Coffee with Bulgakov

There is nothing I find so delightfully decadent as going out on a date with a good book. My perchance unpopular opinion dates back to the days of my very first job, when I occasionally spent the lag between split-shifts at a nearby bistro, lingering over a late lunch, complete with dessert and coffee, in the uninterrupted company of a nice thick novel. The fact that the bill of such an outing exceeded what I made in either shift surrounding it kept me from indulging very often, but such an expense without the excuse of socialization felt so deliciously daring that the memory has stuck and the act has been repeated many a time as the years went by, though usually on a more modest scale (unlike my sentences, which are going for broke - and by broke, I mean Proust).

Life at home with babies left me with enough time for reading and illusionary solitude that this treat fell on the wayside for a while. Now that those babies are now two very proficient chatterboxes, a night without conversation - pared with the novelty of leaving the house without my darlings and all their accessories in tow - beckoned once again. Hence I headed the call; with The Master and Margarita tucked lovingly in my purse, I kissed my children goodnight, left bedtime and dishes in my husband's capable, and, thankfully, available, hands, and drove out for a coffee - blessedly alone. 

I chose my route based on reasons that defied practicality.  Rather than heading to the nearest Second Cup, I chose this evening to try Transcend, a local coffee shop and roastery I'd heard of but never visited, and in the location that meant not the shortest drive, but that which was most scenic, and, due to scarcity of parking spots, a walk as well. I ended up driving down to the university, parking in the same lot I used during choir season, and walking the same route I would have taken as a student to get to my old apartment just off campus.

It was a cold night for a trip down memory lane. I found out later my discomfort was increased by the fact that my windows were not completely shut. I'm sure there are climates where being able to roll one's car windows down a hair-breadth with one's key-fob is a perk. The one in which I live is not one of them - at least not during a mid-January cold-snap - and thus I've never quite figured out how it happens. I enjoyed my drive all the same; choosing music without bargaining with a certain occupant of the backseat is becoming a bit of a rarity, and a chance to sing along without needing to know the song titles, or explain the nuances of the lyrics, was not to be wasted wondering why the heater wasn't taking the edge off the chill.

I did, however, begin to doubt whether I was truly prepared for the last leg of my journey; if I hadn't warmed up in the twenty minutes I'd been in the car, was I really dressed for a hike in sub-arctic weather? Then it dawned on me: I was heading for the natural habitat of the habitually under-dressed - a campus built on the assumption that walking from building to building ought to be done indoors, unless it's nice out or you happen to be a smoker. I rallied for the quick jaunt to the LRT station, and from there the adjoining pedway system took me half-way to my destination before I had to face the wind. Then nostalgia took over, carrying me past my old block. The two rows of walk-up apartments mirrored each other, as unchanged as the wending road between them, still reserved for foot traffic. I gave a nod to my address of yesteryear, shook my head at the hint of an elevator bay on a new building at the end of the street (kids these days - can't they take the stairs? Hopefully it's reserved for the paraplegic). I marveled at the trendy caf├ęs I never visited when they were but a stone's throw away; back then, their names had not gained their current connotations. I felt new empathy for students in residence - when one moves to a city only to live on a campus, the perception of "city centre" gets skewed.

I reached my destination, well chilled yet energized by the prelude of my evening, looking forward to being warmed by a famed flat white before facing the elements once again. The shop was mostly deserted, the staff friendly, the coffee just as lovely as anticipated. And Bulgakov, even after such extended expectations, did not disappoint. I must confess I read classic literature only occasionally, and usually find the experience more laborious than recreational (I got my Proust reference from an episode of "Gilmore Girls"), so it is always an especial delight to discover that my chosen cultural vegetable could double as dessert. Master and Margarita proved just as engrossing as Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. Morbid fascination had me forgetting the draft, the time, my empty coffee cup until it was time to bundle up and head for home. And thus I arrived, refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to resume life as usual with my little darlings; dishes, diapers, 5000 questions, and all.


  1. Oh heavens, I can identify!! We love that Transcend, it's become 'ours', so glad you got to try it out with a book, alone. Bliss. ;-)


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