Once I get within coffee distance of Henry's Gallery Cafe on Franklin and 17th Street in downtown Oakland, I know my day has begun.
Henry's is one of those many coffee and lunch shops serving food to workers streaming from a utility company located across the street, in addition to AC Transit, the bus company; not to mention Kaiser Hospital, and a myriad of lawyers, designers, architects, construction and postal workers going to offices tucked in along the diagonals.
In the morning, Henry always stands behind a glass countertop wherein lay the breakfast jewels of the hour: all manner of buttery pastry, danish, croissant, and muffin tempt office workers together with a steaming cup of coffee self-served from a row of coffee cannisters. Henry always knows what I'll get, which is a cup of coffee with some variety of bran muffin. So far I like carrot the best, crunchy with chunks of pineapple and carrot.
The place reminds me of storefronts I grew up with in New York City whose food often supplemented my non-existent lunch and dinner, always run by close-knit families who took pride in operating a clean place with decent food, and were sure to know the regulars.
"Did Zach come in already this morning?" inquires one guy of Henry.
"Yes," he says. "Already got his Diet Snapple." And they both laugh.
Both men know that Zach will never deviate from his morning diet, and take some comfort in that fact.
I am content in knowing that something about me, too, is predictable, and that Henry, a man with a ready smile and supple hands, understands what it is.