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Musings from the coffee shop

Image: PV Bella

“You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.” (A Clean Well-lighted Place/Ernest Hemingway/Scribner’s Magazine)

I need places to go outside my home. They need to be pleasant. Weather permitting, I am out and about enjoying the open spaces in my neighborhood, the two large parks, and the quaint Giddings Plaza. Sometimes I write in these places, sipping carryout coffee. Now that the weather is getting cold, it is time to move indoors, but I still need to leave my home. My solution is coffee shops or the public library.

There are two independent coffee shops in my neighborhood. One is around the corner from my home, where I am writing this. The other is about four blocks away. Both serve great coffee and pastries, plus they have WiFi. I usually stop in, get my order, and work the daily crossword puzzles, read, write, or edit photographs.

Both places are community gathering spots. Groups of people will get a table and while away the morning or afternoon having gabfests. Sometimes I run into friends or neighbors. There is a chain outfit in the neighborhood, Spewsucks, or something like that. I try to avoid it like the plague.

The library is a short walk from my home. It has excellent WiFi and comfortable chairs. I sit in the Chicago history section to pull a book and read a few chapters or do some research.

I live in an area that, until Covid-19 struck, had a vibrant small business community. Some businesses survived, and others are now vacant storefronts. I try to patronize the businesses in the neighborhood. My barber is a short walk away along with the German/East European deli, small unique gift shops, stores selling imported goods, an independent bookstore, a liquor store, novelty stores, bars, and several different kinds of restaurants.

I rarely venture to the large chain grocer unless I need staples or other items I cannot get from the smaller businesses. I may pay more in the small businesses, but I get value for the money I spend. During this stubborn pandemic, it was easier and safer to patronize small businesses. The chain stores were overcrowded with people who refused to follow safety precautions.

When you go in and out of the local small businesses, the staff gets to know you and are friendlier. They can answer questions or have no problems ordering something special. Unlike the chain stores, they are nice and willing to help.

When I need staples or other necessities, I will travel to one of the chains or the big box club store.

I am lucky to live where I do. Just about everything I need is within walking distance. I also found some specialty stores a little further afield where I can get or order unique items.

The other great thing about my neighborhood is it is not a destination area. People do not flock here for the nightlife, dining, or shopping at higher-end stores. There are no hordes of people or vehicular traffic converging here. Just about everyone is local or from the surrounding neighborhoods. It is more like a small town than an urban neighborhood.

People work, tool around the internet, read, or have quiet conversations as I sit in the coffee shop. Soft jazz filters from the sound system. It is a peaceful place. They will be closing soon. I will run an errand or two before my short walk home.

It is nice to know I can leave the confines of my home and find pleasant places to hang out, work, read, or socialize, then walk a short way back home.

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