July 9, 2016
The Coffee Shop
Spoiler: There is no coffee shop at the end of this story. And I apologize for not using Latvian characters for the Latvian names. Forgive me.
As Susan, Glen and I were walking back to the flat on Friday night, we saw a coffee shop that was only a few blocks away. I thought that this would be a good way to start my day on Saturday. Bruno said he would come over for breakfast at 9 a.m. and then we would meet with Ansis at about 10.
I woke up every 2 hours on the hour. I forgot to mention that the summer days in Latvia are incredibly long. It gets light starting at about 4 a.m. and the sun doesn’t really completely set until after 11 p.m. It’s a bit trippy when you are sitting somewhere outside, you look at the clock and see that it’s 10:30 and it looks like it’s 8 p.m. in Nebraska. It’s also much cooler here which for me is a blessing, but dad keeps forgetting we’re in Latvia and wonders why it’s so cold in July.
Back to the coffee shop. When I woke up for the last time at 6 a.m., I showered, dressed and found dad sitting bolt upright on his bed dressed and ready to go somewhere. He had folded up all of his sheets carefully, and was ready to start his day. At home, he would normally read the paper and drink coffee. We had neither a paper nor coffee, so I wanted to make him feel more comfortable. I said, “Let’s walk down to see if we can find a paper and get some coffee.”
It took some coaxing and explaining but I finally got him to climb the four stories down to the street. “Do you have key?” he asked, worried we wouldn’t get back in. “Do you know code?” he asked, worried that I wouldn’t be able to get through the metal security gate. “How far is it?” he asked, worried about having to walk too far.
I told him it was only a couple of blocks and reminded him that he had walked much further the day before in the airports. He also had on his new Airwalk shoes that Chris had helped him purchase for the trip. What could stop him?
We started out down Elisabete Avenue toward the coffee shop… the name of which I cannot remember, nor can I find on a map of Riga, but I know it was there… somewhere near the World of Hat Museum.
Dad walks slowly and is uncertain of his steps. I told him on the walk how he used to walk so fast that I would have to run to keep up with him. He liked that story. But he still complained about how tired he was, and how he didn’t want to go far.
We got to the cafe, but it was closed. In fact, nothing we saw in Riga on Saturday morning was open. There was no traffic, and very few people were out and about. I am learning that Latvians like to sleep in on Saturdays, and absolutely nothing is open on Sunday.
Disappointed, we started our three block walk back to the apartment. This time, I decided to walk on the other side of the street. As we walked, I pointed out the many embassies that lined the avenue with colorful bricks and flags of various nations flying. Vitauts complained about the crumbling sidewalk, but we both agreed that Riga is much cleaner than Omaha or any place in America.
Dad told me that they send sweepers out to clean the streets and sidewalks every day. I don’t know if that’s true, but there is almost no litter at all. Not even cigarette butts.
We passed by this large chunk of concrete that caught my eye. There were words on a rock next to the concrete, and I stopped to ask dad to translate. It turns out that this was a memorial to the falling of the Berlin wall which was the first step toward Latvian Independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.
After a quick stop, we continued walking back. I saw a sign that announced Iggy Pop headlining a music festival, which, coincidentally, Ansis and his family are attending as representatives of their Latvian clothing shop, Sena Klets (Old Barn). The shop was founded by his mother Maruta and his wife Monta helps run the business.
We got back to the metal gate which guards the entrance to the apartment complex. I typed in the code (which is very close to the code for my garage in Omaha… strange) and the door opened. I walked through and held the door for dad, but I didn’t realize that he needed to step over the bottom of the grate to get through. He missed the step and crashed to the pavement. I thought our trip would be over right there. But, being Vitauts, he pushed himself up, examined his hand and elbow, which were bleeding, and cursed himself for being clumsy. Nothing was broken, and he didn’t even seem phased. He’s 88-years old. I think a normal person would have snapped something.
We slowly and gingerly made our way up the stairs and back to the apartment where Glen, being Glen, helped us wash the wounds and patch him up with band-aids, but not before getting blood on his shirt.
He changed into a nice yellow shirt, but promptly got blood all over that one too, so we went through the day with his sullied wardrobe as a badge of honor. I used to tell my kids when they got hurt that the wounds would turn into battle scars. Vitauts earned his Riga battle scar on this day, but we never did find coffee or a newspaper. Luckily, Bruno would come to our rescue!
To be continued…