25 October 2007

a coffee shop day

Today is grey in Joburg. Another cold front has blown through. It is windy and chilly. The rains will begin to fall again soon. It is a perfect morning to spend at a coffee shop.

I love the coffee shop. I love sitting and staring, thinking and reading, writing and sitting and staring some more. I love the anonymity of sitting in my corner and the subtle recognition that it is the corner where I always sit. I love the coffee shop.

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Today, since I cannot go to a coffee shop, I will simply reminisce.

I love the Candlelight Coffee House on St Mary’s Street in San Antonio. I love the crowd, dressed up with nowhere to go. I love the old funky furniture and the smell of wine and coffee blending together. I love the patio, quiet and unassuming. I love that I could sit by myself for hours and never be bothered.

I love Starbucks in Abilene, TX. Sinful to say, maybe… But it is a bastion of familiarity in a place that is still unfamiliar to me. Stef is from Abilene and my lovely mother and sister (in-law) live there. So, sometimes, when I begin to twitch for no good reason, it is a good thing to get a small cup of something strong, to smell something familiar, and to enjoy the senses God gave me.

I love Metro Bar in Austin. I love that I am as likely to hear Italian being spoken as English. I love the darkness and stillness within, while busy students and business-people buzz on Guadalupe Street just outside. I love the Italian sodas they make, since Austin seems to be blistering hot and walking that town can be brutal in the summer.

I love Spider House in Austin. I love wondering what went on in the rooms of that old house before me and my laptop took up residence. I love trying to guess how old the creaky wood floor is and trying to figure out what the tattoos of the person sitting across the room actually mean. I love getting a bottle of water and a trip into some alternate universe. I love seeing students run in, clamoring for something trendy, something that might help them find acceptance. It is to people with blue hair and multiple piercings what Starbucks is to people with SUVs and carseats. I love that it is different and yet, to the people it serves, so much the same.

I love Ruta Maya in downtown San Antonio. Comfortable couches and huge windows looking onto Martin Street make it the greatest place to spend a rainy day that I can think of. The inside is cold and unfriendly…lacking pretension. The coffee is the best that I have tasted and the espresso is as close to perfect as I know. The ceiling stands tall over the concrete floors. Grey abounds. Unlike every other coffee shop which is splashed in bold reds and yellows and browns, Ruta Maya embraces the city, the concrete and the asphalt. It is gritty and somehow softly welcoming. Watching people interact with the 325 ft tall hotel across the street and watching workers slowly renovate the interior of a nearby office building…simple joy for me. Watching the busses carry the masses off to somewhere I’ve probably never been is an ongoing source of curiosity and fascination.

I think if I could be anywhere today, I’d be in Ruta Maya. I would order a triple espresso con panna. I’d sip it slowly, since 4 ounces doesn’t last too long in gulps. After an hour or so, I’d finish the last, grainy drops. I would then get myself a glass of water (self-serve, like any good coffee shop) and look at the pastries. I’d probably order one of those crumbly pastries with the dollop of blueberry jam in the middle and a cup of mild coffee. I’d take both and sit back in my corner, content to sit and stare, think and read, write and sit and stare some more. After a while, I would notice half a cup of cold coffee staring at me. I would drink it down quickly, still wonderful in its chilly state.

I would get up, almost regretting the morning in solitude and relishing it at the same time. I would leave the coffee shop, very simply, contented.

Someday soon made a promise I will follow…


  1. Ah, Candlelight.... I can still remember one evening vividly... you and I sitting outside in the cool air... sipping our hot tea ... you, just back from S Africa... us, dicsussing how we want to learn the game of chess and to play the guitar... talking of buildings and urban sprawl... driving home, windows down, heater on... what a simple night

  2. what a great blog about all of my favorite places- you place words like no one else could or at least I can't (By the way I would agree wholeheartedly about the espresso @ Ruta Maya) Keep writing, pondering, staring, writing, and staring somemore. (maybe one day I can read your thoughts in a book that sells like hotcakes off the self of a local bookstore-not that you can find hotcakes there but you know what I mean)