Last fall in Oxford, I fell in love with cafe culture. I loved sinking into a comfy chair in the corner of a crowded shop. I loved listening to each one’s unique choice of background music. Most of all, I loved feeling surrounded by people as I wrote or read. These normally isolating activities felt more open, like I was reading and writing with a community even if it were a community of strangers.
When I moved back to Houston this summer, I decided to finally get back to exploring cafes here. It’s much harder since I can’t scope new ones out by strolling down the high street but I have learned to rely on Yelp, my weird (read: irreparably skewed) sense of direction, and recommendations from friends. One cafe I continued to hear about was Agora so this Saturday, after loafing about in my pajamas all morning, I decided to get dressed, stop being anti-social, and find it. It took longer to get there than I expected (again, my horrible sense of direction), but after long search for a parking space I found pure heaven.
Agora doesn’t look like a coffee house. It looks like a house decorated in an eclectic, vaguely artsy and mock-ancient style. Every sign is meant to evoke a sense of the Grecian Empire, and yet the walls are mostly covered with paintings of Hollywood stars from the 50s and 60s . . . It may not appear to fit any specific design, but it fit my tastes perfectly. Inside there were a plethora of comfy couches and small tables. Again, it looked more like a big family room than a place of business.
I wanted to order a coffee, but the heat drove me toward an iced tea with unlimited refills. othing original, but I suppose I’ll have to save that for the next trip. Their pastries also looked delectable, but again, not so appetizing right after lunch. I’m going to have to plan better for next week.
After taking a look around the building, I traipsed upstairs to find the perfect niche: an armchair and coffee table right next to a window. As I read Middlemarch, I could peek out and watch the people on the street mozy from antique store to thrift shop. I was more productive in that one spot than I had been at Brown College for an entire week. Sometimes I had to put in my earplugs and personal music to drown out loud conversation, but most of the time I enjoyed the hum of other patrons’ discussions.
One man’s music even led to an interesting conversation. When he sat down, the man next to me began playing music from his computer speakers. It seemed like a weird decision at first, but when stimulating, folksy music played, it didn’t end up bothering me at all. After a few minutes, he asked me if it were bothering me. I said no, asked about the music, and we launched into an interesting discussion about John Mayer’s new CD, the nature of art, the visual artist’s struggles compared to the writer’s struggles, and many other related topics. I loved sharing my writing dreams with someone and I enjoyed glancing over his current painting projects. I’m not usually the person to meet strangers in cafes, but I’m glad the atmosphere of Agora helped me meet someone new.
Overall, my first independent foray into Houston cafe culture has been a smashing success. I still miss the Oxford streets, but I think I will have many new spots in Texas after this summer.