Saturday, April 4, 2009

Julius Meinl

Living on the first floor of a one hundred year old house, it never gets as warm indoors as it is outside. This is a blessing when it’s ninety degrees and humid, but sometimes on a lazy Saturday morning in April when I just can’t find a reason to get out of bed, by the time I finally stick my head out a window I realize I've missed out on a gorgeous morning. Today was one of those days (meaning forty nine degrees and sunny), so I put some air in my tires and went on an errand.

I biked to the Chopping Block in Lincoln Square and registered for a knife skills class I’ve been meaning to sign up for. My friend and hairdresser Mark had already signed up, and over my last haircut we’d discussed it. I’ve always wanted to take their knife skills class; I can cut my way around a kitchen, but not with anything resembling skill, and more than once my fingernails have saved me from certain disaster.

I’m alternately captivated and disgusted by the Chopping Block, with their neat displays of expensive cookware and spotless demonstration kitchen. I can’t decide if I’m intimidated by it, annoyed by its upscale air and high prices, or just jealous that my kitchen doesn’t look like theirs. A class was in progress when I walked in, and a panel of students sat in rapt attention, following the instructions of a confident woman in a tall chef’s hat. I didn’t have the nerve to sign up for a class by myself, but with Mark already registered, I was in. If nothing else, it will be a tale of excitement and danger to regale people with.

It was crowded inside the small store. I was dressed in sweatpants covered in cat hair, a matching cat hair sweatshirt, and a dirty red bandanna on my head with the image of Teddy Roosevelt’s face on the border, the better to cover the shame of helmet head. I stood in line at the checkout counter, and was seemingly ignored by the cashier. I had nothing in my hands, and it may have appeared as though I was simply loitering, or had no place better to go given my appearance. A girl with a name tag that identified her as Margaret finally made her way behind the register and asked if I needed anything. She wore a gray cap that reached halfway down her ears and was flat on top. It was kind of a cross between an Amish bonnet and a chef’s hat, and it left an inch or so of her amber colored hair hanging below her ears. She wore a miniature Eiffel tower pendant around her neck, and suddenly I wished I’d made more of an effort to look presentable, or that I had at least taken a shower before leaving the house.

After registering for the class I got back on the bike to look for a friendly coffee shop. I went to a writer’s retreat last weekend, and one of the pieces of advice I took note of was to find a coffee shop with a relaxed atmosphere where I can sit writing at a table for a while undisturbed. Staying at home is full of pitfalls and distractions, like the internet, and going to the same place to write will help establish a routine.

Café Selmarie was packed, as was the Daily Grind. I headed south to Montrose and looked in at Julius Meinl. To my surprise, there were free tables. I walked in and was greeted by a hostess, and was seated immediately. I have fond memories of Julius Meinl, it’s where T and I sat basking in the afterglow of November 4th, sipping tea and discussing What This Meant for America. Despite a framed, business card sized sign on the table reading: “as a courtesy to customers waiting to be seated during high volume weekends, we ask that you please limit your reading, studying, and computer activities. Thank you, your consideration is greatly appreciated”, there seemed to be plenty of space. Perhaps I had found my writing spot. I ordered a cappuccino and a butter croissant, and wrote until my hand cramped up.

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