105 West 13th Street
New York, New York
You see the back of an old man with white hair sitting alone at a table facing three tall windows and soft smokey light streams into the cafe across the old man and the table with a single black ash tray. Above the old man’s head is the reflection of an Exit sign. (Or perhaps a No Exit sign) A single glass of beer sits next to the left hand of the old man and the beer is illuminated by the light streaming through the windows. You see the backs of three empty black chairs.
You see a very young Leonard Bernstein at the beach bare chested and wearing swimming trunks. You see street children, and lovers smoking and talking with intertwined arms in a cafe. (Love in the Left Bank).
It is a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly and I placed my camera on the table and next to the camera my writing paper and pen. I walked around the cafe looking at the black and white photographs on the walls and the columns that run down the center of the cafe. It was good to be warm and inside the cafe after walking up Sixth Avenue on the cold, windswept streets of New York City in January.
( I write this from memory as I sit at Cafe Havana in Mendoza. I order a ham and cheese tostada and a glass of orange juice and listen to a band play folk ballads on the plaza next to the cafe. I place my camera and my notebook and pen on the cafe table and look at the street photographs that I had taken in the morning.)
The waitress wore traditional black and white and had a gap between her two front teeth. She spoke a mixture of French and English and offered to make fresh coffee for me. I took out my notebook and began to write. After a while, I took out my camera and looked at my photographs. The coffee was very strong and hot and I added sugar and it made me feel warm and happy and I began to write about death, time and memory and my photographs once again.
The jazz trio began their set. The piano player was white and young and wore all black, the bass player was Japanese, and the guitar player was tall and thin and had strings of grey hair brushed across his head. On the top of the piano was a green Martini glass that held a few dollar bills. It was the same shape as the piano lid supported by the lid prop.
The salmon steak was overcooked, and the pommes frites were dull, soft and slightly greasy. It was wonderful that day to be in the cafe and to write and to listen to jazz and to admire the black and white photographs and to be inside while the wind swept the streets cold and the faint sun faded into the night.
A girl came and sat at a table in front of the jazz trio. She was very pretty and I became distracted and I could no longer write in my notebook. She kept looking at the door and looking at her watch and I knew that she was waiting for someone and that it was a man. She watched the band and drank her glass of white wine quickly. I wanted to take a photograph of her so that I could remember and possess her forever but I could not. Earnest Hemingway said:
I’ve seen you, beauty, and you belong to me now, whoever you are waiting for and if I never see you again, I thought. You belong to me and all Paris belongs to me and I belong to this notebook and this pencil.
I wanted to posses her with my camera and I could not. Hemingway possessed her with his words. The memories created by his words are stronger than the memories created by my photographs.
(Some of these words were written at the then-present at Cafe Loup. Some were written in the then-future at Cafe Havana in Mendoza. Some were written by Hemingway in the distant past and some are fantasy and are outside of time. In photography, I take a picture in the past (we can never take a picture of the present) the image recedes into the ever distant past and I look at the image in the future which becomes the past. This is the essence of death, time and memory. This is Camera Lucida.)
Cafe Loup is big and warm and the light soft and the staff is friendly. There are black and white photographs on the white walls. The chairs have woven cane backs and the chairs and tables are wood. In the back of the bistro is a piano for the jazz groups and you can sit in the large and comfortable red banquets next to the band. The photographs are like a Chelsea art gallery. When you enter the cafe, on your right is a long wooded bar where locals sit for the afternoon and drink glasses of red table win and discuss art and politics. The food is not distinguished. It is tired and the flavors and textures are unclear and confused. It is over-cooked. The French onion soup is thin and the pommes frites are soft. But the food is good enough. The staff, the light, the photographs uplift Cafe Loup to be one of my favorite bistros in New York City.
Staff-9 (Friendly, French and casual; attentive and good timing)
Archetype-9 (Wooden tables and chairs, globe lights, long wood bar, local clientele, and the menu reflects the Archetype. It is too large to be a classic bistro )
Food-6 (Average food and the bread failed but somehow you don’t really care)
Energy-9 (You want to spend the afternoon here and write the great American novel-A Moveable Feast set in New York. Great photography, Sunday jazz, beautiful space, and quiet and cool vibe make it great.)