Novella: Installment #1: Begin the Beguine

Josephine awoke slowly to the soft colors of dawn displayed like a watercolor framed behind sheer lace. Sweet exhaustion had claimed her after months of work, seeing to each little detail – until everything was as close to perfect as her technicolor mind had always imagined. As a result of years of dreaming, building, writing, creating…Josey found herself appreciating the reality of the life visualized. Nothing like a new tube of red lipstick, a beautiful piece of fabric, and a vase stuffed with an explosion of color. But for right now, that first pot of espresso needed to be brewed…scones baked off and iced, café tables and chairs pulled out into the patio, and large pots overflowing with vines, flowers and fragrant herbs watered. Today was a special day. It was the day before the official opening. Although the early morning was her time to write, on this particular morning Josephine had to set all creative thoughts aside – to accomplish what was right in front of her. Today she was throwing a dinner party for a variety of friends to celebrate the upcoming grand opening. So much to do. For tomorrow was the first day she invited the world into Café Josey.

Josey liked this time of the morning, when everything was new. The small drops of dew on the petals of pale, yellow English roses…the first sounds of small birds singing…they all greeted her as she parted the lace to assess the day. When Josephine pictured this day…it was through a haze. All of the places she had traveled, rich with conversations and memorable experiences built upon each other, giving her an abundance of insight for her novels.. Embracing loved ones, dreams, desires…and wrapping moments around them…living a life lush and meaningful. Café Josey wasn’t just a realization of a dream, it was a outpouring of her life’s passions. A celebration of the creative. A gathering place for the simple things in life.  Josey’s dream was no longer seen through a haze. It was something she could feel, touch…live. Her passion for life had been restored.

Cafe Josey was in the perfect spot. Central to everything Josey needed, close to her family and friends. Just hanging out, patiently waiting for her to come along at just the right time and give it the proverbial breath of life. An empty historical building, long ago forgotten. Covered in the faded glory of another time scattered in the detail of the architecture, peeling wallpaper, vintage fixtures and plaster walls. Remnants of a time past. Two levels plus, the blessing of a functional rooftop, perfect for a patio and pottage garden. So, Josey set out to create the Café on the ground floor, a home and office on the second, and a personal space up on the roof, all connected by a 100-year-old warehouse service elevator in dire need of restoration. Thank goodness she had access to a functional staircase during the renovation. There had been so much to do. The past year had been two years of purchase, architect, repair, restore, renovate and then, here she was. Ready.

All of the original brick was cleaned and left exposed. Columns were restored to their former glory. The dining areas were covered in reclaimed 19 c. French tiles. Original wood floors refinished. Layer upon layer of paint stripped away from window frames, trim, ceilings, and replaced with a crisp white. Smooth plaster walls received a pale, soft blue treatment…like that of walls of The Hemingway House in Key West, Florida, eventually filling them with pictures of all those she loved, the places she had traveled, and with pictures of the Virgin Mary holding her Son. Vintage meets Retro meets anything she wanted. Colors, fabrics, grains, tiles and textures to enhance and not compete. An eclectic mix of bistro tables with iron chairs, Parisian art deco antiques, and all of the pieces of furniture she had been collecting over the years – waited for someone to wander in from down the street.

Josey had sent out hand written invitations to all those she admired –cherished friends, loved ones and acquaintances on the brink. Some were strangers in reality but their creative and unique spirits had been inspirations to her goals. Some were dedicated to helping others, selfless and altruistic, reminding Josey how she had been truly blessed. While others bordered on the eccentric, selfish and artistic.

”Please join me, and be my guest. Bring your smile, your mind, and your favorite bottle of wine. Bring me the collaborative spirit. Be prepared to share your creative…to be an inspiration. Let me prepare you a meal…made with great love, respect and care. It would be my honor to have you in my humble Café…Josey.”

Josey slipped on her red, sling back pumps and a pale blue cotton dress. Although this dress was a throwback to another time, it seemed perfect for a day of details and understated elegance…a little something she had picked up in a vintage resale shop. Josey gave her grandmother’s cherry pin a small kiss then pinned it on. Gathering her thick brunette hair with a vintage scarf at the nap of the neck, Josey stopped to pin some strays out of her face. She treasured this scarf. It was her “Paris” scarf – one that she had acquired from a small shop on the Left Bank. Josey had chosen it for the colors…pale blue, red, chocolate, and white. And, she had sprinkled these colors throughout her cafe.

A quick dusting of powder and a pass of mascara were all topped off with her signature red lips. Starting down the stairs from her loft, Josey felt the all too familiar butterfly flitting around in her stomach…taking it’s time to circle around slow and with apparent laziness.

“It’s alright…roll around in there all you want…it’s your day too,” she whispered as she landed on the bottom stair.

Josephine knew that something wonderful was about to happen. It just always seemed to work out when she was moving in the right direction, moving with her heart, faith and spirit. This realization gave Josephine the momentum she needed – to Begin the Beguine. It was Cole Porter’s haunting melody that drifted off her lips as she stared the day.

Josephine’s Morning Espresso

Fill a 6 shot Bialetti stovetop pot – with ice cold, filtered water – up to the little line in the bottom segment of the pot. Insert the metal filter, and fill with 2 tablespoons of finely ground Espresso – Dark Roast for Espresso Machines. Pack down the espresso, and screw the top part of the pot into place, Set on the smallest of your gas burners, and bring the flame up to just cover the bottom of the pot. Josey’s is a Gas Mark 6. Then, set a timer for 7 minutes. At 7 minutes, lift the top…as it should just be starting to percolate up into the top of the pot. Our Josey likes to watch it from this point on, turning off the gas flame as the liquid stops percolating out.

Now here is where it gets personal…in other words…how you like it. Josey likes to throw an inch of fresh vanilla bean into the finished espresso…letting it steep for about 2 minutes. Then, pour into a demitasse cup and enjoy. She also likes to heat some whole milk, or a splash of cream – and add 2-3 espresso shots and brown sugar. It really depends on the mood of the day.

But the main thing is…there is nothing like the smell of fresh espresso as it is brewing…drifting into your world. It wakes up the senses. Enjoy!

Begin the Beguine…Cole Porter

When they begin the beguine,

It brings back the sound of music so tender,

It brings back the night of tropical splendour,

It brings back a memory evergreen!

I’m with you once more under the stars,

And down by the shore an orchestra’s playin’

Even the palms seems to be swayin’

When they begin the beguine!

To live it again is past all endeavour,

Except when that tune clutches my heart,

And there we are swearin’ to love forever,

And promising never, never to part!

What moments divine, what raptures serene,

‘Till clouds came along to disperse

the joys we had tasted . . .

Now, when I hear people curse

the chance that was wasted,

I know but too well what they mean!

So, don’t let them begin the beguine,

Let the love that was once a fire remain an ember . . .

Let it sleep like the dead desire I only remember,

When they begin the beguine!

Oh yes, let them begin the beguine, make them play!

‘Till the stars that were there before return above you,

‘Till you whisper to me once more, “Darling, I love you!”

And we suddenly know, what heaven we’re in,

When they begin the beguine!

When they begin . . . the beguine!