Cave Inn Coffeehouse in New Paltz

Main Street

mulled ciderSomething triggered a recollection of my days at New Paltz. During the 1975-76 school year, after I broke up with the Okie, then dropped out of college for a semester, I lived in a coffeehouse.

It was called the Cave Inn, something I didn’t remember the name until helped by a New Paltz alumni group. What I DO remember is the address, 143 Main Street, right next to the bus station. It was run by the Student Christian Center, under the leadership of Paul Wiley. But the music played every weekend wasn’t generally overtly Christian.

The residents’ jobs were to rent to set up, serve cider during the event, and clean up afterward. It was not a heavy lift, and I felt that the rent was quite reasonable. This setup went on for a number of years before and after my time there.

That year, I lived with two guys, both named Mike, one blondish and the other brunet. For some reason, they actively hated each other. They yelled a lot, and at least once, chairs were thrown. I tried to be the peacemaker, usually without much success.

The dark-haired Mike sang Alice Restaurant at least once at the coffeehouse. I have a specific recollection of people singing Take It To The Limit by the Eagles, and me being singing the high harmony, usually beyond my reach.

Culture break

The one problem is that Paul wouldn’t let us stay during the winter break, though I could leave my stuff there. I had no other place to live. My parents had moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974. So I stayed in Queens, NYC with my mother’s aunt Charlotte Yates for three weeks.

I went to a few cultural things with Charlotte, but far more with her sister Ida Berman. She was an accomplished photographer. It was probably the first time I had gone to at least a half dozen museums and art galleries.

Meeting Paul

When I first attended New Paltz in 1971, I was having serious doubts about the efficacy of Christianity. Yet I would occasionally hang out at the Christian Student Center on Plattekill Avenue, where Paul worked and I think lived. I wasn’t going to church, but I guess I wanted to be Christian-adjacent.

In the fall of 1974, when the Okie and I were breaking up, it became clear to me that there was no way I could finish my five courses. I just didn’t have it in me. But it was after the midterm point. One could not drop courses unless one had been seeing a professional: a doctor, or psychologist, or the like.

Or a pastor. I don’t know that I had been talking to Paul specifically about my immediate difficulties; I just don’t know. But he signed off on the form, and on December 4, I was able to withdraw from two classes. I received an A and two B’s and 2 W’s, I think, though I could look it up.

And ever since, every December 4, I remember that, sometimes, you just have to give up. Quit. Resign. It was a useful life lesson.

Coda

After I moved out of 143 Main Street, I moved into 145 Main Street, the large house in front of the Cave Inn. I’m told it was the Agonian Sorority House until it was sold. It’s now the New Paltz Hostel, according to Trulia. I met a friend there I’m still in touch with.