Monday, February 15, 2010
It was rumored that there was a little underground coffee house in the basement of a church. Inconceivable. Where high school students could actually go and "hang out" without supervision. Inconceivable. My best friend told me about it and even gave me its name - Tangerine Dream Coffee House - so perhaps it could be true.
I had to knock on a hatchway door - he opened it. Down I went, and sure enough, there was a place I never imagined could exist in a blue collar factory town. There were no Starbucks at that time and certainly nothing resembling a cafe. The only place to take a girlfriend was a parent's home or the parking lot of a fast food restaurant.
The coffee house was atmospheric and darkly lit. Teenagers were everywhere on comfy couches and chairs. A few were even kissing. Appropriately, the Moody Blues were playing.
This was my introduction to cafe society. Even if only for a brief moment, the romance of it all was so overpowering and so absolutely cool. However, it would be some time before I would live in a world where there were as many cafes as any man or woman could desire.
New York City.
Ironically, I never spent much time in cafes once I got here. Initially, as a younger person, there was the money. Romantic as it might be, many of us could not justify paying to sit in a cafe. And the city had so many free things to offer and still does. Also, cafes were less relaxed regarding long use and small expenditures. There were no self-service cafes, so waiters had to be contended with. Starbucks and the Internet changed the landscape. Like it or not, it is difficult to compete in the cafe business today without being extremely lax regarding a patron's usage. Some have rules about power usage, hours for laptops etc. to limit excessive parking.
I have, more recently, embraced the cafe and savor the ambiance I once felt that night in the church basement. I encourage you as well to enjoy a special part of New York City. And you can enjoy them any night at all in hundreds of places. I am very glad to have them, because that basement coffee house is long gone and I need more than a Tangerine Dream ...
Note: The shop in the photo is Doma Cafe at 17 Perry Street in the West Village. Doma means “at home” in Czech. The atmosphere is casual if a bit busy, crowded and understaffed. But there are lots of books and reading. They have a food and beverage menu.