At the center of Cherryland stood Harold James: owner, cook, waiter, maitre de, dishwasher, janitor, bouncer, literary critic, theologian, realist, existentialist, romantic, transcendentalist, free-thinker, liberal, conservative, Pickwickian, and chess enthusiast.
Other than chess, it would be difficult to assign a single description to Cherryland; actually, it would be impossible, for it was so many things to so many different people. Located on what use to be the corner of Meekland and A in Hayward, California, Harold had unintentionally created a Bohemian paradise of chess players, a retired doughnut shop owner, his wife, his friends, and his patrons from his former business, factory workers, college students, a couple of professors, big-rig drivers, a few pastors and their respective flocks, a couple of cops, a few garbage men, and a few more chess players to round things out.
You didn't have to be a chess-player to be welcome; indeed, it was then what eludes the PC crowd of today; the Cherryland Café was the most open, tolerant, racially diverse, economically diverse, religiously diverse, and most educationally diverse public cultural center in existence... why else would you see Richard Shorman and an illiterate sixty-five-year-old janitor from the Hunt's factory sitting together in perfect equality; as one enthusiastically explains to the other the advantages of opening with a center pawn?
For a quarter you could get a cup of coffee and claim a seat at the counter. If you didn't have a quarter, you could get a cup of coffee and claim a seat at the counter. It was that kind of place.
Besides about twenty chess sets that almost matched and several chess clocks that almost kept perfect time, there was a fairly well stocked library of chess books, including a decent collection of novels... Siddhartha was one, The Pickwick Papers was another... no telling what problems or blessings were caused by those dangerous books.
... more to come later.
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