My mother loved coffee. Mostly it was the idea of coffee. Sipping coffee as she watched the weather and the world go by.
She was a passionate watcher. She loved whatever was unexpected. Coffee was the great mediator of the unexpected. The first time she visited me in the Village after my Father died, we celebrated New York over coffee. Although we went to all the coffee houses in Village (before Starbucks), we also sat on the terrace, which overlooked a garden and included a view of the Empire State Building some thirty blocks away. With our coffee we would watch the clouds marking time, and the glow of sunset over the Hudson, with the shores and cliffs of New Jersey accenting the dwindling light.
Once, a sudden thunderstorm swept through the skyline. It was one of those August electrical displays with lightning crackling all around and thunderclaps exploding in cataclysmic eruptions and rumbling across the sky in fading fierceness. Inevitably, shafts of lightning bolts attacked the top of the Empire State Building. My mother insisted in sitting on the terrace, delighting in the display, despite the driving rain which was soaking the terrace, including us. For her this was a thrilling light show. This was all the more remarkable because I remembered her being afraid of the lightning since as a child she had seen her father struck by lightning while standing in the screendoor during such a thunderburst. Somehow she had overcome that fear. She always was seeking the unusual, such as abruptly driving to Colorado in late August in hopes of finding an early snow among the mountain peaks. She usually found them, and was always exhilerated by such impromptu discoveries.
Just before she visited that August, I had watched a local entrepreneur put together a new coffee place around the corner from our building. It was in a garden-like spot, and the businessman was something of a craftsman as he completely constructed the space over the course of about a month, finishing with a wonderful outdoor terrace in front, a perfect place to watch the Village pass by. I thought of my mother, and wrote to her about the new space which was then called "Coffee Cuisine."
When she arrived, Coffee Cuisine had just opened and proved to be our favorite place aside from the apartment terrace. The weather was idyllic and we sat for hours with our lattes and capuccinos remembering past times and absorbing the spirit of the Village. In fact, if I went out on some business and returned, I would usually finding her sitting outside at Coffee Cuisine. This visit was to be the last time I would see her, and so these times and that place take on a special luster in my memory.
Coffee Cuisine went through several transitions after that, becoming Internet Cafe, and then briefly Leo's Place. Now it is empty, for rent. But as I pass by, I see her sitting there with her coffee, watching the weather and the world go by, and probably wishing for a thunderstorm with snow.