The shop, at the corner of Milwaukee/Chicago, with its coffee drop logo (subtle at first, then “of course!”) stands tall — Big Shoulders — amidst the bustle and rush: the blue line, expressway, the 66, 56, and droves of cyclists (of which I am one). Pulling open the door, I step onto the hardwood and tile and feel the atmosphere shift. The barometer drops. A stately young woman appearing straight from Toulouse-Lautrec welcomes me with a kindness frankly unusual for someone of her beauty. I ask for Tim, the owner. He greets me warmly, genuinely, thanks me for coming in. “Sit down, relax,” he says, “I’ll bring you your coffee.”
As soon as I’m settled (perhaps still bearing traces of the whirling dervish outside: I notice bits of urban detritus clinging to my shirt, my cheeks surely flushed from the brisk morning ride) coffee appears, plus a saucer, spoon, and glass of water. I am welcomed with my stated mission of staying a while, though I notice that many — most — customers come in for a coffee to go. Individuals here, “hello,” “goodbye,” carry in their hand the peace within these doors. A centering, warming or cooling treat to take in as they slip back into the anonymous rush of salmon on the street.