A coffee shop, a good local coffee shop, not a chain that has outlets across the street from each other, is a simple joy. It reflects the taste of the owner and the character of the neighborhood. It should feel inviting. It is a place to relax and a cheap way to expand one’s living quarters. People go to coffee shops to get away from the familiarity of their apartments or house, and to be with people while not being obligated to interact with them. On a trip, it is a way to sense of what it feels like to be a local.
Novelists and screen writers, both professional and would-be, have been writing in some place that served coffee since the caffeine was extracted from the bean. I’m going to bet when the first café opened it was soon filled with customers scrawling poems on parchment. Coffee allows thoughts to flow.
The Blue Danube invites customers to leave those thoughts in blank books. At this writing, they total more than 45. Past volumes are on a shelf for anyone to read.
These books are filled with drawings, musings, observations and confessions. Some pages are from travelers writing about their experience of San Francisco. Children write jokes, draw, or play tic-tac-toe. Some write about people they love. Others write confessions of shame, anger, or infidelity. It is like being permission to read other people’s mail or diaries.
The Blue Danube is located on Clement St, one of favorite streets overlooked by visitors. I’m going to write more about Clement St. in the coming weeks. It is the sort of location that, when I’m giving private tours of San Francisco, I encourage my guests to experience.