Emeryville Amy

This blog will be a combination of my favorite places in the Bay Area and abroad, memoirs, recipes, restaurant reviews and travel experiences.

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Location: Emeryville, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States

Monday, July 18, 2005

Before Cafes

Before Cafes

I was an 80's girl. I went to jr. high, sr. high and college in the 80's. And not just anywhere, I grew up in LA, so I was an 80's Valley Girl. The word "like" was like totally , for sure, part of like every sentence that came out of the mouths of my friends. We would, like, go to the Mall, or the Galleria and shop till we dropped. Not having too much disposable income (baby sitting didn't pay all that much) we mostly window shopped. That didn't matter because it really was all about the hanging out.

When we weren't at the Galleria we were usually at the beach working on our awesome tans. Baby oil was slathered on and we toasted to a dark bronze. On weekend nights we would drive around and either end up at the Griffith Park Observatory, Westwood, the movies or "Love in Lights" which was an undeveloped hilltop that overlooked the valley and where the street lights spelled out "Love". No joke. It was a favorite place to "Park" or to just kick it.

The other alternative was to rent a video and gather at someone's house. If it was my house it meant going to the one video store in town that rented "betamax" movies. My dad opted for the beta machine because it was better quality, but America voted and it chose the cheaper VHS alternative. In the beginning the betamax was just another version of the video players but eventually it became outdated enough that it felt on the par of having an 8 track tape player.

The other thing about watching movies at my house was that my mother had an uncanny sense of when a "bad or risque" scene was about to happen. She would invariably walk in at just that moment and declare, "I can't believe you kids watch that kind of junk!" If there was only one questionable moment in the movie my mom would see it. Our protests that that was the only bad part never seemed valid. I think this super power is related to the one that allowed mom to know if anyone had their hand in the cookie jar even though she was three rooms away.

It is hard now to imagine life before cafes, but in the 80's in most of LA there really weren't any cafes. There was one in Pasadena, but you had to be "in the know" to find it since it was hidden down an alley off of a main street. It was called "The Espresso Bar" and we thought it was incredibly cool. But mostly we went to Bob's Big Boy or Tommy's Burgers or Baskin Robbins Ice cream to hang out and eat with friends.

Then I went to Berkeley for college and discovered that there were cafes on every corner. Each one unique with its own atmosphere and personality and clientele. That was before the giant Starbucks takeover of our country. Thankfully, Berkeley is the kind of town that doesn't want to be like every other city and it is pretty careful to not let chain stores take over. There are some Starbucks and other chain establishments around, but not on the south or north sides of campus. The independent cafes and bookstores are holding their ground and Berkeley retains its funky feel.

Now it is almost impossible to go anywhere and not find a cafe of some sort. I really like that because cafes lend themselves to great people watching, reading, hanging out with friends and legal stimulants (caffeine). In the last five minutes I have had two people come up to me to ask about my laptop and whether I can get wireless service here. Often someone will ask about a book that I am reading or if I know about something or other. I do think that I must send out some signal that says "I am approachable" because I do seem to have lots of interactions with strangers.

I spend quite a bit of my free time in cafes. I get excited when a new one opens like the chocolate cafe called Bittersweet on College Avenue in Oakland or the Italian Cafe Trieste on San Pablo in Berkeley.I still like to window shop, by myself or with friends, but I have barely stepped into a mall in the past 2 decades. I rarely slip into using "like" every other word. Occassionaly, by request, I will do a good Valley Girl imitation, just for fun.