The Danish bakery was a couple blocks away, spacious, near empty but for a few middle-aged good old boys and sitting talking at a table and a few others at another table in a narrow room off to the side. The aromas were melting and the display of pastries overwhelming, but I never eat until at least around ten mornings and so ordered the largest coffee in a paper cup, peered around, and sat on a stool at a small table in a corner right off the entrance.
I picked up a plastic covered card and read about the three generations of a family running this bakery for the last 70 years, started by a grandfather who immigrated from Denmark. The grandson now ran the bakery and I recognized him immediately, in his late forties in his white uniform as he interacted with a salesman with brief case and computer at the table with the good old boys. He was pouring them coffee freely and infused with a glow of contentedness and joy as he sat and talked and laughed and stood to go back into the kitchen where a younger man who could have been his son in a white uniform waited on four Mexican hotel maids who came in and bought pastries and left.
I was reminded of my dad, and working for him in our family business in Compton back in the late 1950s and early '60s. We opened at 7:30. There was always about ten shoemakers waiting for dad to open his wholesale leather and shoe findings store. He always brought a dozen donuts from the nearby donut shop and quickly made up a huge vat of coffee before waiting on trade, many of whom were Italian and brought in home-made pastries, a convivial scene of men owning their own businesses kibitzing before opening their shops.
Each kept his own coffee cup at a table up front.
Being the son, I was taught how important these customers were and acted accordingly, spoiling them with friendliness and good service, as did my dad. Later, salesmen, like the one I saw in the bakery, came in, and the conviviality continued. Dad, who had worked for others as a professional athlete, gloried in being his own boss, making his own decisions, so that the result of his decisions and his ability to please his customers and make them feel special turned his business into a success, much like the bakery.
A lady came out from behind the counter with a coffee urn. She headed toward the table of good old boys where the owner stood. Was she the lady who had married the grandson and helped continue the generation of family bakers? He stood and kissed her on the cheek. She kissed him back, poured coffee. Walking with a limp, she headed toward me, in the corner. I'd been in the place perhaps half an hour, sipping my coffee, without smart phone (I have none) nor reading material, just savoring the atmosphere and observing the proceedings, with nobody checking me out as auspicious or suspicious.
“Would you like a refill, honey?” she asked.
I smiled and told her I was fine and she moved into the little side room and filled coffee and then three elderly ladies came in and checked out the pastries and another lady who seemed a regular at the counter and waited on me waited on them.
The great grandson came out from behind the counter, glanced at me, smiled, and went to the table where the good old boys sat and sipped from his coffee and entered the conversation as his father stood and walked across the room and glanced at me and smiled and entered the other room where his entrance brought on ebullient laughter, and then he was out, a small pudgy man with a pink complexion, walked back behind the counter and into the baking room where another man in a white uniform conversed with him and laughed, and then he was out again with the coffee urn and filling more coffee for the good old boys, who were joined by his wife who sat in a chair, and they all kibitzed and laughed as another salesman with brief case and computer entered and headed toward the table where he shook hands with the father and hugged the wife.
He had his own cup, behind the counter, and received an instant pour.
I looked up at the clock. I'd been in here for almost an hour, doing absolutely nothing, and I felt refreshed, renewed, almost giddy as I stood and approached the coffee counter where the pleasant woman who was possibly another family member asked did I want a free refill, but no, I was fine, and ordered another coffee to go for Miranda, and apologized for not eating a pastry, explaining that I was full from glutting myself at a certain restaurant, and she smiled politely and said she'd heard this restaurant was really good but had never been there and took my money and my tip and I headed back to the hotel, passing locals walking dogs on the still uncrowded streets and issuing cheerful good mornings. I was holding two coffee cups and a pleasant, optimistic state of mind, and possibly a visible glow, until I checked CNN on the TV Miranda had on in our room, telling us about 26 people who'd been gunned downed in a small church in a small town in Texas.