Cafes, or at least Berry's Truck Stop, had been an important part of my life in during high school in Jonesboro. In Memphis, bakeries were important: without the Normal Tearoom and Burkle's Bakery, I would have starved. But cafes only became my normal environment in Santa Fe. When Lin and I first moved there, cell phones hardly existed; certainly they were too expensive for us. So we went each morning for a few days to Downtown Subscription when it was in the Inn on Alameda to look at the classifieds in the New Mexican (no Craigslist then) and use the pay phone. Carmen Blue worked there. She would later open a wonderful book/video store, and become a dear friend.
The most important sitz im leben, however, would be the Aztec Street Cafe, which opened the second week we were in Santa Fe, and it became my favourite breakfast haunt for years, my living room in the evenings, and just general hangout. If I were looking for someone, I would just go to the Aztec, buy a coffee, and wait for him or her to show up. The summer I lived in a 1968 Chevrolet Suburban, I often parked at the Aztec and had pot parties behind the back room. Alas, the Aztec is no more. For a while, it was an upscale silly foo foo restaurant. But no bananas. I asked one of the first owners--it changed hands three times while I was a regular--if she would sell bananas. If so, I said I would buy one everyday. The next morning there was a rack of bananas with a sign: 'Dale, you promised.'
Perhaps the coolest cafe in Santa Fe was Cloud Cliff, on Second Street. It apparently has closed as well. Ugh. Willem, the owner, was a german buddhist artsy fartsy sort who made the best breads and scones around. I rented a space behind the cafe from him for Holy Wisdom Church to celebrate, and trapeza was then at Cloud Cliff. Scrumptious. Interesting art. Interesting Music. Now the good old days.
Still alive and well and the last time I was there, still considering me a local and selling me croissants at a special price, is the Santa Fe Baking Company. It was opened as a bakery with coffee-to-go on Early Street by one of the Bad Boys, who moved it to Cordova Road. Michael sold it to Eric Struck, who not only has excellent coffee--$1.00 all day with your own mug--and the afore-mentioned croissants, but excellent stuff all around. It also has the fastest internet in town, so it's a good place to work and hangout. I have met as many fascinating people per square foot at the Baking Company as anywhere. It does tend to be rather Democratic--as in the ruling party of northern New Mexico. Gene Hackman and Democratic party hacks and people who just want their huevos fix all come again and again.
At the Tea House on Canyon Road, however, I have more often overheard Republican cabinet level folks talking politics from a different place. And Johnnies talking Plato's Republic, or quantum mechanics. When it first opened, I was a way big fan: it was very mystical oriental, with floor seating on custions,close to little fire places, and very Japanese-style service. Over the years it has gotten chairs and clotted cream and scones. But one can still sit by the fire in winter, or in the garden in sunny weather, and feel cool. Totally.
I realize this little posting has been sort of tourism brochure for Santa Fe, for which I apologize. Yesterday morning I was lamenting how few places there are in Fayetteville where one can go early in the morning to have coffee with the sunrise. Alas, it seems even Santa Fe has fewer than it once did. I need to take a trip back to discover.