Had a drink with my good friend A. tonite at Cafe Van Kleef in downtown Oakland, probably my favorite after-work bar. Near the front door there is a small, chalkboard sign that 'advertises' a short menu of Provencale dishes: salade nicoise, poulet, a couple other items. I say 'advertise' because the only food you can get at Van Kleef's is spicy popcorn and maybe a hot dog if you're lucky.
But still, the place does remind me of Paris: the slightly grungy, quirky, charming collection of random art--sculptures, paintings, found objects, glass embedded in the counter outside, a random brass trumpet, a ladder near the back wall that doesn't seem to go anywhere or serve any purpose besides as a trellis for other random artworks; the slightly bohemian, smoky, dark ambiance; the French tricolore flag (or is it Belgian? isn't Van Kleef a Belgian or German name?) hanging limply, like an old rag, in the entryway. The foreign music they frequently play, from Buena Vista Social Club to 'C'est Si Bon'.
The drinks are strong and moderately priced here: $8 for a good, stiff but sweet Sidecar, which is what A. and I had. I always get tipsy just from one drink. And you can smoke outside, which is nice. Another touch of l'experience parisienne.
Funny, I realized today as I sat talking to A. and getting tipsy off my Sidecar, that H. and I didn't get drunk at all in Paris. We had a couple glasses of wine with our meals, yes, but we didn't go, as our friend V. adamantly suggested, to a bar au vin for an eminently French experience. Oh, well. There's always next time.
I've been craving being in Paris lately, and tonite, for an hour or so, I got to feel like I was there, even if it was a Canadian cigarette and not a Gauloise that I puffed on, and even if people were speaking English et pas francais. It's all good. For a little bit, I got a taste of Paris, right here in Oakland.