“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”
The most remarkable thing about this corner bakery is the lighting. It follows the idea of a corner bakery one step further- actually being on a corner, with the windows to prove it.
The ceiling is made up of wooden beams with barn-like lanterns that are hardly necessary with all that light. Perhaps it’s because they’re open until dinner, when the windows give a view of the flashing lights driving by on the corner of Rio and 29th street.
The food itself is rich and is for the rich, with both quail and odd vegetables made to be appetizing on the menu. I recommend the French Toast, especially if it’s cold outside and you’re looking for some extra padding for the winter. Really anything with bread is to be trusted but make sure to say ‘baguette’ when you’re ordering to keep up with the Parisian feel, which they really pull off rather well.
But on a normal day when funds are low or cholesterol is high, you might simply get a cup of coffee (bottomless might I add) and look around at the right-brained and left- brained array of people that choose Texas French Bread. You might overhear some conversations here and there, but all will be light-hearted and there will be music playing so that instead of somber thoughts you are left with lifted spirits in my preferred “clean, well-lighted space”*.
*”A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”- EH 1933 in Winner Take Nothing
~what I’m reading: Howl – Allen Ginsberg~
A Lovely Crossroads
With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
Change Wilde’s words from ‘moon’ to ‘sun’, and here might be your be happiness.
In three small beach towns meticulously preserved to be quaint, one will find the coffee shop Amavida. It could not be called independent, nor is it by any means Starbucks , but some moderate middle ground between the extremes. In this is its virtue.
It is a place that plays “We’re Gonna Be Friends”(The White Stripes) when it should be playing “Blue Schwinn”(Yppah). The drinks are priced just high enough that the average customer winces inwardly yet pretends it is no thing to pay $4.65 for a latte. While waiting for the coffee and musing that this coffee better be ‘damn good’, one notices the bookshelves.
Built-in cases that in no way resemble your average airport kiosks line the side of the wall not occupied with coffee, as though words were the counterpart to drinking and must be given equal space. The severity of books reflect the severity of prices. Freely one can leaf through biographies and novels without plots. In lieu of magazines, Lapham’s Quarterly.
Without indulging in pretentiousness, you can sip a debatably Italian drink that by all accounts really is ‘damn good’, whilst thumbing through Pale Fire (Nabakov). You’ll end up buying it later, because you can’t afford another coffee to make up for the time you’ve spent there reading it, and you’re too caught up in phrases you might want to recall “…in the course of a sunset ramble.”* Though there’s bound to be a young businessman with a laptop sitting in the corner, he also has a paper in his hands. Leaning back, he does not seem to have any pressing business he must rush to attend to, and fits in gorgeously with the lingering writers who do their best to appear as if they are never doing any work at all. **
*Pale Fire, Vladamir Nabakov
**The Sun Also Rises, EH “…in the newspaper business, where it is such an important part of the ethics that you should never seem to be working.”
“Call me an idiot, but art, books, music…these things matter “
There is an area of New Orleans generally pronounced to be ‘nice’, except to the movement of local purists who deem it ‘overrun with tourism’.
Oddly, this city does not take well to clichés. Each person defies one general stereotype in an impressive individualist fashion. Unlike the decided individuals, who may have well as called themselves divine with the importance they place upon their own uniqueness, these people seem not to care about perception or their place in the world. Perhaps they are unaware.
This is particularly true for the bookkeeper or store owner of Faubourg Marigny. I hesitate to call him store owner as he seemed not so much to be selling books as to be, well, keeping them.
Books are stacked like twisting spiral staircases reaching the height of the other shelves as if the room was built of them, not selling them. A small corner contains well-bound gold-lettered collectors items, and after accidentally knocking over a video of male nudes labelled ‘Cousins’ I tried to sift through the spines. I became frustrated and my mind was short of breath. I could not see the titles, could not look through the books, would never know what was beneath those pretty covers. I consoled myself that this was not, in fact, a book store but the residence of a bookkeeper that I had the fortune to look in upon.
As I am not a photographer, my pictures are worth far less than a thousand words so allow me to add a few more. I like this picture because of the chimney and the brick. It reminds me of home, not my home but the idealized home. It is a wave to romantic ambiance as the remnants of the French sail away from that dark port.
In the early morning though, the dark is gone and a pleasant dew settles on the lush vegetation that threatens to take the city. Looking over that rail to that particular patio, you might think you saw Hem in his blue shirt and white linen pants. And a cap of course. There’s a coffee and a paper and his legs are crossed. He squints his eyes in a wink as he raises his cup to you. You think you’re in Havana, and you remember that this is a fishing port after all.
often it is the only
between you and
no woman’s love,
nothing can save
it keeps the walls
the hordes from
it blasts the
writing is the
god of all the
it knows no
it is the last
Charles Bukowski, “Writing.”
There is something playfully erotic about this establishment, loosely called a hair salon.
Advertising itself seemed to be a necessary evil that this business reluctantly conceded to. Yet like a child who realizes that his parent right, they’ve skirted around the typical means of selling themselves as best they can.
To start with, getting into the building is not easy. After walking up to the obvious door, one sees a sign too small to be read until you’ve already gone to the trouble of walking up to it. It says to no, go around to the back please and it’s easy to feel that you have stepped into a book club in which you haven’t read the book.
And so after a quick glance toward your companion to reassure yourself that this is the entrance, you open the door and are greeted many times by your reflection.
The hairdresser said that one of her clients counted, just for the hell of it, and there were 137 mirrors.
“But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
There is a tendency to love the sinful. I am not talking about the evil, or necessarily the wrong, but rather that flaw that is so very human.
Much of writing hones in on an individual’s particular weaknesses or flaws, pinpointing where one stands on the proverbial spectrum of virtue and vice. It turns out that moderation doesn’t tell you much about someone, and moreover its rather boring. Yet depict a character as good or bad, right or wrong, and you’ve lost every nuance- any strain of reality.
We’re all a little lukewarm, continually testing the waters but seldom making up our mind to jump in or out. It’s a devastating lack of commitment that is urging to be tested. All you need is a situation, a setting and scene. Throw in a death, a life, a temptation and see what happens. There’s where your character lies.
Most people react rather as is expected, more or less. A death brings tears, a laugh brings smiles, and a temptation is generally not acted upon. This is well and good I suppose. But I want to see where someone lies. Cheats, steals, is selfish in the face of another’s dire necessity. Love and sacrifice do serve the same purpose of extremes but alas, these are harder to come by.
The extremes, the ends of the spectrum, the passions- that is what we all fall in love with. It’s is our closest connection to humanity. And so Lot’s wife looked back on her city, though she was told not to. She could not part from her world without a wistful glance. And yes, she was turned into a pillar of salt when she had the security of an angel before her. But she did look back, and I love her for that too. Because it was so human.