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Café chess — très sexy

Here’s a column that ran in 2006, but today, I’m so jonesin’ for my life in Boston, that it feels apropos to post.
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I spent this past Monday morning, a holiday, lazily finishing what was left from the Sunday NY Times. Sitting outside, a cup of Joe percolating through my veins; the day, the city, seemed full of unforeseen possibility.

Throwing a few pens, a notepad, a book, my journal, and a pack of Marlboro Lights – all the accoutrements of café society — in an oversized bag, I headed off for one of my favorite lazy-day activities – hanging in a café, drinking coffee and writing letters.

I arrived at my occasional Sunday-morning haunt, Main Street News & Books, except this is a Monday remember, and encountered a scene I didn’t know how much I missed: two men sitting at an outdoor table clashing egos across a chess board.

Go ahead and call me a nerd, but I was enchanted.

It’s been so long since I’ve seen anything in this town that even whispered of cerebral engagement, and here were these two men, looking for all the world like misanthropes (what chess players don’t?) dueling it out in the sexiest of ways – with their minds.

I hurried inside and plunked myself down at a window seat so close to the two chess men that I could have whispered next moves in their ears if a) I knew anything more than the rudiments of the game, and b) if there hadn’t been a plate glass window between us.

Good manners forced me to stop staring at their game (and besides, one of them kept throwing me a mind-your-own-business look), so I decided to do what I had come to do – put pen to paper.

After whipping off a few pages of what I was hoping would be a letter-ary amuse-bouche to a grumpy ex-boyfriend, I looked up and found that the first game had ended and two new men had joined. Seats were switched, another board appeared and now we had two tables in action.

All my bad-girl memories of entire mornings and afternoons whittled away in the cafés of the North End of Boston (caffès, actually) came back to me. Smoking endless cigarettes, jacked up on caffeine, and trying to learn what I could from the neighborhood men who held court at the chess tables there, tossing off checkmates as easily as they tossed back their dainty demitasse of espresso.

I used to stick it out for hours in those cafés, writing mostly, but always hoping for a lesson when and if one of the chess gods deigned to let me play. Stern-faced and steely-eyed, every now and then one of those much-older, old-world Italianos would lean back in his chair after a king had taken a tumble, and nod at me to take a place at the table.

I learned a little about chess in those days, and a lot more about the heady allure of a table full of silence and a couple of minds in motion.

I don’t know if it was dumb luck finding those guys playing at Main Street News this past Monday, or if maybe it will become a regular thing there. I’m hoping it’s the latter — I’d love to see some real culture in Sarasota.

Yes, I know, I know. We’ve got plenty of culture that centers around the arts in this town – but a little culture of the mind wouldn’t hurt, would it?

I’m hoping those guys – with the evidence of their concentration visibly sliding down the sides of their faces, their cigarettes burning down to their fingertips – I’m hoping they’re back every week. Maybe they’ll let me break in for a game.

It’s a possibility.

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Posted on December 9th, 2008Comments RSS Feed
8 Responses to Café chess — très sexy
  1. You can be White. The first move is yours..

    Reply
  2. Oh she already has you at checkmate John!

    Reply
  3. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    December 11, 2008 at 6:05 am

    I’m so tired of the useless banter of these two a$$ clowns; it sooo tiring.

    Reply
  4. Susan M. Kinsella
    December 11, 2008 at 9:37 am

    You can come back, Mary Catherine. All is forgiven! We miss you…

    Reply
  5. “Being held hostage in a Blue State says:
    December 11th, 2008 – 6:05 am
    I’m so tired of the useless banter of these two a$$ clowns; it sooo tiring.”

    Then, be a good fellow and ignore us as we ignore you. :)

    Reply
  6. Being held hostage in a blue state
    December 11, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    A Dear John:

    Given your self importance please note that my comments were not addressed to you or that superannuated boy scout you frequently chit chat with like it’s the eve of your first high school dance. At the risk of hurting your feelings grow up and/or step up it’s your choice. Do me and possibly everyone else a favor and send MC2 an e-mail, ask her out and be done with it. She’s a woman and she’ll say yes or no.

    Your constant obsessive, passive aggressive remarks laced with lame sexual innuendos are in my opinion have at times been disrespectful. Do I have your freaking attention now ??

    In closing you should know I’m not mad, angry, bitter or upset, I just don’t suffer fools lightly…….take your own advise your choice and have a nice day.

    Reply
  7. As I’ve said before Blue State, “You should not drink and blog.”.

    Reply
  8. Being held hostage in a Blue State
    December 12, 2008 at 5:54 am

    Do you really want to do this??

    Reply

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