Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Patti Smith Summer? M Train, Cafe 'ino, and Miss C

Cotenna, 21 Bedford Street, NYC
As a contrarian, I think that maybe the best pilgrimages one makes are those that one doesn't make, not intentionally, anyway.

This spring had been a Patti Smith moment for me, which extended into the summer: in May I sang "Because the Night" with our faculty rock band (we perform for a student audience of 800 or so every two years); for my birthday in June Mr. C gave me Smith's newish autobiography, M Train.

The book is fairly contrarian too; it begins with a dream, which could easily have been enough to put me off (I do not have the patience to listen to people's dreams), but I made it through the opening pages and have deeply enjoyed Smith's musings about her travels. That her mother gave the adult Patti The Little Lame Prince for Christmas one year, and that her mother loved Anne of Green Gables (set on my home province) was tremendously moving, as I have loved both those books too. So I started to feel a certain readerly kinship.

In the autobiography Patti writes of her long, uninterrupted days at Café 'ino in the West Village, where she would sit at a cozy corner table and write about, well, writing (and traveling). She'd drink cup after cup of black coffee (thirteen a day) while she worked on the book I was reading. She also writes of her feelings of displacement when the cafe closed; she had to get her black coffee from Caffè Dante, but only in the morning, and to go, to avoid the touristy crowd.

Café 'ino, 21 Bedford Street, pre-March 2013.

I admit that when I was in the city yesterday I glanced in the window at Dante, half-looking for Patti, but of course she wasn't there. I wouldn't interrupt a writer, anyway. Later that day, Mr. C and I emerged from SoHo, exhausted after having walked for hours in the humidity. We decided to stop for dinner on the way to our car.

I suggested somewhere on Carmine, but the entire street had too much of a "happy hour" vibe, so we looked on side streets instead. On Bedford, close to Downing, we tucked into a tiny caffè, called Cotenna, outfitted with tiny tables along one wall and a double-sided bar, made from subway tiles, on the other. Mr. C and I sat at the bar, by the window, and enjoyed some pasta (shrimp for me; meatballs for him). For dessert he had an espresso, but I chose black coffee.

This morning, feeling rested, I decided to look up Cotenna online, to learn more about it. And to my utter surprise, this tiny 21 Bedford Street location housed Café 'ino until it closed its doors in March 2013.

So I had found Patti, yesterday, after all, after a fashion. I'll dedicate that (excellent) cup of black coffee to her.

No comments: