Not so many moons ago I was in a Spanish-speaking part of the world with someone who spoke moderately good Spanish. That is to say, just enough Spanish to get in trouble, in the spirit of Steve Martin's great line about studying "just enough philosophy in college to screw me up for the rest of my life."
My companion was discoursing with one of our hosts, in the lingua franca (lingua hispana) of those territories. I was tuning out, I must admit, watching out the window of the little car at the sloping streets and the dogs and I don't remember what. They say the number of living humans today outnumbers all the dead in the history of the species; sometimes people have a look on their faces that says their trying to do the calculations on that one, and consider the implications. My friends snapped me out of my stupor with a tap on the shoulder and excitedly told me about what he had just been talking about.
He was excited to share a little local witticism, just told to him in castellano by our host. But the thing is, it's identical to one we have in English. He translated it somewhat poorly... as if someone were to say, "A time-device which no longer runs can still be said to be the truth on two moments each day!" It was a very common saying... I couldn't believe he had never heard it before. I realized that if perhaps I repeated the same saying in more idiomatic English, he would probably recognize it. But I didn't have the heart.
We seem very good at this... missing the nose on our own face. I'm sure I'm missing many screamingly obvious things right now, but I couldn't tell you what they were. The only remedy is to (A) admit this is true, I am deeply an ignoramus; and (B) work carefully to correct it where possible. (Option Gamma is to wallow in ignorance, cause, you know "it's realer that way"... and there's a certain boozy appeal in this route, I'll be the first to attest.) So then...
I got back from Seattle Saturday night. Sunday I took the day off and slept in. The deliberate decision to sleep + being tired in general + jetlag = not waking up in the morning but in the afternoon. So for my afternoon coffee I went to Southside Coffee, which is pretty close to my house, but why do I hardly go there?
Basically the train is in the other direction... in fact, both of the closest stations are in other directions. In fact, if you drew two rays from the starting point of my apartment (O) to the nearest train stations (A1, A2), then the reverse (N) of the ray in the direction of Southside (P) would bisect the arc of the two original train rays.
But recently I've gone there more often. The coffee's very good (Intelligentsia-provided), and the staff is very serious-friendly and well-trained. There's a pretty good vibe there. Somehow they keep the laptop forest from feeling hostile or cold. Good feng-shui or something; I don't know. The owners are great guys. Etc. Etc. Southside got major ink at the top of the piece I mentioned a while back in the New York Times.
Sunday's visit, it was perfect coffee weather. I was doing my best Northwest-transplant impression with three-days stubble, a knit cap, and a peacoat. It was raining a cold, stinging rain, and everyone had their headlights on because the cloud-cover kept the sun from lighting up the city. My friend Rachel was there, at the center of a little half-circle of couches, seemingly holding court (she later told me those were just random friendly people she had met there... see? great vibes). We walked back in the direction of my place (she works on my block) through the cold and it was a good afternoon. So props to Southside. The coffee was good and it opened my eyes. But that's not even my point... or rather opening my eyes is the point, but not in the caffeine sense.