the view from the sidewalk

“Veronica, there is a romantic appreciation for eating on the sidewalk. Paris is famous for having tables outside where you can eat, drink and watch the people go by.”

At our table right below the interstate highway, there are no people walking by.  The Pandemic added the ambiance of tightly masked wait staff and roaring traffic. I shrugged “Here we can only watch cars drive by, not people.”

“Look mommy, there is a doggie! Care are interesting!”

I smiled, still grateful for the experience of being fed outside my home. Even cars driving by are novel right now.

Restaurants were not a thing in the oldest books I’ve read. Don Quixote and Shakespeare only have food in homes or inns. Restaurants came along later.

The prize for first restaurant goes to China, centuries before France got the idea. France started fancy restaurants about a hundred years before their famous revolution. This fits, because if France was the first to have meals served at a restaurant, they also had a counter-movement with the cafes.

Café in French, and in a lot of other languages – literally means Coffee.

You know how—when they are open—Starbucks is a nice place to buy a cup of coffee and hang out?

That’s what the Cafes started as. It’s too much of a commitment to buy a whole meal. But a coffee? Almost everyone can afford a cuppa joe. London had these Cafes as well, and all this egalitarian sitting around together had an effect. Ever hear of the Age of Enlightenment? All those diverse people mingling together and talking came up with some crazy ideas. Some of them stuck.

Isaac Newton, Hobbes, Galileo and the Thomas-es Paine and Jefferson are products of this coffee pot.

Having a place to explore ideas will change the world. The United States of America is directly a result if it.

But the time I was thinking of when I mentioned sidewalk cafes to my daughter was the glamorous Paris between the wars. Coco Chanel, Picasso, James Joyce and Josephine Baker ate on the sidewalk.

They didn’t have the interstate highway along with. But I think they were pretty sure the world was changing. They were doing everything they could to change it.  They were being as much themselves as they possibly could be, which changed everything.

I would sure like things to change for the better. I know I can’t do much to change other people, but I’d like to follow what those artists did. The best I can do for today is eat outside. That’s a little better.

And adding my little bit of wonder to the week is good too.

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