Friday, February 24, 2006

From Where I Sit

I'm relaxing at The Daily Grind, our local coffee-house/My Other Office, just after what I'm fairly certain was a great meeting with a new client. Yes, I'm mellow with non-fat chai latte and sated with the (fattening, to be sure) tender apple-filled croissant I just ate... but from where I sit - Let me describe what I see:

-The Working guys that just walked in the door - they look like painters (all-white clothes, slight spatters) on their break. Two burly Mexican gents that are placidly aware of the fact that they are here to be served, not to serve.

-Cute couple (he looks like he's on a work break, and in fact just smiled at me, she looks like she's coming or going to class at City College) noshing on smoothies. They have the comraderie of two good friends, but you can never be sure.

-French (at least I THINK) gents wearing expensive trainers, synching their laptop with their digital pictures. Although they may find the coffee oooookay, its the technology that's keeping them here.

-Scarily thing lady who might weigh eighty pounds. Oddly, she's brought her own breakfast, although it looks to be an effort to spoon a few Cheerios into her mouth. She's almost asleep, but still chewing. I don't even have a conjecture, but at least she's TRYING to eat.

-Local "Muffia" (power mums) who meet in their perfect blonded/blended highlights and chat, surely, about things like tennis lessons, Botox and how to get the most for your money out of the cleaner. Ok, ok, I'll be nice - maybe they are discussing the latest benefit or charity dinner. I don't envy them their lives, even though I've got about five hundred bucks to my name at this point. There's far too much stress in trying to appear 30 and know every trend when you aren't, and don't care.

-Students (through the window) of what appears to be molecular or cellular biology. These cute, close-cropped boys are just the thing if you ever need a mitochondrial DNA check, but not much for a night out on the town...check please!

-Older couple, seated outside, he in a red baseball cap, light tan and handsome white beard/goatee, she in a casual striped shirt. I don't take them for Gramps n' Gran - more like older polital activist types, doubtless discussing what S.B. used to be like and how to rejuvenate Mission Creek for the steehead trout to spawn in.

-S. and my favorite coffee-house dude, Scott ("Scotty!!!" I call him) who hooked me up with my current Internet Access. He's a die-hard Clipper fan (wearing the T-shirt today), which makes for a lot of back and forth banter between he and my husband. For the last six or eight years, he's been here, waking at four-thirty to come and make lattes and coffees and schlep bagels to we the hungry masses. The only time I've ever seen him in less than a cheery mood was after a particularly bad Clippers/Lakers loss. This morning he informed me he'll be there tonight. I wonder why he's been here so long every time I come in, but always quit wondering after he hands me my drink. S. comes here most days for his single cup of coffee, and most of the time he gets it from our guy, Scotty.
*Biology guy just flashed me his book and a charming smile. Wonder if he knows I'm writing about him?

-Various owners of assorted dogs file in and out, their canine companions wait for them on the outdoor patio, so I don't know who belongs to whom. I let out a tiny squeee! when I saw the half-ground red hound puppy this morning - all nose and legs in five directions, she just wanted to be loved.

-Overgrown college guys: One in trousers and a button-up shirt, looks like he might have parents who came here from India or ?, v. handsome with cocoa skin and carefully mussed hair... on second inspection, a bit TOO carefully mussed, if you know what I mean. The other is clinging to his keg-standing days by only his newsboy cap and day-old stubble.

-Single Latina-mom-student type, poring carefully over a textbook of some kind. I bet she goes to school and takes care of at least one kid, plus has a job. Yet she still found the energy to smile at me when I looked up at her. She came here to study in the relative peace and quiet of the weird 80's music-medly and the roar of the cappicino and smoothie machines.. imagine what her house sounds like? Ay ay ay ayyy!

-A mom/dad/college-age daughter - are they here checking out schools, or visiting her? Mom is wearing definite mom jeans (you know, 10 inch zipper) and sensible bob, dad sports T-shirt and shorts, athletic shoes. Daughter (acid-green sweater, her mom's hair color) is going with a mix of Tired-from-last-night/Ennui/Why do I have to show you guys EVERYTHING! Gawwwd!, but I can tell she's missed them, or will miss them, when they leave.

Usually when I'm here there are moms with babies, oh, one just came in - baby is barefoot, cutely chubby in a bright-striped shirt, mom is dark-haired and attractive without making you hate her for being stick-thin two weeks post-partum. There are often a contingency of hippie types (all of the patchtouli stink, none of the ideals, no bras ev-ver!) Punk/Club kids and some older, some handicapped and a few just Plain Crazies. For the most part, people are helpful, friendly, not talking (too loudly) on their cell phones. Some people (me) conduct business here, others are here for some private/public time, still others are just trying to get out of the house. Caffenated bevereges in hand, we browse through the abundant reading material (The Independant, real estate journals, health magazines, sections of the L.A. Times, 'zines) and try to wake up or get over last nights' bender.

The tables sit close enough to each other for accidental eavesdropping, and serendipitous chance meetings (better than a bar, sez I). The employees are a mix of Mexican, American and college people, not above singing aloud to a tune they like while they straighten up or make you a mocha. The walls are decorated with their house-brand water and coffee cups, out-of-state car plates, and an assortment of items like old bikes, clocks and a Shell station sign. Even though a security camera is watching, you get the idea that that's just for our own good (if only it had recorded the incredible "muffin top" of this girl outside, she would surely purchase different jeans). Even the three cops that just meandered in for their coffee n' bagels didn't change the relaxed atmosphere all that much.

From where I sit, it is somewhat difficult to remember that not far away, people are homeless for months or years to come after a national Snafu. From here, it doesn't seem like Dick "It was just a beer with lunch" Cheney's thing was such a big deal that it had to be the subject of national news for the last two weeks. It appears that people, in general, get along, or would like to try to improve each other's lives.

Which is why it is important to not sit in coffee houses for extended periods of time - you can get fuzzy from the hum of goodwill, forget that Bad Things are happening, and not look closely at world events.


Chiada said...

I love that place. Back in the good ol' days when Erik and I were dating/engaged, we used to meet there every morning to read the Text together in our car & grab a coffee. You described the ambience perfectly. I too am guilty of feeling too-doo-fuzziness from time to time & blocking out bad realities.

jonniker said...

I don't know what coffee place this is specifically Santa Barbara, but I will say that it's one of my favorite places in the entire country. I wish I was there right now. RIGHT NOW.
On a Jeep tour in Santa Ynez valley. Yes, that's where I wish I was.