Friday, May 27, 2016

Turn The Tables

In her elegantly written  and poignant new book, M Train, Multitalented Patti Smith shares many of the intimate details of her personality and consequently her life.  That Smith has all the artist's sensibility there is no doubt.  One thing however, that I find fascinating is her enjoyment of ing to regular small cafes to rad and write.  While there is nothing special about this practice, Smith gives us other dimensions of both these places and her need and appreciation of them.
There is one particular cafe she frequents, Cafe Ino, where she feels most comfortable at a certain table.  It has become her table.  When she comes in she always has the same thing for breakfast. "Brown toast, olive oil, and back coffee. "
Smith has come to depend on this table as being there for the taking, but on occasion, it isn't.  At these times she grudgingly takes another, but not without some internal grumbling about having to do so.  We never find out if the owner of this cafe would save the table for her, or even if he would put a "permanently reserved for Patti Smith" sign on the table.  I'm sure she wouldn't want that, nevertheless, she can't help being a bit pissed off that she can't have her regular table.  Patti Smith shares her dissonance about this experience with her reader.  Somehow this really resonated with me because I've had the same experience.

For many years I got my morning coffee at a bakery/restaurant near my school.  I have always loved the idea of going somewhere first before going to work.  Time to read the paper, or look over something I need to reference.  Time to center myself and quietly enjoy my coffee with a breakfast item from the bakery.  This place I liked had a take-out window, but it was inside and one day I happened t sit at a small table with two chairs behind the restaurant lines.  Nobody bothered me.  In fact, I asked the wait staff at the bakery if it was OK to sit there for a few minutes even though I'd purchased take out items.  They were always fine with that.  On occasion, they'd ask to refill my paper cup.
When the day finally came that another person was sitting at "my table" I felt outraged.  Was it because this person also came everyday to the bakery and certainly new that this was where I sat?  Probably not.  Then it hit me.  I had no right to feel anything, especially outrage, about the fact that this table was being used by another.  From where does this unauthorized attachment come?  If it's a public place, it's a public table, right?  Of course.  Somehow reading about Patti Smith's similar experience legitimizes those feelings, however misplaced they might be.  One thing I know for sure.  If I owned a cage I'd have no problem maintaining a table with a sign that read: This Table Permanently Reserved For Patti Smith.

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