The Main Street Cafe distinguishes itself from the multitude of Vancouver coffee houses along this faded yet slightly dignified old street.
The two front windows of the cafe are actually large glass and metal "shipping ramp" doors - the kind that can be rolled up, causing a loud, loose metallic clattering.
Today, as I spend a quiet noon hour with my beloved wife, the large doors have been pulled all the way up, and even though we sit inside, we are privy to every sight, sound and smell going by, just 24 inches away.
Main Street is a mostly blur of wheels, rumbles and belches of exhaust. A thin but constant trail of people walk by bearing groceries, children and pets, and voices chatter in English, Filipino, and other languages, occasionally interrupted by squealing brakes or a siren a few blocks away. The sun disappears and reappears with our indecisive spring weather, and during each brief, blessed break in the noise, the songs sung by sparrows and chickadees can be heard.
Matching the drowned-out birdsong outside, and just as beautiful, is the music being played from the old upright piano in the rear corner of the Main Street Cafe. This is, in my coffee drinking experience, a rare, even unseen thing: non-commercial, non-programmed music in a coffee house in Vancouver! If you visit many other cafes in town, typically, you'll hear some selection of staff-picked CDs. If you go to Starbucks, you will hear the same music in heavy rotation at every Starbucks in Vancouver, usually tied in to some corporate promotion.
Today, we only hear the beautiful, clinky sounds of one middle-aged man who is playing music that he knows and enjoys. The only motive he seems to have is to apply his art to the cafe's old, out of tune upright piano, and to share the results with us. What a beautiful, non-commercial space it creates! It even makes up for the fact that the lady brought me hot chocolate instead of a Cafe Americano. It's all very unprogrammed and natural. I'm too happy to care, really.
"Oops. He hit a clinker on that last note!" "Oops! I got hot chocolate."
The afternoon promises to be beautiful in it's small imperfections and naturalness.