Sunday, June 25, 2006

One Big Table

Today marks one of the loveliest Sunday’s on record. We walked all over the upper west side in the occasional rain. At 66th street we decided to stop in “Le Pain Quotidien”. I have always had a vague feeling of liking this coffee and dessert place, but if you asked me exactly why I don't think I could tell you, until today.

There is one big communal table that sits among the smaller lonely tables. This large table is made of a sturdy welcoming blonde wood and could seat about 16 people. We sat down. My latte was petite but tasty and we shared a rich brownie.

As we sat we were joined by two Mexican men who had guitars over their shoulders, large stately stetson hats and tassles on their clothes. They gently sat the guitars beside us. They had deeply tanned faces, and wispy lines around their happy dark eyes. Beside them sat a boy, with longish blonde hair, a black T-shirt on, a crispy new backpack and a bag from Barnes & Noble. I whispered to Joe that I thought he looked like a tourist from New Hampshire and joked that maybe we should go over and talk to him. He looked like he had come in in the hope of relaxing, but being alone in New York, he was too self conscious to really do so. Across from the two men sat three older ladies, mostly dressed in loose black clothing and large silver and turquoise jewelry.

The boy in the black T-shirt slowly drank his beverage, peering over the top of his mug at the two men. The older ladies were having a lively conversation and the volume was increasing rapidly. They began to fight about something. It was not clear what, but the temperature was rising and they acted like they were the only people in the place. After a few solid minutes of high tension squawking one woman started to leave. She moved her long umbrella from under the table and accidentally knocked one of the guitars on to the ground. The cacophonic vibration echoed throughout the place.

The man who owned the guitar picked it up like it was an injured bird, and to check its condition after the fall, he began to play. First just a few chords, then an organized song emerged. We could not hold back our smiles. His hands were thick, small and rough but able to delicately pluck the strings to bring forth a magical genie of effervescent song.

The man began to sing and his partner picked up his guitar also. People gathered around the table like animals in the forest of a Disney film, flying and hopping over, a picture of diversity. We sat for moments in disbelief of the impromptu serenade that was taking place.

It ended almost as unexpectedly as it had started. The boy from maybe New Hampshire had stars in his eyes and all the employees in the place put their trays under their arms to free up their hands to clap.

And now I know why I like this place, it’s because of the One Big Table.

(This is my first crack at a fictional post. We did see these people today, and we saw the table too, but not all in the same place and I wanted to unite them in a story. Also, it was in fact lovely.)


  1. consider this a successful first crack.