At times my quill becomes a toilsome thing—slow-moving and laden with entropy—and my mind a desert, and my soul a paltry place, lacking in verse. At such times I find solace in that same potable that gave Zeus his lightning and Athena her wisdom—coffee, thou sweet nectar of truth.
When in search of the smoothest blends of that warm Afric drink, I seldom travel to the heart of the city; I journey instead to the far reaches of the F train, to a place called Odradek’s in Kew Gardens, Queens.
Travel with me, and I will show you. Close your eyes, and bid your mind to see. Resting in your hands is a cup filled with how sweet magic. By the miracle of latte art, the image of a leaf is sketched on the surface of the foam. The leaf is a memento mori–a reminder that seasons pass, and each cup of coffee must give way to the next.
You taste it. Do not let it deceive you. It is not ambrosia from Mt. Olympus, or divinely created manna, but a Spanish latte that has kissed your tongue–espresso enhanced with steamed sweetened condensed milk. Or perhaps, if such a thing does not interest you, you can try one of their shotties–an original creation made through the mating of ice cream, espresso, and an assortment delectable flavors.
You set down your drink, and return to working on your latest masterpiece. The free wi-fi and the gentle sounds of Ingrid Michelson’s voice overhead bring you the piece of mind you seek. In spite of the Kafka-inspired name (Odradek was an indecipherable creature in his short story, “Die Sorge des Hausvaters”), the place has all the charms of Prospero’s island, yet lies leagues distant from the nearest Caliban–in a pleasant neighborhood by the Kew Gardens train station. You feel at peace, and the words flow freely.
And you remember why you fell in love with coffee. In our caffeine-fueled city, where everything is moving, everything is shouting at us, “faster, faster,” from the taxi horns to the culture of speed to the ruffians behind you at the supermarket, we have tainted the spirit of coffee. We have learned to use coffee as a crude tool for carving through the jungle of our lives. We have turned a luxury into a necessity. We have turned the most sensual of drinks into a tool for living senselessly. Only in places like Odradek’s can we remember coffee’s truer purpose–to stop, to smell, to taste, to feel, to live, perchance to dream.