Inside Acuppa-Cuppa, on the corner of Rodeo and Camino Carlos Rey, twenty feet of glass frontage overlooks the sidewalk patio, parking lot, and a dirt island -- home to three aspiring evergreens. Despite the fact that it is winter, the day is almost balmy. Light traffic rolls by and the sky is the flavor blue.
A vibrant chrysanthemum on a table near the door is flanked by two overstuffed lounge chairs. The unused main table, a thick pine job, comfortably seats six people. When the writer's group meets here, as we did last month, it seats eight or more. It is littered now like an abandoned street with large flimsy pages of picked over newsprint.
The Christmas decorations are up. In the windows are odorless plastic boughs of cedar. They are draped over the door and the counters too. Can never have too much of them in one room. Ornaments the size of healthy snowballs, crimson and white, glitter like magical pomegranates.
As one walks in, I am in the booth section on the left. When the glass door swings open at this time of day, bands of light jump up from the floor and flash across the room. The visitor inadvertently takes a deep breath. coffee. Filling out her mid-twenties, a shocking vision in red orders a cappuccino. With freckles like a field of tiny flowers above her bust line, she meets her lover here every morning. From a steaming venti cup, a kiss to go.
Tsk. Tsk. Bury me like a puff of smoke.
A new art installation has been added to the walls: framed swirls of color like slices of Dr. Seuss topography. It’s fine really. Not bad at all. As the affixed post-it notes indicate, they're selling like hotcakes.
The door flashes again -- another swell of commuters on their way to work. An unshaven boy, with morning hair like aloe vera, sits down blinking. The woman across from him says she only has five minutes left. A cuff-link hovers, flipping through the pages, tossing aside the local news in favor of the latest issue of Monopoly Money magazine. He orders a double latte to go and tucks the magazine beneath his arm. He's on his way up.
Another deep sip. I'm not sure what I miss the most. Give my regards to the past. Time is new. Music and the tempo of an elevated heart rate meet. My inked up thoughts and observations are braided on the page, like a hairball; a Gordian Knot; a gray weight to be cleaved in half. A painter leaves a blank spot for the world to fill in. How blank? Not a small matter.
Facial recognition. He's all milk. She's all caffeine and switching topics. Approaching the counter, a man twirls his silver-tipped walking stick. Coffee--room for cream and a stack of paper cups near the register lose one. It all smells like tribal business mixed with burnt caramel.
According to the joke; a man pays with a twenty for a "Buddha Burger" and then reminds that he is due some change. Change comes from within. A fifty-year-old man with a goatee laughs as if it's the second coming and he's finally going to get all of his trading cards autographed. A deep breath slowly exhaled. That sucking noise is just the espresso machine.
Macs. PCs. Touch-pads. A couple reads each other over a quiet cup in the corner, not balancing the checkbook, surfing the web, or putting each other on. 'Ka-ching,' says the tip jar. Cream and sugar can be found near the bulletin board. Pinned fliers advertise the Nut Cracker Ballet, Chanuka on Ice, Kiss Me Kate, and holistic healing. Hmm. Take note: Admission to the Zombi-thon is only ten dollars! Because you only live once or so.
Postcards from solitude. The water’s fine. The next table over -- "What are you writing? A book?" Perhaps you’ve read my last one, EMBARRASSING MAGNETS IN SPACE! No? Just a line then. Fresh off the top of the old noggin. 'For the clear channel communicator in the service of finding when all the boredom has begun to set a sure way to shine up those diamonds in your eyes once more.' They nod. They leave. Tough crowd.
Trapezoidal planes and skewed chairs for an art student sketching in the corner. An itinerant congregation wielding cups as if they were articles of faith take the stage. Words. We exhale them or write them down while in the company of others like us.
Hot apple cider, the very smell glows. A wrist watch flashes. The one on the wall says "nearly two." Busted. What are you in for? Political crimes with additional time for 'just being that way.' Like a split oyster, if not artistically, desperately.
Something else again. Mid-life. Bounds. No secrets. You can’t mean it. But I do. Who are you with? No one. First, there was a mountain. Then there was none. Then there was -- bagged up. Stop. Look. See. Like a dingo. Write. Behind the counter, they sell biscotti, bear claws, muffins, and scones, quiche, and bagels.
My preference is not on the menu. I settle for a refill.