Friday, January 2, 2009

Open Latte at Mill Pond

Micala Lumiere creator of Mill Pond

Today, I logged into Second Life and teleported myself to Open Latte in Mill Pond hoping some of my friends would be hanging there. Open Latte is a popular coffee house and a Second Life institution. Rezzing outside Open Latte, I found my self in the middle of a large excited crowd. I looked around and saw at once the cause for all the excitement. Micala Lumiere, the owner and creator of Mill Pond, was tearing down and redesigning Mill Pond once again. Open Latte as still there, of course, but there was much that was gone and much that was new. Then Micala herself appeared in front of Open Latte, and we all gathered around her to learn of her plans.
Shakespeare and Company in Mill Pond

For me and for so many others, our first arrival at Open Latte was the pivotal event in our virtual lives. I had performed a Second Life search for ‘Shakespeare’ and came upon a classified for Shakespeare & Company Bookstore located in Mill Pond. The original real life Shakespeare & Company, located in Paris, was famous in the years between the world wars as an Anglo-American literary hangout whose regulars included such notables as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Its existence ended with the Nazi occupation of Paris. A second Shakespeare & Company was built in the 1950’s on Paris’s Left Bank and it continued the original’s tradition, attracting literati such as Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Henry Miller and many others. I am familiar with this Shakespeare & Company, and I found the bookstore in Mill Pond to be a Second Life replica of the one I had known. And it was a most comfortable place for lounging and looking out the window at the village. I loved being surrounded by the books.

The Wall outside Open Latte

Venturing outside the bookstore brought a pleasant revelation. People were gathered in small groups or just sitting and relaxing on the stone walls surrounding the trees that lined the street. I had visited quite a number of sims in Second Life, and so many were devoid of life except for the occasional explorer. But here there was a cacophony in text of friendly banter that could only come from persons of long standing familiarity. Mill Pond had a life and was alive. And I was greeted with many a ‘Hello Mariko’. I recalled the motto of Shakespeare & Company, "Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise". The people at Mill Pond have taken that to heart.

Open Latte

Open Latte Conversation

Social life in Mill Pond revolves around the coffee house, Open Latte. What Open Latte offers in abundance is conversation – discussions, debates, gossip, and good humored nonsense – in front of a large warm fireplace. Early in my virtual life, I spend many an hour ensconced in a comfortable chair in front to that fireplace. From there I wove myself into the social fabric of Mill Pond and made friendships that are at the core of my social sphere. Subsequent redesigns of Mill Pond have sifted the social dynamics a touch. People tend to congregate more outside in front of the coffee house and less so by the fireplace. But Open Latte is still the place to be and be seen, and where friendships are made.

Mill Pond was created by Micala Lumiere almost three years ago - the Jurassic Age in Second Life time. And Micala goes back even further than that. She remembers a time in the primordial past when there would be a total of 20 persons online in Second Life (right now there are 84,314 persons online). Over the years, she has renovated Mill Pond many times. The original Mill Pond was french-inspired with a french village, rolling countryside and a winery. There have been seven subsequent revisions of Mill Pond that have transformed the country village into a town where asphalt has replaced cobblestones in the streets. But despite the changes, Mill Pond retains its charm and allure. The town attracts many artists and visitors will want to shop in its many galleries, attend the art exhibits and live music events at Twilight’s Peace and shouldn’t miss the history of Mill Pond exhibit located above Macazoni’s Cheese Bar. Also on every visitor’s agenda should be Shakespeare & Company and the Old Mill Tavern. And, of course, there is always Open Latte, the center piece of Mill Pond, a virtual institution that, for so many, evokes memories and emotions like no other place in all of Second Life.

Old Mill Taven
Lulubelle Muircastle: people are congregating outside like never before. Indeed, we were. And the affection that the crowd had for Micala was evident as was her affection for us. Micala is ancient in SL time, and she has not kept her avatar up with the times. It is barely above the level of a noob. And don’t set me off on her clothes. But for Micala, having a stylish avatar is not very important. As she explained to us, "I love SL because I can build and create. To me, Mill Pond is a living, breathing, work of art. It truly is." This set off cries for a toast:

Lulubelle Muircastle: A toast to you Micala.
Forestwalker Flieg: here here... a toast!
Forestwalker Flieg: to Micala!!!
Lulubelle Muircastle: A TOAST

To which Micala graciously replied, "To all of you, actually. Without you Mill Pond is just a pretty spot - nothing more. You all make it a community."


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