Based upon the suggestion of my pal Rick Jervis, I’m here at the Fair Grinds Cafe in New Orleans. I have a few hours to kill, have a lot of tape to transcribe, love coffee shops as much as I love Pearl Washington. And lord knows, I love Pearl.
I’m sharing a wobbling red table with the man pictured above. He looks to be about 70, with a gray beard, a leather jacket and a white scarf. He has been neither friendly nor unfriendly. When I asked whether I could share the table, he offered a soft, “Sure” and gestured toward a chair. When I said, “Would you like another cup?” he kindly said, “Thanks, but I’ve had too much.”
He’s completing every puzzle in today’s New Orleans Times-Picayune. Methodically, with a neatness and patience I lack. His hands are small and fleshy. Unusually pink. His knuckles feature small swirls of brown hair. Neither attractive nor unattractive. Just human.
I would love to chat with this man, because he looks like a guy who knows some things. Alongside the paper is an old bible, which he was reading when I arrived. There’s some sort of white cardboard rectangle serving as a bookmark. The only word I can make out is PLUS, in blue print. The spine of the book is dangling off the cover. If the man knows some things, so does the Bible. It’s been around.
The coffee here isn’t great. Too tart. I find that’s often the case with non-Starbucks cafes. They try so hard to be unique and un-chain-ish, their product winds up being sorta nasty. This isn’t nasty. Just like drinking coffee grapefruit. Hmm … I’ve changed my mind. Nasty.
I always love the stillness of coffee shops. People come and go, but it also usually feels like time has stopped. People sit, chat, read, rest. Sometimes it’s all broken up by a loud cell phone talker, and you can feel the energy just rush out of the place. As soon as the conversation ends, it returns.
It always returns.