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June 17, 2010

Where is Paradiso?

"You have to try Caffe Paradiso," I told my mom, aunt and Mr. A in Boston's North End, where we for a stroll the afternoon after Commencement. "They used to have a location in Cambridge, too, but that closed a few years ago. Tragic."

I owe my caffeine addiction to my mom. For years, when I was growing up, coffee was our Sunday morning ritual, until the pediatrician told her to stick to milk at least until my first tooth came in. More recently, we picked it up again, until I moved in with Mr. A.

These days we steal away after work or during lunch breaks, trading updates about our mornings between comments about the current coffee experience. Like: "I think the barista has a crush on you, mom," followed by her scoffing giggle: denial.

So of course when I mentioned this place she perked up and exclaimed, "I think you told me about it!"

"Yes, that's the one! With the perfectly foamed cappuccinos and soccer matches. If we hang a left it should be right here... here... maybe just half a block down... wait, where is it!?"

Had the second location also shut down, which would be real loss for the cultural and culinary landscape of Boston and one more twisted tribute to this crushing recession, or was I just not remembering things right? I could see its corner location. Plenty of windows, the stack of cannoli in the glass case which I always passed over for the imported delicacies. Berry torte. Tiramisu.

This was my first Friday as a non-student, and as the dust settled I began to realize something rather unsettling: Facts were slipping away. Back on campus, I knew exactly which building had the bathroom on the ground floor when my family needed to make a pitstop, but when I started telling them what room I'd taught in, I stopped cold. I glanced at a few of the empty rooms and they all looked so... identical.

Then there were Cambridge's side streets, which I used to navigated on car, bike and foot under snow and sunshine. Now when I needed to get back to campus, I made more wrong turns than Lindsay Lohan on the way to sobriety.

After leaving Boston in 2008, I'd been back just twice. I was traipsing around like a tourguide, but could I really call this town my own?

I ducked into another cafe and anxiously asked the men at the counter -- men who looked like the owned not just the cafe but the neighborhood -- where I could find Paradiso.

It was two doors down. We'd walked right past it. We all down, inhaled the coffee steam and smiled.

Lost, now found.

Here are a few of the pictures Mr. A snapped that day.

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