One of my favorite things to do is explore urban neighborhoods, walking around at random, waiting to discover an obscure historical landmark: a chocolate shop with a flavor I didn’t know existed, an antique store where the owner has worked there all his life, or the perfect café to read and meld into the ambiance. On a recent such exploration, I was set on finding the perfect café to begin re-reading John Gardner’s, Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society, which I will discuss in a different post. I was looking for a café with local art on the walls, hardwood floors, mismatched chairs, and pastries inside a glass countertop.
I strolled up and down the streets and bought a scarf from a boutique that sold jewelry and furniture. The scarf was cream and had two birds painted in black. I was content. Well, at least for about half an hour after my scarf purchase.
I walked to a café I remembered passing by that had outside seating. No pastries. I decided to keep looking. I thought about walking to a café bookstore I knew of, but decided it was a bit far away, and I couldn’t quit remember for sure where it was. I stopped into a French café – surely they would have a good latte and a homemade pastry. Instead, they had a huge TV turned to a sports game. I started to get frustrated. I had been walking around for forty-five minutes, and I had started to get hungry. Where next?
A good friend once told me that I talked up each of my next jobs like they were going to be perfect – the perfect career, the perfect fit, the final answer that solved everything. Of course, that next job never did.
I kept walking and started to get irritated. Wasn’t there one decent café in this neighborhood? I debated just going home. No, I am going to keep looking, I decided, and I finally did find a café I was satisfied with. It had local art, though not what I would have chosen, hardwood floors, and mismatched chairs. There was no glass counter top with a wide assortment of delectable pastries, but there was a basket with brownies and strawberry banana bread in plastic wrap. I ordered a coffee and a brownie. I sat by a window and began to read. This was the right café, though upon first inspection it would not have been my first choice and it wasn’t perfect. Less than my imagination’s ideal was good enough to begin Self-Renewal.