Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Afternoon Hang-out

I have time to kill between my noon-time doctor's appointment downtown and my late-afternoon appointment at church and so I'm trying out a new place to hang out for the interim.

The establishment is an open, airy bookstore and café on a main thoroughfare.  Through the large front windows I can see the tall iron fence of a cemetery.  Inside, the three women who had gathered for lunch around a small round table have gone.  Their very audible conversation has been replaced by three volunteers around another table where one is reading and commenting on a book that was translated from Russian.  Many of the Mennonites in Manitoba came here to escape the Bolshevik Revolution a hundred years ago and some continue to have ties to that country.  Other volunteers pass between the back of the store and the kitchen pushing a trolley of dirty dishes in one direction, and freshly cleaned dishes and food in the other.  Presumably the cold storage and dishwasher are outside the kitchen.  It's a strange set up and odd to see such things passing back and forth between shelves of books.

Business is slow here.  The other customers have been a young man at the table in front of me, using his computer.  To my left a young woman with long, shiny, dark-red hair is gathering up her books from an afternoon of studying and reading.  A high school student just entered, obviously recognised by the volunteer at the counter.  "What are you doing here?" he is asked.  He must be another volunteer because he needs a note to verify to his teacher that he performed 15 hours of service here.

I love the quiet guitar music on repeat.  Moonlight Sonata is playing now but earlier were more contemporary tunes on the same guitar.  I'm having a hard time restraining myself from singing along--everyone would hear me if I did; not that I have a bad voice, but I don't want to bring attention to myself.

A large komodo dragon holds pride of place atop one of the low-level bookcases and, taking considerable space, is a slightly elevated stage, barren but for a couple chairs, two stage monitors, an old guitar hanging on the wall and a single, bright red cowboy boot on a small shelf against a pillar to the side of the stage.  It matches a music stand in the opposite corner that is also bright red.

I haven't checked out the books yet, except for a glance at the ones near my table.  They include books in French, Spanish, Polish and who knows what other languages.  I see Horses of the Camargue, Book of the Eskimos, and a thick volume of Christ and the Fine Arts that looks to be at least 60 years old.

A sprite arrangement of daisies in a one-of-a-kind ceramic pot, several live leafy plants and lamps with white shades and brass stands dot the area.  I was assured that all along the wall where the tables are, are electrical outlets for computers but all I found was a white extension cord strung along the edge of the floor with one free opening.  It is enough.

I shall return, though not for the beef stew or the much-too-sweet apricot bars.  The books intrigue me and I want to become acquainted with them.  I'm sure I'll find a few to bring home any time I visit.

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