio. Nowhere in that essay, or anywhere else, do I in any way suggest that the absence of Michaux's full name from Pound's Cantos is evidence of his racism; there is plenty of evidence of that to be had. (I do mention Pound's misspelling of Dunbar's middle name, though Moody takes no note of that.) To the contrary, my essay clearly takes critics and scholars to task, not Pound, for the abbreviated name.

I go on in the essay to document and discuss Pound's troubling mapping of culture onto race, of primitivism onto eugenics. I have long held that there is no such thing as a simple racism, that no poet is "merely" racist, and that if we are to understand and learn from our history of slavery and race, we must engage with the full complexity of these issues in the thought of Pound and other cultural workers.

Moody, it appears, is so bent upon not engaging fully with Pound's thought on race that he feels required to misrepresent the scholarship of those of us who believe such evasions ultimately damaging even to our understandings of Pound.

Perhaps not a matter of tone, but surely a certain mode of deafness.

Monday, June 27, 2016


This was my fourth visit to China, my third year of teaching graduate seminars in Wuhan. This year's topic was Asian American poetry, and enrolled 33 MA and PhD students. I was delighted to find that some of the students selected some of the more "difficult" work (Tan Lin!) for their presentations to the class. (I learned from the students that one of Tan Lin's Chinese relatives is as well known in that country as Maya Lin is in ours.) I was also impressed that students presented on poems that raised sticky political questions for citizens of the People's Republic.

As he had done last year, my host, Lianggong Luo, organized a major symposium on poetry that gave the Americans on campus (Carmaletta Williams, Lauri Ramey, Steve Tracy, Martin Ramey) a chance for intellectual exchange with scholars and poets in China. Steve Tracy and I once more blew the blues for our hosts. I'll be putting a recording on YouTube.

My seminar students on the fourth floor terrace of Teaching Building No. 3 -- 

I also had the opportunity to go to Guangzhou, where I had a wonderful exchange with English faculty at Nanfang University in their coffee shop.