Street Smart Chicago

The Life of the (Caffeinated) Mind: How to Spend All Your Spare Cash on Nothing But Books and Coffee in a Single Afternoon

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Seminary Coop/Photo: Tom Rossiter

Seminary Coop/Photo: Tom Rossiter

By Greg Baldino

1. Start at the Sip & Savor on the corner of 53rd and South Hyde Park. Order the Signature Caramel Royale, and then be amazed that they managed to fit some coffee in with all that caramel.

2. Take a leisurely stroll down to 55th Street, admiring the architecture as the caffeine slowly comes into effect, boosting the metabolic rate and increasing the levels of your neurotransmitters.

3. As the colors come to life in your eyes and the breeze comes in off the lake, reflect on that lovely line from Rimbaud “the winds have ruffled my assassin hair.”

4. Decide to cut your afternoon constitutional short and really get some things done in your life.

5. But first, stop at First Aid Comics at 1617 East 55th and pick up the new issue of “Hawkeye” by Matt Fraction and David Aja.

6. Start walking back to campus.

7. Realize that Arthur Rimbaud didn’t write that line about “assassin hair,” correct yourself that it was Georges Bataille.

8. Agree that clearly you are not alert enough to really get some things done with your life.

9. Visit Bonjour Cafe Bakery at 1550 East 55th for an enormous mug of Colombian coffee to drink while you read “Hawkeye.”

10. Get a strawberry and cream cheese croissant, too, because what the heck.

11. Wonder just how many times Clint Barton has been thrown through a window in this series.

12. Wonder if you should get another one of the croissants, for later.

13. Decide yes. That yes you should. And one of those almond things.

14. Tell yourself that: “You know, if you’re getting all this pastry to go, you may as well get another coffee with it.”

15.  Follow the Metra tracks down to 57th Street. Remember that someone told you that those were some of the oldest train lines in the city.

16. See that there’s Powell’s Bookstore, right at 1501 East 57th. Wonder if they have a book on the history of Chicago trains.

17. Decide that you’ll just check the internet when you get home.

18. Then think: “Well, it’s right here and all.”

19. After a couple of hours, come up to the counter with a sizable stack of remaindered UK editions, used philosophy texts, three cookbooks, two histories of Chicago, only one on trains, and an anthology of essays on bell hooks.

20. Justify it by reasoning that everything you brought up was not much more than five-to-seven dollars, so in the long run you SAVED money.

21. Don’t think about how that’s a lot of books.

22. Buy one of their tote bags. You can bring it back on the first of the month to get twenty-percent off on your purchase, so really it’ll pay for itself.

23.Take your cup of coffee and sack full of books west on 57th Street, determined to really get some things done with your life.

24. Begin to…”Hey, there’s the Medici, just past Kenwood!”

25. Think: “No, I already have coffee.”

26. Turn on…”Hey, there’s 57th Street Books!”

27. Temporarily conclude that you really shouldn’t buy more books.

28. But know that literary journals are another matter altogether.

29. Finish your coffee, then check your big bag of books at the front desk. Go pick up the new Paris Review and the latest Camera Obscura.

30. Look over the staff recommendations, just to see what kind of–

31. “Ooh, ‘Green Girl’ by Kate Zambreno!”

32. Seriously now, tell yourself you’re really going to get some things done with your life.

33. Determine that coffee would help with that–BACK TO THE MEDICI.

34. Halfway through your large iced chai, realize that you don’t actually own any bell hooks, and yet you have a whole collection of essays about her to read.

35. Head south on South Woodlawn to the corner at 58th and go into the Seminary Co-op’s new location, determined to buy just a single collection of hook’s essays and then really get some–

36. “Oh sweet god, they have an entire bookcase of Foucault.” This is exactly the kind of emergency your parent’s gave you that credit card for.

37. Ignore the reality that thanks to all that coffee the only thing you’re getting done with your life is staying up until 4am reading.

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