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Sketching on a Stormy Night at Au Coquelet

Au Coquelet, Ink & watercolor
Au Coquelet, Ink & watercolor

It was a dark and stormy night when Cathy and I met at Au Coquelet Cafe to sketch while listening to people debate the existence of reality and/or study English in Chinese.

I started by sketching the guy in the middle with black hair and just kept on going, seeing more and more stuff to draw. At one point he walked by our table, saw what we were doing, pulled out his cellphone and took photos of our sketches of him. That was a first! But it seemed a fair trade.

A group of four (perhaps retired professors from the university) seemed to have gathered for the sole purpose of defining reality, or proving it’s existence, or both, punctuated regularly by “huh?” “what did you say?” as one of the gents was hard of hearing (but not hard of “talking” as he blathered on and on).  On our other side were Chinese college students studying English, but mostly in Chinese, with the occasional English phrase thrown in such as “I am a pretty girl” and “I am eating an apple” (which she wasn’t).

Au Coquelet is a perfect place to sketch.  It’s large, open very late, has a couple of rooms,  and counter service only so you don’t have to worry about waiters.  There’s lots of wood, bricks, brick-a-brack and plants, design left over from the hippie days.

I have fond memories of sketching there on another stormy night, New Year’s Eve 1997, when I was supposed to be in Yosemite National Park but had canceled the trip due to rain. And it was good I didn’t go: the next day Yosemite had the worst flooding in 100 years, with roads and bridges so damaged that people were stranded there for weeks without sanitary facilities or food.

So with no plans for the evening, I headed up to the café to draw people who did have plans, partygoers coming in before and after their parties. After a while, a tall, handsome artist sketching at another table came over and joined me. We sketched together and talked, and ended up dating for a few months until I decided that the tales he told were too good to be true.