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.
Reading at a Window by a Radiator