Siesta at Sonoma

February 20, 2008 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

I stopped in at Sonoma on a cold early-Feb morning for a cup of coffee, saw that the place looked clean and calm, and mentally jotted it down for a second look. You see, I’ve given up on waiting for a table at Starbucks/B&N and am in the market for a new freelance office.

It’s a good time to go office hunting. School is out this week, so getting any work done requires an escape from the joyous chaos of my home. I hiked over to Sonoma, a pile of manuscript in my bag, ready to hit the book in a quiet atmosphere where my primal needs for coffee and the possibility of food are in place.

Sonoma is a franchise operation, as borne out by the mock-Starbucks decor. It’s easy to picture it as a stand-alone or in a mall on any U.S. shopping strip. It’s out of place on this particular stretch of Queens Blvd. (near the grimy Key Food by Union Turnpike), but that’s Forest Hills for you, in a nutshell. The coffee is fine, certainly a few notches above Greek-cup swill.

There I sat, staring my usual a.m.-onset of editor’s block straight in the eye and feeling at loose ends. I was hungry for something, but what? It couldn’t be the sample wraps or pasta in the display case, which looked lonely and unappetizing (the real ones are kept in perpetual care in a freezer in the back). Besides, I’d had a big breakfast, so no, it wasn’t food I was craving. I looked around, taking stock of what could be bothering me, and then it hit me: a pulse!

Think Duluth (not that I’ve ever been). Or Rocky Point, NY (I’ve been). The folks serving up Sonoma’s coffee were as quiet as the new Lexus. A few pairs of patrons who decided to stay and sit practically whispered to each other. Those on their mobile phones had their other hand up to blunt the noise. Even the blaring of horns and car alarms outside were snuffed out in deference to the silence.

It was a scene you’ll almost never see in New York city outside the galleries of the Met or Moma: fear of being heard or even just raising the decibel level above 10.

Too little was too much. Where was the oblivious, easily overheard banter of the baristas? The obnoxious discussions about the Democratic primaries among customers nursing a single drink for two hours? And what was with the music? At first it was straight muzak, the kind of icky stuff you hear in a dentist’s offices. Then it amped up to the worst of Light FM—Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray, Debbie Boone. Several cups of coffee, which normally lights up my life, were no match against this soporific lineup. To boot, the soundtrack’s 20 or so song-cycle kept repeating itself.

When it circled back for a third time to Nat and Natalie’s “Unforgettable,” which was unforgivable, I knew it was time to leave.

I’m not writing Sonoma off completely though. Hey, I’m over 40 so I’m familiar with the pluses and minuses that are inherent to any person, place, or situation. The biggest minus is cultural, as in, this place so ain’t Forest Hills. That racket I mentioned two paragraphs above is my white noise, the stuff my brain tunes out as part of its sharpening process since none of it involves me. But the plus is that silence can be golden, as in, I can make this place work if I bring an iPod and my own food. For sure I’ll get a table.

Sonoma Coffee Cafe
116-28 Queens Blvd
718-268-2216
718-268-2562 fax (delivery with 1/4-mile radius)

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Entry filed under: Forest Hills.

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