Cafés and parks. That’s all you need to make me love a city. In my humble opinion, these two types of locale represent almost unlimited human potential. Let me explain.
Cafés are meeting places. They are temporary (sometimes, permanent) workspaces. In a café, a couple could be sharing their first moment or their hundredth. A group could be plotting the next bold move in their brand-new joint venture. A lone thinker could be crafting the next chapter of the next great novel. Every café in every moment is a unique expression of its passengers; every ride is different. Beyond their bubbling movement, cafés can be a place of pause and escape. A pause on the increasingly accelerating pace of life. An escape from the cold or a bad day. Cafés can be holes in the wall or grand spaces. They can be bustling or quiet. The whole range of human experience and emotion can take place in one café. And I haven’t even mentioned the best part: this dynamic place has coffee. Coffee, the midnight oil’s partner in crime; the early bird’s jet pack. (Sorry, tea lovers: I’m a fan as well but coffee is in its own league. Coffee has over 1,500 aromatic and flavor compounds, making it an incredibly complex and rich beverage.)
Parks, too, have this interesting duality of action and pause. They are places where you can run, stroll, sit, and nap. One person trains for a marathon; the other sits down for meditation. A group of college kids sprawl lazily on the warm grass and under the giving shade of trees while a man in a crisis works through his problems (Solvitur ambulando: it is solved by walking). A couple with years of experience smile generously and quietly on a bench as a curious toddler plows through a new landscape. They are all here, contributing to this changing, pulsating energy of life. They are here, thinking, laughing, learning, and loving.
Between a park and a café, I can spend hours, days. I can write, share conversations, walk and think, people watch, people listen, and breathe fresh air. Parks and cafés are like showers for my soul: I exit their embraces feeling rejuvenated and ready for what’s next.
It’s no surprise, then, that cities that have a distinct culture and emphasis on cafés and parks feel like home to me. It’s almost as if it’s an expression of a culture that says, “Hey! The things that happen in these places are important!”. San Francisco and New York City in the US come to mind. In Santiago, I felt that culture, too. This isn’t to say that the things that happen in cafés and parks can’t happen in restaurants, or bars, or in community centers. They certainly can! It’s just I think cafés and parks are unique places of energy and people.
Not surprisingly, I composed this love letter in a café and on a park bench. On that note, I have a very important cup of coffee and stroll to attend to.