Hunched over at Sqirl in Silver Lake, I underlined particular passages which I had dog-eared, read the poems of Dr. Zhivago at the end of the book and imbibed some of the most praised morsels in LA.
The combination of a good book and good food is not always easy to attain, and I wasn’t taking this hour for granted. The scent of the weathered volume managed to waft through the scent of sausages browning and biscuits crisping in the oven of the tiny cafe, taking me back to my second year of college.
I’m twenty one. The room is pungent with the weepy, warm scent of the tree bark leaflets of old books. I scan the poetry section at a library book sale for familiar names or a new title that would spark interest.
My Latin professor volunteered here on Saturdays and she had informed her students of the sale. She always wore a big floppy hat and sunglasses because she was extremely sensitive to the sun and even the florescent lights in the classroom.
Dr. Melody Brewer was an amazing character of a college professor: traditional, had high expectations, absolutely loved learning and teaching, and lit up like a Christmas tree when students took interest. I really admired her. We shared a passion for the written word and language, and I really enjoyed talking to her after class.
Here at the book sale I spotted the pale green spine of a book with the word “Pasternak” inscribed in a calm red ink. As I leafed through the pages, I was overwhelmed with resonance. It was a nearly transcendental experience that I haven’t known before or since.
As much as I had always loved to read, I had never come across any work that seemed to make so much sense to me. To be sort of hatched from the same type of mind as my own. Pasternak’s tone, themes and voice were so beautiful; they were almost familiar. Like this was the poetry I’d been always hoping to read.
I was enraptured. I stood in that little crowded aisle oblivious to the bumps and nudges of the other literary scavengers as they poked and pawed at the volumes around me. I bought every poetry book I could find by him and have cherished them ever since. No other poet speaks to me the way Boris does.
Many of his poems are based on a character from his most famous work, Dr. Zhivago. I’ve had it on my “to read” list ever since, but only just got around to it.
His whole masterpiece is an intricate interlacing of lives and personalities throughout the upheaval of the Russian Revolution. It’s vast, expansive and awe-inspiring. Reading it is like drinking deeply form a tall glass of ice cold water after a long walk in the heat. It is, in a word, lush.
Most striking was the startlingly beautiful and normal extractions from life and the musings of the characters regarding their sense of being and the way they crossed paths and went separate ways from so many others. Word of people moving and people dying, the the unbelievable horrors of the times and the intrinsic love of natural human interaction.
Reading it made me feel more alive, more connected to anyone who ever has and who will occupy these spaces on the earth long after me. This passage in particular summed up themes weaved throughout the book and absolutely moved me.
I read a lot of it on the train on my way to and from work, and I got chills when I read the bit about Zhivago thinking back to math problems in school about trains starting at different times and going different speeds to get to their destinations. I don’t want to give away the ending, but the concept of people running parallel, overtaking, surpassing and surviving each other, resounds.
When I was nearing the end of the book I made a couple trips on the weekends for coffee and breakfast, and to finish it up. I went to Caffe Vita and had a great cup of Kyoto coffee one weekend. My pleasure receptors were off the charts, supplied with this rare treat of particularly forcible and creamy brew, coupled with the closing chapters of Dr. Zhivago. Even if you don’t have a bucket list book on hand, I’d recommend stopping by Caffe Vita. It’s an airy, lofty space with staff who know their stuff and make a great product.
Then to finish the book off, I made my trip to Sqirl the following weekend.
To be honest, this place has always intimidated me a bit with it’s hipness. Sometimes even good food and drink isn’t worth the stop when the barista can barely bring herself down to your level long enough to explain what goes into a certain latte. But I went to Sqirl on the strong recommendation of a friend, and thankfully, that wasn’t my experience at all. The staff was kind, helpful and efficient.
I was ecstatic to see that they offer a chicory coffee alternative! I have to be very careful about my caffeine consumption, and this Chicory Cloud Latte was made with almond milk and so delicious. Plus they made a heart with the foam. Love that.
And this candida-friendly brown rice pesto bowl was incredibly savory and filling. I went for the sausage add on. Not recommended for regular consumption, but again in the later phases of the diet, it’s something you can have rarely. Yay!
When I entered the restaurant, a lady in a floppy hat and sunglasses sat eating her breakfast and talking on the phone. She was vivacious and though I hadn’t made the connection yet between her similarity to my favorite prof, (I was too busy falling in love with the menu), there was something about her energy that I liked.
I ordered and sat with my back to her at the little bar along the white tiled wall. She chatted on and I read and underlined and sipped and smiled.
When my food arrived, I set Dr. Zhivago down to enjoy my meal. The lady on the phone had hung up and was passing behind me. As she moved by, she commented over my shoulder,
I was surprised and turned to look at her, placing my hand on my heart as a sign of how it moved me .
“Oh my gosh! So good. It absolutely melts my heart.”
She nodded and offered a groan of concurrence, we shared a smile and she moved on. Suddenly it all came together for me on another level. From the discovery at the library sale where I found my favorite writer, through all the people I’ve met and things I’ve seen on my own journey to this very morning sitting in a shop and having a moment of connection with an older lady who reminded me, just a bit, of my favorite professor. All the intermediary beauty of my own life laid out before me in a quick flash.
I thought of how, had I finished this book at home on my couch, I would have loved it, but I wouldn’t have experienced it the way I did here in this little eatery. One person happening by changed the meaning of the book for me and brought a new level of expansiveness to me as a writer.
Though we’re constantly undergoing individuation as we learn and further form our selves, our lives run parallel and, sometimes, interlock. The archetypes of human experience such as sunrises and sets, the turning of the seasons, the need for and comfort in nourishment, are ever-present in all of us. I’m reminded again of the importance and relevance of food as a means of bringing people together and a way of breathing deeply from life in the presence of the like-minded; throughout time. Cheers to that.
Do you have any influential figures in your life who’ve inspired you in a particular direction or introduced you to something that enriched your life, even in a simple way?