I spent twenty minutes just trying to find this place. The Monroe Street Café is best found by a stumble; with the wind blowing through Eugene today, the stumble felt more like a brawl as pine cones and sticks bombarded the roof of my little station wagon.
I found it. Finally. No cat, though. The first time I stumbled across this joint, the furball sat next to a peaceful looking gentleman who paid it far too little attention. With the Café empty now, one would think it a natural instinct to capitalize on my willingness to please. With the Café empty now, I might need to interview the cat about its opinion of Jefferson Westside.
Tell me, cat, what do you think about this place? No–it’s a conflict of interest to compensate sources, even if the currency is a scratch behind the ear. I could use the company, though.
Patrons come and go, most of them just passing through for bottled beers that line the walls next to fluorescent signs that read, “ROGUE,” “FULL SAIL” and “BRIDGEPORT ALES.” The pace here is sluggish, and no one seems bothered by it. Even lingering post-pubescent teens, who I would expect to stir up some noise, are subdued, submissive to the docility of the neighborhood, tranquilized by the intimacy of the unencumbered green broken by worn but colorful houses.
Change is slow here. Beers go down smoothly. The closeness of it all reminds me of a certain small Indiana town that used to be my home, though it’s been years since I last visited.
Amid my glazed awareness the silence breaks. “Where’s Chelsea?”
A regular. A trend, as well. Everyone who walks through the front door seems like a friend, congenial and conversational.
“Chelsea hurt herself yesterday. She fell off her board and scraped her knee to her foot.”
Ouch. Poor girl.
Another customer meanders in. “Is this your first time in here?” The question seems like an accusation veiled in propriety. It was her first time. No worry, the Café is open until 10:00p.m. Come back anytime.
The silence returns as the door shuts, embodied in the lull of a loud, spinning freezer fan, like an air conditioner on a hot summer day. It is clear. This quiet side street surrounded by commerce and commute feels like home, even to the fruit flies half-heartedly searching for a way through the window. Good luck, boys, but my beer glass has no thoroughfare except the one you’ll die trying to get through.
The bathroom beckons, and the lack of any indication leads me to ask the hostess. “Where’s the cat?” Gone, she says. Had to return it to its home. It was getting to be too much.
I wandered to the bathroom through the kitchen, which is apparently open to customers, to find a back porch open to the sky but closed to the surroundings. A fountain to the left reminded me of my destination.
You can tell a lot about a place by the order of its bathroom. I won’t elaborate on the spectrum of extremes, but the ideal is clean but… colorful. With character. A bathroom seems like an odd place to enjoy character or atmosphere–who am I kidding, it’s flat out bizarre–but why would we want to spend some of our most intimate moments in a bathroom where the walls are decorated with “Bush is God” and six-digit phone numbers?
Nevertheless, even in a worst-case scenario, this place (the Café…) smells like comfort. And even though it’s empty, I can imagine the tables occupied by hushed conversation, tangible connection and enjoyable company. It’s time, however, to break the silence.
Get me that cat.