I'm sitting in Vienna, having a cup of Jamaican Me Crazy and a delicious little cheesecake brownie while pondering the virtues of a good old coffee shop where time passes slowly and a few bucks pay you hours of enjoyment. Vienna is a bustling coffee shop in West Lafayette, Indiana. It is only a few minutes from Purdue University and teems with students. In contrast to what one might think of the rednecked whitewashed Midwest, the clientele is very mixed. Besides Indians and Chinese, who are never far whenever knowledge is disseminated, there are Russians, Koreans, black and white Americans. I also hear Spanish from several tables but the provenience of the speakers remains obscure. The owners of Vienna are Turkish (finally winning 1683?), and many of the patrons are as well. In short, a very pleasant place to pass time.
As I'm finishing my brownie I'm wondering why there are no similar coffee shops in Grenoble where cafés abound and people like to sit and chat. Why is there no place to hang out for hours, sip copious amounts of coffee, surf the web, and even do the occassional snippet of work? Where people don't smoke but stare at their screens? Why do I have to stay at home in my own living room for all of this? And it occurs to me that the coffee shop in its American incarnation is something like a public living room where you can sit by yourself if you want, where you meet old friends and get to know new ones, where you feel home. And after only two days, I'm already feeling home at Vienna. Damn, I'm a regular alrady.