Behind the cafÃ©, Berkeley, CA.
When she was a young woman, my mother lived with her mother in the apartment building pictured in the background, above. Â Berkeley still had its Key Route streetcar system back in the 1930s, and she rode one every day to high school, lugging her violin case on days when she had her lessons.Â
(Want to see what a streetcar ride through town looked like, back about a hundred and two years ago? CheckÂ out this silent film from the American Mutoscope & Biograph Co, June 1906: it’sÂ complete with fracas between the streetcar operators and an uncooperative pedestrian at about two minutes into it. Gotta love that the fight was broken up by, among other people, a lady with a fancy wide-brimmed hat.)
What’s now a corner cafÃ© was once a gas station, perhaps even in my mom’s day. Under the thick overgrowth of trumpet vine are the remnants of art deco styling. Â Along with the espresso drinks, the place offers up a minimum of pretension, good hot sandwiches (omelettes on weekends), outdoor seating, and friendly folks behind the counter who humor my bad Spanish. No accessible electrical outlets mean that laptop jockeys are outnumbered by the folks reading actual paper pages in books, or talking to friends face-to-face, or tending little ones.
I’d like the place even if I didn’t feel as if my mom were watching us from an upstairs window.