Monday, April 9, 2012

Cafe Gratitude

After hearing about Cafe Gratitude from two different strangers this past month, I just had to check it out.  It was the second recommendation that really got me, because he told me that the dishes on the menu were named with affirmations, of sorts.  Each item was called something along the lines of "I am Blessed", or what have you.  Now, that really piqued my interest, because a unique concept like that must have some serious thought behind it.  

However, it could really go either way.  That sort of concept could also turn into a pretentious type of place, in it's own right, if they took themselves too seriously.  Or it could be well-executed and down to earth.  

I asked Bethany if she'd go with me and, once I explained it to her, she was just like, no way.

Needless to say, it took me a while to pull Bethany's arm enough to convince her to go just to see.  I mean, the total pragmatist, going to a place that poses itself as such an emotional place!  Yeah,  that took some convincing.  But I got her once we looked at all of the Yelp reviews.  Basically, no matter what else they had to say, every review had a very high recommendation of the food.  Especially the BLT made with coconut bacon (huh?).  Sold. 

Also, I think Bethany was especially curious to see if they could keep it real when it all came down to business.  Like, I might lavishly express my feelings to the waiter in ordering my dish and she'd just say, "ditto".  Would she get a dirty look?  So, she finally signed up, for curiosity's sake, and we got Jessica on board too, because, well, Jessica will try just about anything in the interest of fun or experience.

So off to the restaurant we went, with high hopes for something, however it panned out.  We had our expectations.  I mean, I guess we pictured it feeling rather hippie-ish (yes!) and were actually anticipating the weird affirmations, even.  Like, I think, at that point, we really wanted it to be what we thought it was supposed to be.  A bizarre and sensitive dining experience.

I wanted it to be good, I really did.  I thought we might encounter some interesting people, too, like someone wearing swami pants and maybe a turban, or at least some guys rocking beads and birkenstocks.  And I was hoping it would be a space that felt cared for and run by elevated people who really wanted to make people think and be grateful and feel blessed.  

Alas, it was not.  We walked into the place, and it just felt like any other trendy restaurant where the waitpeople are probably aspiring actors and think they're too good for their jobs, which I'm sure they are, but, I mean, it's a job.  Do it?  And the crowd was stuffy and it didn't feel like a room full of gratitude at all.  And I pictured us sitting on the floor or something and it was just normal tables and normal staff and a normal space.  

We ordered our food with little to no fanfare.  And they served it to us in the same manner.  I got the I am Extraordinary, which I tried to order dramatically, to no reaction.   We kept trying to instill some depth into it, but everything kept falling flat.  I mean, when the server set down our plates, he was just like, "I've got a you are extraordinary, you are rich, and a you are trusting, enjoy your meal."  No connection, no looking into the eyes and really meaning it.  And the food.  I ordered the much praised BLT.  Um, I didn't get why so many people loved it.  It was a coconut sandwich.  Which was not making any sense to my palette, so I stopped trying to understand it after a couple of bites.  And I tried Jessica's veggie burger and it was kind of gross.  Well, gross enough that she didn't eat it.  Bethany got the tamales, and we all gave up on our meals and shared hers.  The tamales were fine.  

It wasn't a bad experience, exactly.  I learned some things.  Like, I learned that I don't like coconut sandwiches and that a lot of Yelpers do.  And that, when in doubt, get the tamales.  Apparently, you can't really go wrong with tamales.  And I learned, too, that my friends are real troopers.  Joining me on any adventure, no matter how it turns out, and enjoying it just the same.   

So, it's hard to say whether it was a good experience or bad.  Because, like I said to my friends at the end of it all, it wasn't a waste of time, it was just a waste of money.  I got to be with my friends having the strangest meal ever.  And really disliking it, but bonding over it too.  So it was at once quality time, but a horrible time.  

Which is funny, because my AT&T friend stopped by the other night for a quick catch-up on life.  And it was right on par with my sentiments, because he told me he'd just gone to Disneyland and said that is was the worst experience.  They just waited in lines and he was angry inside about the whole situation.

And that got me thinking of the last time I went to Disneyland with my best soul-mate of a friend Brooke, back when we were having our quarter life crises.  We thought it would bring some happiness into our lives.  Because, hey, it's the happiest place on the planet.  And it was a total flop.  Yes, the lines, for one, and, also, it's just not that great after you've gone there starry eyed a hundred times as a child, as we both had.  And, well, I don't know why we were thinking that Disneyland could solve the woes of being in our mid-twenties, anyway.

But, still, it was a great time explicitly because it was the flop that it was.  And we remember it and refer to that funny outing to this very day.  Because we relished in the flop of it.  I mean, we have so many ridiculous memories because of that desperate attempt to bring happiness into our lives!  Just the whole goofy experience (pun not intended, but heck, I'm taking credit for it anyway).  It did bring us joy.  We laughed at it all while we were there, and we laugh about it to this day.  Especially about when we were on the tram and at every stop the loudspeaker said, "When exiting, please lower your head", and we added aloud, "and walk away in shame".  We use that line even still, and sort of all the time, actually.   

So, it's like, it's not the place, and it's not what's happening.  It's who you're with, or how you take it.  

I was telling AT&T about that theory, or philosophy, or whatever.  I mean, that you could do anything, and it could be the worst or the best,  and the whole experience depends on how you handle it.  You can make so much good of the bad simply by allowing it to be just what it is and reveling in for that. 

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