Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where did all the good coffee shops go?

All I wanted to do on this unseasonably warm day was go to some cozy cafe and make French flash cards. I might not get around to it, because, after a few hours of considering where to go, I haven't come up with anything. Nothing at all.

Well, one thing. But Curious Liquids doesn't exist anymore. And frankly, since I've thought of Curious, nothing I've come up with as a possible substitute could come close to what I want, which is to sit in one of the little alcoves in the basement on a yellow antique armchair, nursing a caramel mocha steamer for hours and hours.

I used to do this frequently in high school, as either celebration of the last day before some school break or mourning the impending loss of freedom that would come when my folks saw my report card. I could spend countless hours playing board games, reading British teen magazines, and writing prose in the style of Francesca Lia Block, all the while feeling equal parts grownup, in the know, and Dead Poets Society. And I was well looked after there, too. No matter what the situation, I always felt unbelievably safe. Unbelievable because teenage girls never feel/are safe, ever. There's always something eating at them, or someone out to get them. But everything seems okay in the sunny windows of an old building with pink whipped cream on your lips. Everything.

It isn't quite what I'm looking for now, but no cafe in the metro Boston area compares, not even remotely, to what I'm looking for. Isn't Boston one of the top five coffee centers in the United States? Not that there isn't good coffee here. I would even go so far as to say we have good cafes, but few that are set up such that you'd want to stay, and I'm thinking none that want you to stay for very long.

Cafe Vanille, for instance, is a great cafe and bakery. In the summer, it's a lovely place to hang out outside. Inside, though? Sterile and uncomfortable. Grey and a bit clanky. L'Aroma Cafe has a warmer interior, and is a great place for people-watching on the well-to-do end of Newbury, but the espresso? Bad. And the tables, I swear, are built so that you can't balance any books or papers on them.

What happened to the great pastime of lounging in a[n independant] cafe, getting work done, writing the great American novel, or whatever suits your fancy? I'm wondering if I'm imagining a time when this was what one did from time to time in Boston. Was Curious Liquids (may it rest in peace, and maybe be reborn) the only place in Boston that was ever suitable for this? Did that culture die with that perfect Beacon Hill establishment?

Do I have YET ANOTHER reason to move to Paris?