Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kids in cars getting coffee

Alec Baldwin & Jerry Seinfeld get coffee

Years ago, on our way to daycare, I spontaneously decided to give my daughter, G, the day off. We went, instead, to Café Eclectic where we spent the morning sipping coffee and chugging chocolate milk while picking at various flavors of doughnuts. I sat on a sofa and G walked around, talked and sat on the floor. It's a morning she talks about to this day and it's a memory we both cherish.

For that one lovely time, there have been another dozen that I've taken these four misanthropes to a coffee shop and it's ended in arguments, pouting, spilled beverages, uneaten food and complaints. And those times are the basis for today's Because I Said So column.

Of course there have been good times, but what's so funny about that? It's tragedy-plus-time that makes comedy. Granted, there hasn't been all that much time since our last coffee shop visit, but I needed a column and this was it.

I'm a big fan of the "Seinfeld" series, still watching episodes to this day when I come across a rerun. Likewise, I could watch "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David's HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" again and again. "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" is Jerry Seinfeld's latest venture and the title explains it all. It's just begun its second season and is mostly found only on the internet (it's also on a channel called Crackle which I found on my Roku.)

While watching the first episode of the new season with guest Sarah Silverman the other night, it struck me how very different the show would be if, instead of a famous comedian, Jerry Seinfeld had four kids in car seats with him. It would either be hilarious or very, very uncomfortable.

I've experienced both and today's column is a little slice of that.

Children stir jolt of reality into midlife café dreams 
I’m a fan of the show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” It boasts an elegant look and simple premise: Jerry Seinfeld and another comedian drive around in a nice car and then go for coffee. They talk, they share, they laugh; simple and funny. 
What’s not so simple and funny? Kids in cars getting coffee. Though it sounds entertaining, children all hopped up on espressos and cappuccinos is more irritating than amusing. They run in circles, talk incessantly and eventually drop to the floor and quiver. People turn from their laptops to stare disapprovingly at such behavior. 
The problem is that I love coffee shops. I love the café culture of sitting idly, reading and sipping a drink I didn’t make. I’ve spent loads of time at Otherlands, Bluff City Coffee, Poplar Perk’n, Republic Coffee and Café Eclectic. I have penned this very column over their brews. 
And, to their credit, they’re all extremely kid- and family-friendly. So maybe it’s I who am not. I’ve found over the years that when you add a 2-, 3- or 6-year-old to the mix, what you get is a powerful concoction of caffeine, frothy milk and sugar spilled all over your book and the floor. 
It’s not just sitting at a café table, either. The short ride there has become a time of disagreements and petty arguments. Being strapped in with seatbelts is not enough to keep them from picking at each other. 
I’ve never seen Jerry Seinfeld with coffee on his pants. I’ve never seen him with any kids at all, come to think of it. He has three children of his own, but as the second season of his Web-only show begins, we’ve yet to see them. Neither does he drive a minivan with a busted side door and 100,000 miles on it, opting, instead, to chauffeur friends like Larry David and Alec Baldwin around in a 1970 Mercedes-Benz SL or a 1969 Jaguar E Type Series 2. You can’t even fit a car seat in those, which may be the point now that I think about it. 
My life is not sitcom fodder; it’s real. In this reality I find myself attempting, more and more, to sneak out of the house alone. What does it say about me that my midlife crisis manifests itself in wanting a peaceful hour in a local coffee shop? There are no
dreams of a motorcycle or skydiving. My heart didn’t even leap at the sight of that sleek silver Jaguar rolling through Manhattan. What did Jerry Seinfeld long for during his crisis? He wanted to go get coffee with a friend. Maybe we’re not so different. 
Don’t get me wrong: My kids have spent their fair share of time at Café Eclectic and Otherlands, but such outings aren’t as funny to me as they once were. We’ve turned a corner in my kids’ entertainment value, and there was an inviting coffee shop on that corner. They have reached the age of awareness, and they are aware now of white chocolate syrup, packets of raw sugar and doughnuts available all day. 
You blend in that amount of sugar and caffeine with the normal, everyday insubordination and chatter I contend with, and not even Jerry Seinfeld could find the punch line.