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Comfy Jam’s Proves That There’s Someplace Like Home

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Jam’s Coffee House in Huntington Beach is a second home for many students, commuters and artists. And that’s just what the owners want it to be.

As you enter Jam’s living room, a waft of peanut butter-chocolate coffee and the sight of Moonpies awaken cravings for treats scarce in most kitchen cupboards.

Well-worn easy chairs and comfy couches invite you to relax and sit a spell. Hand-painted tables surrounded by mismatched chairs provide room to set up a fierce game of Battleship or do homework while mowing an individual pizza.

Since they opened the doors in October, 1993, owner Carolyn Churchouse and her down-to-earth family--husband Guy, daughter Amanda, and Amanda’s boyfriend, Jimmy--have created an environment fueled by their love for people, art, music and food.

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The kitchen is stocked with hard-to-find goodies like Skeleteen Drinks ($2) and Jolt cola ($1.25), as well as coffeehouse staples such as espresso ($1) or a double mocha ($2.75). Bagels, pastries and cereals are $1.50 to $2. Sandwiches, salads and pizzas are $2 to $3. Even Jam’s canine visitors get treated to dog biscuits on the house.

Cluttered bookcases crammed with books and games are free for all to explore. Toys, crayons and kid-sized furniture help the little folks feel welcome. Jam’s scrambled library is a mix of mystery novels, musicians’ biographies, business management guides and hard-bound classics. One case holds books for sale or trade. Paperbacks are 10 cents and hardbacks are 50 cents, but if you present the clerk with a sweet read, a groovy statue or an old tambourine, a barter is likely to transpire.

Knickknacks traded or donated are displayed with pride among plants on every shelf. Antique musical instruments are propped beside handmade pottery and plastic action figures. A smiling wooden Buddha gives comfort to the local who donated it in memory of his father. A bust of Beethoven gazes upon a collage of customer snapshots and magazine clippings. Post cards from vacationing customers and personal mementos are layered on the community bulletin board. An entire wall is dedicated to exhibiting the artwork of different local artists each month.

Though this eclectic and ever-changing feast for the eyes may satisfy some appetites, patrons might want to leave room enough for the entertainment on hand nightly, except Monday.

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The week unfolds Sunday with open-mike night from 6 to 10:30 p.m. featuring mostly musical acts. But the audience is occasionally treated to acts of magic, comedy or drama. Sign-ups are from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and each act is allotted 10 minutes or, if you’re a musician, no more than two songs. Jam’s offers microphones, a clean PA system and a house sound technician. Jam’s showcases live rock, blues, alternative, jazz or folk by scheduled local bands and solo artists four nights a week: Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 8 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights from 9 to 11 p.m.

The regulars at Jam’s are mostly high school and college age, but Thursday’s poetry reading attracts a wider range of enthusiasts. From a 15-year-old resident of nearby tony Edwards Hill Estates to a homeless senior citizen, bards of many backgrounds congregate for this forum of self-expression.

The host of poetry night is Lob, the editor of Neverending Page--a local ‘zine of art and poetry--who in 1993 started the Instagon Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting personal expression. Lob named the group after a word he coined to describe the instant rush he gets from performance art. As host, he promotes the “Instagon philosophy” of feeling what’s real with an open mind and a sense of humor.

Poetry fans, including Carolyn Churchouse, attribute Jam’s Thursday night popularity to Lob’s supportive energy. The reading is uncensored, appealing to artists who reveal their most intimate selves through the medium of the spoken word.

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Though most of the audience is attentive, poetry night is not void of distractions. Hopefully, the regular chatterers in the back will eventually turn on to the poetry or find a table outside.

* Jam’s Coffee House

* 17304 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach.

* (714) 848-2599.

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* Open weekdays at 6 a.m., weekends at 8 a.m.; closed Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at midnight and Mondays at 3 p.m.

* No cover.


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