CHASING DOWN THE MUSE: A spring morning brings treats

Sunday morning in Laguna: It’s cool and foggy, more like June, but just pressing in on April.

Steve and I pick up his mom, Bessie, for breakfast at Anastasia. The food is always fresh and well prepared, and I like the intimate space of the café. Proprietor Ami constantly changes the artwork on his walls, and of course, there is the ever-present opportunity to drool over the clothes in his adjacent boutique.

While we wait for our order, I walk to the news stand on the corner of South Coast Highway. I’m eager to buy a New York Times. Last week, I waited too long, and the news seller was out of papers. The Sunday N.Y. Times is a special gift to myself, filled with a shifted world view and of course, the weekly “Modern Love” column.

As I walk down Ocean, I ponder the buildings — some delightful to the eye, others in need of a serious facelift. This part of town has always been a curious mix of residential spaces, dwarfed by office and retail.


I love that fact that Peter Blake has moved to Ocean Avenue. I was sad when Diane Nelson and her gallery had vacated the space and moved to Corona del Mar. While it was nice to have Ropage on the block, I’m sure they are more content back on Forest.

Peter’s Gallery adds a special flavor to the east end of Ocean. He’s got a killer show hanging — all the heavies we’ve come to respect and love — and I’m excited about viewing the work on First Thursday’s Art Walk.

I pass Zinc Café. It is full of happy faces. On weekends, the out-of-towners usually outnumber the locals, but I pick out a handful of known smiles in the crowd of outdoor diners.

My walk continues past the downed eucalyptus tree near the corner of Ocean and Beach. I’m hoping my last column on the over-abundance of the dreaded gum didn’t contribute to its demise, but I’m more hopeful that the city will replace it with a more logical choice of arbor.


On the bench near Wild Oats, a homeless man struggles to stay upright. He is sick and his vomit litters the sidewalk. My intellect struggles with my heart. I wish he had shelter. I wish I didn’t have to dance around his illness. I wish we had an answer for those with no place to live.

Past Wells Fargo, past Kathryn Story and her amazingly creative clothes, past the cleaners with its precious child’s dressing gown in the window, and on to the rug shop.

I have to remind myself that I like rugs, but I can’t help but wish that the city had lobbied for a more vibrant type of business on this corner near our window to the sea.

Finally, the newsstand — and my precious N.Y. Times is purchased and curled into my waiting arms. It will be savored back home, spread across my couch. It’s almost like a vacation in and of itself.

The walk back to Anastasia reminds me that a city is not so much the buildings and the shops as it is the people.

I watch the “younglings” and the grommets dragging boogie boards and beach paraphernalia toward the sand. I remember my own days of chasing up and down the sand, parents kind-of-sort-of looking after us. We were in our own world — one of beach breaks and castles. Laguna has always been close to heaven.

Twenty-to 30-somethings push down the block with their strollers, mop tops in cushioned seats. I listen to their jabber about the latest gossip on movie/rock star folks, and I can’t help but smile. We pass through our generational issues of importance. I think once upon a time. And then I think thankfully we get to keep growing up.

Silver-haired 60-somethings mix with newly colored 30-to 40-somethings at both cafes. I listen to their chatter about trees, views, clean water, real estate prices, stock portfolio demise and a financial system that seems out of control.


Back at Anastasia, my breakfast mysteriously appears. I savor “Eggs Laguna” and a frothy cappuccino and share stories with my mother-in-law.

I don’t have to solve any of the world’s problems today. Rather, I can celebrate the joy of living in such a lovely town. We are so very lucky.

CATHARINE COOPER can be reached at Her city blog can be read at muse/