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


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.
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. For Annie.
But not by Valentines Day.
Hell of it was, Annie's‚ problem was not loneliness; she just wasn't going to fit into the Valentines Day performance.
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 when ones part in the play was given to somebody else.
Telling her she had just blown off one of the worlds mediocre jerks wasn't alot of help. 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 Valentines Day
 with some one she really didn't like all that much‚ At a table too small for two.

So, I think my friend Annie got raggedy on the big con. We are all suceptible. Christmas and Valentines Day engender a sort of "counter culture". We look at the date and proceeds to the counter, placing down plastic and receiving the professor's blessing for completing a the course. 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.
Universities promote it, governments defend its values, actors spend their lives pretending to be it, interviewed with sincerity by what ever talk show is currently talking.
Suppose everybody is peddling some kinda fish. Obviously worst in spawning season.
Focusing us on what we haven't got. And how to buy it. The sermon of isolation by a God of panic ... with all that day old fish.
replacing the balm of thought.
Is it a true culture? Dunno? Dominoes in a market.. Something for sale and acquisition? Once, I had higher hopes. A world wherein we communicate with each other and all sorts of thoughts & ideas & posibilities blended … percolate. To wear our 501's rolled? Create personal options. Bring to the table, a small table needing cooperation to share its space. Bit of originality, something new by consent. 
Surely without the influence of the TV jerks,  who don't really exist. Shades of commercial pitches in the writers room, or some political jackass's consultants. (Actually I like jackasses, I used to save all my apple cores and such for the neighboring jackass known lovingly as: Donkey. Wasn't a faux jackass.)
On Valentine's Day , I would be in San Francisco at the Juliana hotel. To finish what I was beginning in DC.
There, my residual cafe connection. Sanctuary from the storm. In a two way conversation, I might have told Anne about my better Valentines Days.
Good ones. Shared with strangers in a tiny cafe in the Marais. Paris
at lunchtime. L'Elephant Café, with its brass and zinc bar.  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. Hearing some kind of music, well out of our earshot. She was, for the present: perfect.
Her ticket paid with many small coins,
nimbly counting with short nailed fingers.
Certain; without complication, like the winning widow at an Iowa bingo game, Deftly 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 itMust be life & not a fleeting dream. Or tiresome simulacra ...
There, on  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. Ah, Can you imagine?
Didn't go inside and introduce myself. (The author wasn't very good either. A son of a bitch of the first order). 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 a little bit more.
The trumpet had a mute: 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 middle "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.
The lady asking her question ... hesitantly 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 River Making Its Candlelit Way, down stream to New York City.
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."

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. 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