Doyle Street Cafe

Stephen and I went out to breakfast last Sunday for the first time since March. The weather was gorgeous, and we decided to take a walk in Emeryville, where photo ops for me are often plentiful. I enjoy meandering among the streets of the residential areas, where restored vintage bungalows in spiffy bright colors share space with neglected structures that offer opportunities for me to discover beauty amidst the blight.

Wandering down Doyle Street to its end, where a brick building that once housed a pickle factory still stands, we came upon the Doyle Street Café, where outside diners, sheltered by bright-red umbrellas, sat six-feet apart, chatting and eating what looked like delicious meals. A table-for-two, at the very end and quite apart from the other diners, beckoned us, so we sat down. What a pleasure to be among a gathering of people, all relaxed and happy, after all these months of isolation. Even if they were all strangers, I felt connected to them. For the past eleven months we had all been struggling with the pandemic, all been deprived of parts of our life that we enjoyed and separated from some of the people we loved. No matter how different we were form one another, we now had a bond that ran deep. And right now, we were all out enjoying ourselves in the same place, at the same time.

Once our delicious food arrived, my attention turned to eating. Food prepared by somebody other than Steve or me was a luxury, and I was thoroughly enjoying the moment. About halfway through our meal, a group of people, each carrying at least five crisp fat shopping bags, began lining them up on a bench not far from where we sat. “What do you think is in those bags?” I asked Steve, who was watching the processional.

“Could be anything,” he answered, continuing to watch.

A moment later, a young man carrying several small fresh wooden box-like structures set them down on the bench and began unlocking the building door. As he turned to pick up the wooden boxes, I caught his eye. “What’s in those bags?” I queried.

He stopped and turned to me, his eyes crinkling. “The bags are filled with masks we make for the homeless, the at-risk and nursing homes. And these boxes,” he continued, pointing toward the bench, “are something I make to hold the elastic for the masks.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“We’re part of the Common Humanity Collective,” he answered.

The Common Humanity Collective, I repeated to myself. How perfect. On our first venture eating out, at the very moment I was experiencing my bond with all those dining around me, a group named just what I was feeling and experiencing had appeared. And none of this would have happened without Covid 19!

Emeryville Mailbox

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