Friday, October 14, 2005

Viennese coffee

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.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

the truth in music

The other day I went to the local fnac, the biggest chain for music in France. People tell me that fnac is expensive, but no one is required to buy 20-euro CDs. They have many good deals, and their selection amazes me every time, even in as small a store as in Grenoble. I went to snag another one of these fine Putumayo CDs, which have been on sale for 14 euros for a while.

I've appreciated Putumayo's ingenious way of putting together great music from all four corners of the world ever since Iccha gave me 'Congo to Cuba', a musical journey from the roots of son to its modern interpretations. Guaranteed to make you feel good, they say, and for me that's true. You can't go wrong with Putumayo. I now own ten covering a good part of the globe, from Cuba and Brazil over North Africa all the way to Asia. My latest addition is 'New Orleans', and it's easily the best.

This sampler has come as a revelation to me because I wasn't familiar with New Orleans jazz before. I had an idea of what sounds off a float at Mardi gras, but that's not the real deal. It's like comparing deep fried fish at Joe's Crab Shack to crawfish étouffée at Andrew Jaeger's. Now I can stuff New Orleans into my ears. Kermit Ruffins and Dr. Micheal White are fantastic. And I have more CDs lined up for me to purchase.