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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Back In Berkeley

by Carolyn Light Bell



Back in Berkeley again and loving it, visiting old friends who rinse and reuse baggies, compost table scraps despite ants, and eat out only at farm-to-table restaurants. I was happily skipping about town, feeling right at home. Since we lived there in the ’60s, being “green” has gone commercial. De rigueur.

It was pouring rain. My friend, Miriam, and I were standing under a friendly awning that read Café Gratitude.

“What could be bad?” I said. “Let’s try it.”

Wearing a shaved head and a sour look, our waiter thrust two unbleached, natural, made-from-recycled-paper menus under our noses. “Welcome to Café Gratitude. Today’s special is I Feel Grateful for the Rain Day.” He winced at us and fled. I surveyed the categories: Grains, Raw Specialties, Cooked Specialties, Soups, Salads, and Appetizers. All of them had mood names; for example, there was the I am Transformed taco plate, the I am Trusting Tamale plate, the I am Magical Veggie-Burger, the I am Insightful Spring Rolls. From the Soups and Salads, I ordered the I am Satisfied Small Café Salad. Miriam ordered the I am Grounded Roasted Potatoes. Our table’s centerpiece was a liter of tap water—no ice, no lemon, no questions.

When my salad arrived, I dived into it with gusto and choked. I summoned my waiter. I wasn’t satisfied.

“I need some more salad dressing,” I said.

“Just look under the top layer. There’s plenty there.”

“I already did. I need more, please.”

“And while you’re at it, could I have some more topping for my potatoes?” Miriam inquired sweetly.

“Can’t,” he said.

“Why not?”

“We don’t have the facilities. You could order more potatoes.”

Miriam’s large eyes bulged. “Never mind,” she concluded. The waiter left.

“That can mean only one of two things,” I said. “Either they have no microwave or the potatoes come pre-sauced.

“I wish I were sauced,” said Miriam. Marshall, my husband, arrived, pocketing his cell phone. He shook out his umbrella and sat down. The waiter glowered and disappeared into the kitchen.

My husband approached the bartender. “I need ice, please,” he said.

“You’ll have to ask your waiter,” the bartender said.

“I’ll just order an I am Cheerful Sunburger,” he concluded, pouring himself a plain glass of water, no ice.

“Do you realize that in a period of about five minutes, all three of us have managed to piss off everyone in the joint?” I asked my husband.

“Hey, don’t blame it on me. I just got here!”

We ate our food. It wasn’t bad. We were enjoying one another’s company on a rainy day where any restaurant provides shelter.

When it came time to leave, we paid the bill and my husband and Miriam were first out the door. I was stalling. I wanted to talk to the waiter.

He magically reappeared. “Have you thought about what it is that you feel grateful for about the rain today?” he asked, sweeping up the bill and cash, and heading for the cash register.

“Hey! Not so fast! Aren’t you going to listen when I answer what I’m grateful for?” I said to his retreating form.

“Yah, sure,” he said in a bored voice, sauntering back toward me. “What in the rain are you grateful for?”

“I am grateful for renewal and regeneration and Earth,” I said, beaming at him. My smile fell on deaf eyes. Our waiter had already turned away again.

“Hey, wait! Wait a minute! What are you grateful for?”

He turned around slowly. “Hmmm. That’s a tough one…renewal,” he said.

“You can’t copy me. That’s not fair.”

“Yes, I can. Renewal.”

“Is that all then? Renewal?”

“Yes, it is. Thank you for coming to Café Gratitude.”

It was no use.

When I called my cousin Bruce, an old hippie who still smokes dope and lives in the Mission district, he said, “I could’ve warned you. We have a Café Gratitude just like that down the street. It’s a franchise.”

That’s what I love about Berkeley. Even gratitude comes with attitude.