30 or So Tales To Tell
There is just something about sitting in Peet's Coffee on a rainy afternoon. Lovely classical notes waft through the thick, confident smell of coffee, every seat is crowded with people talking or working or reading, rain falls through the plentiful North Berkeley trees outside the corner window. Right now, this place is the center of the world, buzzing with life, people, relationships, ideas, and caffeine.
And there is so much more here than meets the eye.
A young guy at the next table, knit cap pulled down over his ears, skinny jeans half holding him on the wooden chair, clicks earnestly away at his iPhone thingamajiggy, looking for all the world like a dude connected, to people, movements, important events. He is intent, focused, thumbs working purposefully.
I spy his screen. He is playing solitaire.
The older gent sitting across the way is reading a thick paperback with a Moe's bookmark clutched in one hand. I strain to catch the title (I am forever trying to spy on what people are reading) but cannot see it. Head bowed, he reads and reads and reads. Strange, but he does not turn any pages.
He is sound asleep, chin to chest, book rising and falling on his protruding belly. It doesn't much matter what he's reading, apparently.
Another man, looking dapper, or Berkeley's version thereof, holds court on one of the benches, chatting with the other regulars. He would appear to be the picture of community, the keeper of a good story for a rainy day. I catch snippets of his conversation, and realize he is a few bolts shy of stable.
Actually, he's homeless, and discussing at length the best places to stay dry in rainy weather. I look closer and see the tell tale signs of someone who has been on the streets for a long, long time. Leathery skin, slack mouth, unfocused eyes. But he's here, in this little space, sipping the best coffee known to man and sharing conversation with people who are clearly friends of his.
An older man sits down next to me and takes out two notebooks filled with copious, pencil written notes. He hoists a large hard bound book out of his satchel and thunks it on the table; the phrase Homeric Translation is in the title. Even the Greeks are alive and well here at Vine and Walnut.
Everywhere I look, things are so much more interesting than they might seem at first glance, so much more complex. A warm cafe on a cold day, with 30 or so patrons, with 30 or so tales to tell.
Life is a mystery. I sip my own best coffee known to man and make up little stories in my mind about the patrons. That couple over there is in the middle of a huge, silent, chip on their shoulders fight and they are trying desperately to ignore each other. That young mother is in a sleep-deprived haze, waiting in line for what will surely be the highlight of her long, caring-for-others day: a medium, non-fat latte. She is hoping the elixir will stave off the afternoon blues. The server behind the counter, the cheerful one who helps people with their whole bean orders, has recently fallen head over heels in love and is riding a wave of exhilaration through his work day until he can get to her again.
I feel a tug and hear a small gasp of joy. I turn and at my sleeve, I see my very own tale to tell. My four year old has arrived with her daddy, singing Matchmaker Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof and telling me her good news: Rozie (from preschool, whence she has just come) is her friend.
Friends are indeed good news, little one. Look around you: there is good news everywhere.
* * *