Reading at a Window by a Radiator

Reading at coffee shops has long been a habit of mine, formed years ago as a student. There’s something about the smell of roasting coffee, I suppose. I mark time by the coffee shops where I’ve read and gazed out windows, day-dreaming. There was Café Siena in Chico, the first coffee shop I ever haunted. I can still hear the buzz of student life on the street, passing cars, bits and pieces of conversation and laughter. Then there was the coffee shop in Chicago whose name I cannot recall, wrack my memory as I might. It was on the corner of Belden and N. Lincoln Ave. Lincoln Park Café? It’s a reasonable guess. It was there, one early winter evening, as I read Spinoza for the second or third time, that I first saw the snow fall. I mean, I had seen snow before, on the ground, frozen and packed in the Sierras. But I had never seen it drift down from above, as though in a dream, slowly. You could see individual flakes, swirling through street lamps and onto the sidewalk, where they cart-wheeled and settled on the ground like ash. Nothing like the anonymity of rain. This was a revelation to me. I had grown up in California and spent my entire life in the Bay Area, with easy access to beaches and yellow rolling hills and warm weather. That night, in the coffee shop, sitting at the window near the warmth of a knocking radiator, and with the snow falling softly outside, I read very well and with great enjoyment.

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13 Responses to Reading at a Window by a Radiator

  1. Frisbee says:

    What a nice blog about coffeehouses! You should expand this into an essay (and sell it).

    I love coffeehouses, too. My favorites are Grace and Ruby’s (closed long ago: a women’s cafe in Iowa City) and The Runcible Spoon in Bloomington (still going).

    • Why, thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. The Runcible Spoon is such a fantastic name that I have half a mind to visit it. I had to look up the origin of the word. Cheers, Kevin

  2. I’m with you. It is a real treat reading in a cafe — except of course that it’s easy to get distracted people-watching. When I lived in SoCal, my friend and I would meet at Java Joe’s in Yorba Linda. Of course, I didn’t read when I was with her BUT I have a photo of us preparing for a reading group meeting on Jane Austen. It’s a treasured memory. Here, one of my favourites is Bookplate at the National Library of Australia – lovely outdoor eating area with a view of the (albeit artificial) lake.

    Love this post, Kevin.

    • Ha! A SoCal gal? I had no clue. What brought you to the red part of the state? The Lower Red? I like learning about these little details. They deepen my enjoyment of blog reading. SoCal + Java Joe + Australia + Austen + outdoor enthusiast + daughter away at school (now graduated?) = a picture of you in my head. How I love pictures! (AR, a hint, a hint…)

  3. Husband’s job of course … it was 1990-1993 and I thought as we got the offer, of all the places in the US we are sent there!? Well, I loved it – I particularly loved the southwest deserts, and I met a great reading friend (originally from Portland) with whom I still share weekly snail mail correspondence (even though we both have emails of course). We travelled up and down the coast and as far east as Texas, not to mention Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah. And of course into Canada, and a bit of Baja. We also lived in DC from 83-85. Son was born there and so is a dual citizen. Watch out – he might be your President one day!

    Yes, I like these details too … but it doesn’t do to disclose them all at once!

  4. “Yes, I like these details too … but it doesn’t do to disclose them all at once!”

    That is true. And in your case, I didn’t have to dig too hard! Lovely. K

  5. barbara neilson says:

    I love “living” some of your experiences. Even though I’m wearing my jacket and my boots inside my CA home, I’m cold…..until I feel the warmth of your coffee shop and the beauty of the snow! =^..^=

  6. Fiona Bell says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I have tagged you over at my blog for a Versatile Blogger Award. Play along if you want to!

  7. Fiona Bell says:

    Hi Kevin,

    I am not sure. But I did get a little trill when Hila sent me a message to say “I have nominated you for a blog award and if you want to, then you can nominate others”.

    Do you think maybe it was more like an encouragement award? Oh, I hadn’t thought about that.

  8. Karyn says:

    I have had that moment as well, though on a train rather than in a coffee shop. Forty years in a warm, sunny climate, with no experience of snow, and then an unforgettable moment in London when I looked up from my book and saw snowflakes swirling to the ground.

    I’m very grateful for these twitter links to earlier posts.
    Best wishes,
    Karyn

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