As the white woman rifles through the Times, I skip town – over to the counter for a soy chai latte.
When I sit back down and begin trying to reconstruct the evening so far, my ears detect a language with an interesting accent. Two young men – one sitting in the other Comfy Chair – are discussing something. It’s a serious discussion or something of substance. I can’t understand what’s being said, but you know the measured and complete sentence construction and response as more than talking about girls or cars or sports. Hmmm. Not necessarily. Two guys can have a very weighty conversation about, say, the NFL draft or whether Brett Favre is being reasonable in insisting on making Randy Moss his new appendage down field. Something like that.
I listen for the name Favre, or Fantasy Hoops or Robinson or Ripken, but hear nothing of the news of sports. What I do hear is a heavy accent of the Middle East. I’ve already admitted a shortcoming in the brain cells that distinguish origins of accent, so I can only attribute this language to Hebrew. Those throat-clearing consonants spoken as vowels are what clued me in. Okay, so that’s it – a couple of earnest young Jewish men.
I glance at the two once more for my own confirmation and the man in the Comfy Chair notices me looking and listening.
“You’re probably noticing our accent?” he says to me. Caught! off guard by his perceptivity and his willingness to approach.
“Yes, is it Hebrew?” I ask, believing I already know.
“No, it is Aramaic – it is the original language of the indigenous Aramaic-speaking descendants of the ancient Assyrian people,” he informs. “I am Assyrian.”
His American English is almost perfect, but there’s still a hint of vocal maneuvering from converting the Aramaic to English. As I have read about Assyria in the Bible, I am vaguely familiar with the designation and so I nod. The young man begins to explain, in a practiced and compelling way, the history of the Assyrian language and the people and history of Assyria as the birthplace of Christianity as a religion.
“There are only about 1 million Assyrians left.” He introduces his friend, Michael, as Assyrian, also, and they both explain to me about how the entire country of Assyria converted ‘voluntarily ‘ to Christianity after Christ’s death and resurrection and then over time was almost wiped out by Muslim invaders in a series of massacres and atrocities, the last major genocide being in the early 1900’s.
It‘s a very interesting conversation to me and we continue for a while. But I was not getting any writing done at the time. These two young men were very knowledgeable, friendly, and articulate, so it was very stimulating to talk to them. I found out that Jozef, the more talkative of the two, has been in local community service and politics. I can imagine that he will go far in the political service of his choosing.
“I hate the Bible!”
Well, if that’s not a show-stopper, I don’t know what is! The white woman has had enough of being ignored and of having to listen to talk of Christianity, its history, and of faith.
I’m determined to be a spectator at this point – I keep my mouth shut. But Jozef jumps right in, non-confrontational, and engages that woman with discourse that had her asking questions and calming down again, legs up and folded underneath her and turned fully toward Jozef in the other Comfy Chair. She hasn’t read the Bible. But she hates it. Jozef listened patiently and then artfully led her into a discussion that lasted nearly fifteen minutes.
I wouldn’t have given her and me two minutes. While they talked, I listened to Michael’s testimony of trouble resolving in his returning to his ancestral faith in a very strong and convincing way. I liked him, too. Very sincere.
Okay, it was getting late and Gilbert the Barista came over to us to let us know we had to vacate. By this time I had unplugged, shut down, and packed up my laptop so I was ready to leave. Jozef gave me his card. Two cards on the night. Pretty good.
What an evening! From the girls and boys, to Gilbert, to the women, to the men, I had taken quite a journey – equipped with coffee and chai purveyed by Starbucks. It had driven my mind around the track a few laps, through hairpin turns of opinion and perception until I came to the finish – a ride worthy (at least to me) of a four-parter.
You may have surmised that there’s no way I could write all of this there at the coffeehouse. True. In fact, usually I will write the gist – and the bulk – of the story at the coffeehouse and then finish it up at home. As they say, most of writing’s in the editing and so mine is, too. Even at that, I continually find typos and overlooked wrong words – a product of a little dyslexia, I admit.
But finishing this at home provides me with a proper ending to this night.
It turns out my block was still without power and was completely darkened. Only 100 feet away across the street were homes and apartments with Jay Leno on, late-night popcorn popping, and couples dancing in the dark anyway, the only light coming from the glowing lights of electronics.
I pull into the night-quiet of the parking carports and shut off my lights, then my engine. As I step out into the open air on my way to my apartment door, I look up. The moon is a sliver way off to the west, following the earlier sun and there are stars. Stars! A rare thing to experience as a resident of the Los Angeles electric grid.
There is a warm breeze and it rustles through the palm fronds that tower above the complex, leaning toward the ocean over the Hollywood hills. It’s all I can hear. No hum and rumble of air conditioning; no televisions; no cars – either everyone’s staying home or staying away elsewhere.
I whisper, “Thank you, God” as I stand there on the open asphalt, looking up and around, that relative silence carrying me across the peppered sky with the brush of breeze across my face. It washes me, clears my mind and I stand there a long time.
Being powerless can be a beautiful thing.
I AM the CoffeeHouse Blogger. Hear me type!
ABOUT THIS COFFEE SHOP:
Okay, this coffeehouse gets two thumbs up if, for nothing else, the TWO sets of Comfy Chairs. Not only does this soothe me to see, but it also indicates this Starbucks’ willingness to accommodate people who might sit, sip, and savor for a while.
For a Starbucks, this is a long, skinny coffeehouse layout, with parking out back. There were meters on the boulevard, too, and open spots were plentiful. You could even take a chance and park at the supermarket. It’s located on a busy stretch of Ventura Boulevard that is on a curve, next to a big Petco, and with a supermarket across the way. Not a hub of pedestrian traffic at all. That makes it a determined destination for most who go there, in my opinion, which can be a good thing.
The coffee was standard, but fresh, and I’m sure it was because of Gilbert’s attentiveness. When you ask for Gilbert, don’t mention what he told me, even though he made it public. But do ask him to tell you a joke and we’ll be able to assess his progress from that.
It’s an eclectic crowd, as you can tell, with many internationals that turned out to be friendly and normal. Even the DC was really okay.
Go to this Starbucks if you want to be off the beaten path while still being on the beaten path.