Scenes from a Café in Athens The coffee machine at this café has been broken for the first hour of the day. A waitress in the place’s uniform of a vest with floral patterning and a tiger face on the back is explaining this nervously to new patrons in Greek. She is wringing her hands, and playing with her frizzy brown hair. The groggy patrons shrug it off and sit down. After all, it’s still nice here. Though I don’t know Greek, I got the same rundown on the situation in heavily-accented English mere moments ago. It’s ok, I have time to wait for the twenty minutes it is estimated repairing the machine will take. Guests smoke without exception while browsing the menu. Cigarettes, small cigars, or vapes. With no coffee to drink, it’s hard not to people watch. Especially given the prevalence of eccentric clothing in this city. One woman passes in a fuzzy zebra-striped ankle-length coat, and black hair pinned in a bob. Another in a fuzzy red coat, loudly patterned silk shirt with a gold cross, baggy white cargos, and heavy boots. Many people wear green slacks, or checkered pants with leather jackets. One girl wore all black and silver jewelry with zebra-striped slacks. Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another. An older couple sits two tables away after accepting the reality of the delay for coffee. The woman takes out two packages, one of red Winstons, the other a golden cardboard box. Her hands open it slowly. What could be in such regal packaging? Hand cream, it turns out. Heating coils glow orange inside black metal reflectors that chase away the February chill. The booths are upholstered with a print of tigers and cheetahs among jungle leaves and flowers. No less than five crystal chandeliers shine on the ceiling. The light fixtures are shaped like brass crowns, and stuffed parrots are perched on top of them, staring down into the center of the chandelier like into a watering hole. The chandeliers are set among a canopy of leaves and flowers that hang from brown rafters. Globes of stained glass with bulbs in the center offer colored light, too. The café doors are framed by the white columns of a building built in 1870. With caffeine delayed, we’re clearly onto booze. Clinking trays of brunch brunch cocktails float out amid the loungers, borne on the palms of the stressed waitress. Short, frosted glasses with berry purple, citrus orange, or a lemonade color are served here and there. Down the alley, a street artist is selling handmade jewelry against the backdrop of dark green corrugated sheets that are part of the construction work on the building next to the café. Though the sheets are temporary, street artists have painted them with psychedelic patterns. Incense on the wind. Behind me, a the white marble arches and blue ceiling with gold stars of an Orthodox church. The priest is out at the café, counseling someone in hushed tones at a table far away. What is the subject matter? It’s all in Greek, but they must be talking about how hard life is. What else would you talk to a priest about? Actually, I have seen a meeting of this kind in some public place, a café or bar at least once every day I have been out and about in Athens so far. Only once have I eavesdropped, because the conversation was in English. A woman was saying, ‘people are suffering so much everywhere, father.’ He lifted his hands. Even for a priest, it’s a lot to lay on one guy. Relief to those gathered, the unmistakable sound of coffee beans grinding. The machine is fixed, and a barista puffs on a giant vape and reads the stack of backorders for coffees. The handles of the machine click-clack as he works them at lightening speed. My own coffee freddo arrives, which is espresso on ice with a frothed top. A family of four dressed to the nines takes a corner booth outside. The daughter, in her mid 30s, wears a white top with exposed shoulders, and designer sunglasses hanging from a large gold chain. Her boyfriend sits opposite from her. Her thin mother sports a sailor-like white shirt with billowing sleeves and lacy collar, and similar shades. Her hair is buzzed on the sides, long on top, and one lock is dyed the color of red wine. The dad of the family has opted for jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. He jokingly snatches the daughter’s designer purse, a leather bag with gold studs. They are all laughing. Is his iPhone stored in there? Is it her turn to pay? Hard to tell. Past the mid-1800s buildings, white balconies and wooden shutters of a pink building open, the cliffs leading up to the Acropolis stand over the city. From this café, you can see the triangular roof and ancient columns through the haze of the day. Thin grids of scaffolding gird parts of the ancient ruins, keeping an icon, history, attraction, and identity of the city alive. People pass between the outdoor tables with shopping bags. Others pass with obvious signs of insanity. Two of them, both men in ripped sweaters and worn out jeans, wander through the tables singing loudly to themselves. They have no cup for coins, they aren’t buskers, just lost in their own music. At one table, a fat guy with tattoos of anchors and Greek characters and a large gold watch, lights cigarettes with matches. Potted plants in ceramic black monkey heads decorate every table. What are the jobs of all these people? Are they all on vacation on a random Tuesday? They are speaking Greek, mostly. So they must be locals. The jewelry maker has sold a necklace to a yoga-style lady with blonde hair, the backlog of coffee orders is cleared through much to the relief of the staff. Brain fog blows away like morning mist off a lake. Smoke rises from all cigarettes, and the day proceeds at its wandering, browsing pace.