RUMINATIONS ON FOUR GOUGÈRES, on the patio at Thorough Bread & Pastry
Some errant bird pilfered one of my four gougères, right off of the plate, while I was inside waiting for my coffee. I’d set the plate of four airy, chive-dusted puff pastries out on a patio table along with a glass of water in order to secure my spot beneath the pepper tree.
What a rare occasion; I’ve never seen a bird breech the fence and land on any table.
So I sat. The cappuccino, it turned out, was watery, the gougères a bit drier than I remember – the three that hadn’t been stolen by the thieving bird, that is.
A bit of time passed, indistinguishable from the rest, as I worked there. A wedge of tranquility had been carved out from the screaming rest of society and things felt good for those few minutes, despite the impending chaos, the political implosion portended by all the latest presidential polls. America had lost itself. Lost its way. Given itself over to corruption and a sort of political in-breeding that yielded idiots, as happens when first cousins reproduce.
On the patio out back behind Thorough Bread & Pastry you can hear the Muni trains passing along Church St. Occasionally you’ll get a glint of traffic along Market Street, or the more clearly audible airplane passing overhead. You can hear your neighbors’ conversations, as well, whatever they are. Minimal effort is required to keep the volume down because the verdant triangle and its leaf- and twig-strewn stone terrace cause an autonomic tempering of voices – except for the truly shrill and clueless, of course. The patio is, thus, a respite. And like all respites, it’s part illusion. Or rather, its peace and tranquility are illusory. To hear birds chirping in the distant trees and the sexual moaning of pigeons on the other side of the fence is to be reminded of the temporal nature of things. Of rise and ruin. The decline of societies. This tranquility yields tears when we sit long enough to realize that we’ve paved over our personal existence with greed and competition, just as we’ve paved over the earth with asphalt and cement. Sucked every aquifer dry. Shit in every stream.
On the patio of Thorough Bread, however, we breathe in possibility and exhale poison. We keep to ourselves (for the most part). We read our books and write or listen to music or sketch and draw and converse – we behave like civilized human beings and the trees cradle our feelings. As critical mass nears, as the patio fills up and tables become hard to come by, the frailty of our species kicks in.
Alone we are okay, in small groups we excel, but as the ranks expand and more and more are brought into the fold we lose our humanity entirely and become a singular, ugly machine.
A shot of espresso, please, to resuscitate my watery coffee and to bring me back to life. Moisten by bread and lift my spirits.
Right now, it’s quiet at Thorough Bread and Pastry.