Monday, January 23, 2006

Shift change at the Stadtgarten Cafe

January 23, 2006

In the Stadtgarten café this afternoon, as the sun was spinning toward dusk, His Holiness and I took our usual seats on the banquette near the front door, just off to the side of the main room, where we can watch the goings on, listen to the always interesting musical choices and HH can run somewhat amuck without disturbing the humming urban calm of the room. We found this spot about a month ago, at the same time we found the café and we have been making it our afternoon spot ever since. This evening I whispered in his ear, something that he will not recall, but I hope will become instilled in his spirit, “cafes are a part of life son.” It was something of a revelation to me when I said it, as much to myself as to him, as is much of what I say, speaking to myself really about what is good in life or about life, what to savor and what to discard, making notes about life from my point of view. After all, what is being a father if not that?
This late winter afternoon we arrived as the shifts were changing, one group of familiar faces was being replaced by another group of familiar faces. We have come to recognize, if not know, all the staff by now. The orchestra that will be performing later this evening was rehearsing in the ballroom; we could hear the horns pushing their tones through the smoke to us, stuck away in the far corner. The shifts were changing and so too was the room changing, from the late, late afternoon café crowd about to part with their cups, to the working folks just leaving their desks.
A plain stout woman on the far side of fifty sat smoking over a long stale cup of coffee. Her eyes moved across the room, back and forth drinking in all the people, the faces, the smells, storing it all for the hours she would soon face alone in her apartment, somewhere else. A young bald man in the other corner of the room, also watching but not just watching, searching for something – someone he imagines. The prep chef cutting vegetables for the night shift, lining them up, slicing the tops, dicing, chopping and scraping the ready pieces into white plastic bins for use in the sexy frenzy of the dinner hour, which seemed miles away from the moment I am describing, when everything was measured and relaxed, when half of the people were unwinding and the other half were just winding up.
Shift change at the Stadtgarten Café – a study in transition from day to night, from working to resting, from participating in the hum to sitting face to face with the stillness, and yes for me, the inevitable exchange from New York to anywhere else I might happen to be …