Oasis

peets3.jpg

Even though, obviously, people meet others at Peet's for coffee or whatever, I don’t think I quite realized what really goes on between them when they sit here, and what an important role it plays in their lives, until one one day when I was working on this drawing. 

 Since I am the observer I like to sit at a "safe" distance from others, as it were, so I’m not on top of them and honestly so they don’t think I want to make conversation. But on this particular day the only way I could sit in the same place as the day before was to sit very close to a table where a man was already sitting.  That in itself wasn't such a big deal, but soon after he got up to greet another man with such a heartfelt hug that I felt like I was witnessing a very special reunion.  I was very touched and couldn't help but immediately switch on my radar!  They hadn’t seen each other in a long time and were obviously very glad to be doing so.  They talked the whole time I was there, about an hour, and were still talking when I left.  They were sitting close enough to me that I could have been part of the conversation, and I sometimes wonder in that situation if they honestly didn’t notice me; who knows, but they were quite obviously caught up with each other.  One was quite a bit older than the other so I wondered about their relationship.  They seemed to have known each other for a long time, through thick and thin.  They were talking about their lives, their families and work, and suddenly I noticed they were talking about how long they had been sober and how this had changed things for them.  Somehow it was then that I felt the significance of the conversation; it was very intimate and very sweet, and they didn’t seem to notice anyone else.  

At this sitting, I couldn’t help but think that here I was in my neighborhood, among shops and restaurants, and here at this place people were having these incredibly intimate, very important talks.  And now it occurs to me that Peet's is like a little oasis. 

The #2 dictionary definition of oasis, after “a fertile spot in a desert, where water is found” is: “an area or period of calm in the midst of turbulence”.  In this case, not necessarily “in the midst of turbulence” but rather city life.  Even though a lot of people seem to be working at Peets with their computers or telephones, still it is a place people go to pause with themselves or with others. And they really are just themselves in these places, seemingly unconscious of what others think unless of course they are trying to impress or attract someone.  But even in that context they are just being who they are.  They pull up their chair, set down their coffee or tea, curl up or stretch out in a sweater or move the umbrella closer to make some shade, and they are in their oasis.  And the other thing is, the really nice thing I think, no one bothers anyone else, everyone just lets everyone else be, and in fact if someone needs a chair they always very politely ask someone with extra ones if they might use one.  And what is especially nice is the people who work there don’t ask people to leave after a certain amount of time.  The people who work there seem content to just let people be, it seems to be a policy, and so everyone feels relaxed and safe, as it were.  In this sense it reminds me of working in Palisades Park, or where the chairs are at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  And so perhaps I've been making "portraits" of a certain kind.  

 

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followed this page 2012-11-28 17:41:58 -0800
Kathryn's Drawings