Here is another guest post from my wife, who blogs very consistently (unlike myself) and is definitely worth reading.
Let me take you again to one of my favorite places. I’m here now, having just finished my calculus homework and taking a few minutes to relax before heading home. The little corner coffee shop sits on Main and Third, the busiest corner of downtown Moscow. Across one street is a bank, across the other is a nightclub.
You push open the front door, glass, in the old drug-store style, and are immediately transported to the feeling of being in your grandmother’s living room, minus the cigarette smoke. Like Grandma’s house, every available surface is cluttered with knickknacks in unmatching, eclectic variety. The walls, painted in dark, warm colors, fade into insignificance behind interesting photographs and artwork. The ficus trees sitting here and there show twinkle lights peeping from behind branches. Instead of marching rows of tables and chairs, the shop is mostly filled with mismatched armchairs and couches, each conveniently near an electrical outlet for laptops and arranged in cozy groups of twos and threes. Coffee tables offer space for books and cups, or a place to put your feet up. Around the edges of the room, the more traditional tables and chairs certainly lurk for those like my husband who are more comfortable sitting that way.
Like the armchairs, not a one matches another. Some look like patio furniture or old breakfast tables, likely gleaned from antique shops; others that have the “assemble yourself” barrenness of Wal-Mart fare are hidden under unusual lamps or figurines of water buffalo and antique circus clowns. All of the pieces of furniture have the well-worn feeling of a comfortable old shoe. This is not a place you have to be careful not to spill. Bookshelves divide the room into smaller areas and an electric fireplace graces one wall, while on the bulletin board brightly colored leaflets announce community evens such as the fact that “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be performed at the Hartung Theater.
Taking all this in at a glance, you may not actually notice the soft murmur of conversation, coupled with Loreena McKennitt’s haunting Gaelic singing over the stereo blending into the background. The whoosh and sizzle of the steam wand on the espresso machine punctuates the ambiance, causing you to glance toward the counter where two baristas wash the collection of porcelain mugs, making them clink against each other. The very air holds the tang of brewed coffee, the soft sweetness of warmed milk and sugar. Strategically placed lamps offer pools of brightness to the individual seating areas without overwhelming the space.
This place seems like a haven, a sanctuary without demanding toddlers, where no housework beckons and no laundry looms. I can lose myself in the wash of quiet voices and delve into homework or design work with full, intense concentration. Occasionally I tune into an interesting conversation nearby or people-watch for a while, marveling at the variety of cultures that merge here to work and talk. The shop is beginning to hold memories too: Natalie playing Chutes and Ladders here on a Family night, a conversation on the couch with a friend, times of peaceful study alone in a chair in the corner. Not just a shop, it has the quiet warmth of a good friend’s house, inviting relaxation, invoking thoughtful conversation. But mostly, I think I like it for the comfy chairs.