anghara (anghara) wrote,

The Importance of Atmosphere, or why Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Saturdays are Breakfast Out Days. We have our particular little circuit, and we mostly alternate between the Skylark Cafe in Fairhaven, the Old Town Cafe in downtown Bellingham, the Rhodes Cafe on Lakeway Drive, and Eleni's on lower Meridian (that last was the first place we had breakfast when we arrived to take possession of our new house in Bellingham and it has definite sentimental value...) The first two are definitely funky atmospheric, the Skylark was even more so when it was just the one level without the new renovation, but even with it the place has a sense of being there, a sense of personality, a sense that food is prepared with a modicum of loving attention. The Old Town is obviously a place where lots and lots and lots of people go for this very reason, because we sometimes have to wait twenty minutes or half an hour for a table, and *we don't mind*, and neither does anybody else seem to, waiting patiently and frequently being entertained while they wait by whichever musician has taken up position in the corner with their banjos or guitars or violins or whatever it is that they brought along. In the Rhodes Cafe they know us by sight, and half the time they don't even bring us menus because they already know what order to put in. The people at Eleni's are practically friends of ours.

Today we decided to try a new place, a restaurant we'd been passing for months if not years now on the way in and out of Bellingham central. Its initial spark of attraction was that it shared the same name as one of rdeck's son's childhood friends, and rdeck wanted to be able to tell said son that we'd eaten there - so, finally, this morning was the day.

I will let the place remain nameless, here. You'll understand why.

We came in and stood for a moment on an expanse of grubby brown carpet, in an awkwardly open space which looked like it might have wanted something to be in it, but didn't quite know what. We could see, from that vantage point, a set of booth-type tables by the window, which looked like they had been kind of dropped there by accident; they faced a blank half-wall which turned out to be a sort of podium square in the middle of the restaurant, for no obvious discernible purpose, reached by a couls of shallow steps; beyond that, following a lower-level circumference begun by the window booths, there was a round of more booths and (against the half-wall) a few two-seater tables which left a gulf of space between them and the booths revealing more grubby brown carpet. There were photographs on the wall which looked home-framed and definitely taken by amateurs (and yes, I number myself in the ranks of photographic amateurs - I am not being sniffy, I am just saying, they were much like some of my less inspired efforts). The lights were yellow and kind of hanging there. The tables were plastic. The booths looked... used. And sad. Piped music of a selection of yesterday's hit parades kind of hung in the air as though uncertain of its welcome.

We ordered coffee. It came; it was served in cheap white mugs, and it was the blandest cup of coffee I'd had in a restaurant in a long while. rdeck, who measures the quality of coffee by the amount of sugar it needs added to it to make it palatable, sniffed at it and decided to be charitable and call it "almost needs sugar".

The food (we had omelettes) arrived in due course, indifferently done and indifferently presented. rdeck said that even the olives in his omelette tasted bland.

He said the place had "an industrial feel" to it. I said it looked and felt as though it should have existed by itself on some truckers' route in the mid-West, and the kind of clientele that were caught inside it at that moment was a peoplewatcher's snapshot of such a place. There was a guy who had a stringy graying ponytail hanging from under a faded red baseball cap; there was another guy, a big fellow with the shoulders of a wrestler, who wandered by with such a chronic hollow hacking cough that he is probably going to die of emphysema within two years. There was a group of teenagers wearing funky knitted caps or ostentatiously shaved heads or else the hoods of their hoodies pulled up (yes, while they were eating breakfast). There was a couple, right behind us, he with dark greasy hair hanging in strings down to his shoulders, she pinched and pale with a straggly pony tail and a faded parka half-falling off her shuolders - they talked about a kid ("how old is she now?... fifteen...?") in a way that (if extrapolated only a little) might have morphed into a conversation between two esetranged parents who hadn't seen one another for years and who were trying to make it up or at least get back together over something involving a mutual daughter.

All of them sitting under the yellow light on the tired gray naugahide booths, walking in sad oblivion over the chocolate brown carpet with crumbs on it.

This is a place where the sad people go. It's a place where hope sits congealed in a milk jug forgotten in a corner of the kitchen, where coffee tastes faintly of depression, where the young waitresses didn't smile, where people go, eat, leave, and do not linger.

We had to try it, because of the name, but we won't be back. We actually had to go somewhere else, after, for a cup of decent coffee and a place where interesting people sat sipping decent coffee, just to get the taste of that breakfast out of our palates and our spirits.

The later latte helped. I'm home now. Chapter 3 is calling.

I"ll be back after I've done at least half of it.

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