Cafes as outposts in a big &increasingly hostile solar system.


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                                                                                                                                                        from an old View from Splinter Cottage Column in Prime Time A&E


or the small table for two stories)

The perplexitudes and quizzicals of life.

Associations and patterns much too complex to anticipate. The difference between a rainy day
and a rainy day in the right cafe ... well ...  a back glance to Hades or a gentle glimpse of heaven.
Plus the company one keeps... Saint Peter or the auditor.
The intimacy .  of double tables, made just for two; fireplace in winter, a warm and quiet place
             for Duke Ellington's Caravan or Billy Strayhorn's Passion Flower.

 Couple of years back  I met Annie for brandy in late January.

This was at Au Pied du Cochon in Georgetown. She sat there waiting. Uncomfortably.
After an unusual purple glance from her very blue eyes. I ordered a large Hennessy passing along the smile
I reserve for cops half my age. When I saw her cigarette, I prayed to whatever Saint handles these
things or any other that would listen. Although she started smoking again, there is still a lot to notice.

she has great legs, loves heels (beg pardon I can never resist that), &

 after 20 years  her perfume still turns heads.

I hope you will click: “continued” and join me  for the rest of the story:

(for the rest of the posts simply scroll down):

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It seems Annie was going to spend Valentine‚ Day alone. Since I was an expert at alone,
always working somewhere else, she wanted my opinion. Or so she said. To get it,
she speed talked for the next hour.

Often toward holidays, friends avail themselves of my wise counsel.
When their therapists are off visualizing a positive holiday.
None of us are always smart. Annie needed a friend to listen.
I mostly smelled the cognac, drinking very little of it.
Annie had her own answer. She simply didn't like it.

It's unsurprising that families are most missed at Christmas; lovers on Valentines days.
The New Year hangover separates the two. Everyone is so busy. Having fun. Stress cracks to appear.
Our "conversation" ended, Annie left down Wisconsin Avenue blowing smoke,
hopefully from those cigarettes. For the sake of Georgetown.
 Once again, I was sitting in a cafe by myself looking at a glass;
              trying to work the world out on a piece of paper.
So... as I said, Annie has great legs, loves heels
(beg pardon again, I can never resist that),
and after 20 years,
her perfume still turns heads.
Enuff for a new beginning.
Clearly, the situation would rectify itself:
 tout de suite.
But not by Valentines Day.
Hell of it was, Anne’s problem wasn’t loneliness;
she just wasn’t going to fit into the
Valentines Day performance.
She was going to be on the outside looking in.
Where the empty echoes are & the cold winds blow.
And no one else seems to hear them. 
Telling her she had just
blown off one of the worlds
mediocre jerks wasn’t helpful.
Mentioning that February 15th would arrive on time
is the kind of clever stuff
that gets the messenger shot.
If only he had stayed on,
she could have performed Valentine’s Day
 with sone she really didn’t like. At atable too small for two.
So, I think my friend Annie got raggedy on the big con.
Christmas and Valentines Day engender a sort of "counter culture".
One looks at the date and proceeds to the counter, placing down plastic
and receiving the professorial blessings for completing a Pavlovian debt
to society. (Or anxiety) A "Culture"? Eh, Welcome to the "market culture". 
coupleellessee72-copyCareful though, not as if your friends are waiting.
 University’s promote it, governments defend its’ values,
actors spend their lives
pretending to be it, interviewed with sincerity by Charlie Rose.
Everybody peddling some kinda fish.
Mostly telling us what we haven’t got. The sermon of isolation.
The God of panic replacing the balm of thought.
So different from a true culture. As a world wherein we communicate with
each other and all sorts of thoughts & ideas are put on a table. To percolate.
To create personal options. A small tale.  Needing cooperation to share its space.
There’s my residual cafe connection. Sanctuary from the storm.
In a two way conversation, I might have told Anne about my better Valentine’s days.
Good ones. Shared with strangers in a tiny cafe in the Marais,
at lunchtime. L’Elephant, with its brass bar and a midday chef beyond compare.
Only two of us were sitting alone.
Myself, of course, and a slender woman, eating the memorable lamb stew.
Thoughts miles away.

Her meal eaten, intently, yet without attention.

Hands moving sparingly, Her jaw chiseled; bangs cut perfectly parallel to the eyebrows.
Blonde hair precisely scissored above relaxed shoulders;


tucked behind her ears swaying to her fork. She was, for the present: perfect.
Her ticket paid with many small coins,
nimbly counting with short nailed fingers.
Certain; without complication, like a widow at an Iowa bingo game moving chips.
She leaves: Slender, dressed completely in inexpensive black denim tailored
 perfectly by familial genes.
To return somewhere with lots of change and someone who can really cut hair.
And it is possible to break a fingernail.
Therefore it could be life & not a fleeting dream.
And Boulevard Malsherbes in a terrible rain. With a lovely unmet smiling friend
watching me photograph from her table by the window.
An author, dry under the awning, while rain dripped from my nose.
This is what I mean about missing the moment. Can you imagine?
I didn’t go inside and introduce myself.
(The author wasn’t very good either.)
One of my three and a half regrets. (Maybe number one)
Or. Fogged in at a jazz club. In San Francisco? The sound of rain promising to wash
the fog into the bay.
 A blue black night  ... A little back lit smoke around the edges.
A trombone pulling taffy. When it stuck to your heart it pulled some more.
The trumpet had a mute: the guy wore it like a smirk. The pianist ...
reflected in his highball glass under colored spots ... Stayed up in the heavens ...
Tapping 3 octaves above high "c". At the bar, the singer sat.
Immobile, patrician... a Roman death mask before a martini glass.
Soundless, emitting the smell of tobacco and sandalwood.
As the taxi made the run to the airport,the rain turned to tears on the windshield.
   And still: the sent of sandalwood.

A couple in Karla’s -successor to Mel’s Cafe Рlate ‘70’s.

The lady asking her question awaiting his response. 
A kind response,one person smiling and kindly reaching to another, in an upstate New York Bistro Mirror.
 Next to the flowing Hudson.  Candlelit.


Yeah, come to think of it, I remember the song playing at L’Elephant,

  above the rattling plates:

"listen, here its not too noisy. 
 But still I can’t hear you anyway.
It really doesn’t matter: there’s nothing left to say."
"Love’s a great thing. Hasn’t got a damn thing to do with February 14th.
Much more to do with a small table for two.
Nothin’ wrong with Valentines Day, I enjoy it. Not the least of which is how 
St. Valentine led the snakes out of Ireland. 


In the end, I’m with the folks who catch on and are having a good time. As often as possible.
Thats why the good cafes are there:  outposts in a big and increasingly hostile solar system. 
And that little table for two. Its leg balanced up with a matchbook.


 Valentines & other massacres, text, photos, and design et al, is the creative work

& property of Scott Heist and all rights are reserved worldwide.

Use is only by permission. Splinter Cottage,the View from Splinter Cottage,
&Every Day is a Short Story are trademarks used by Scott Heist for many years.

Portions of Valentines day appeared in the View from Splinter Cottage Column in Primetime A&E.

© H.Scott Heist 09