The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: Beechwood

October 17, 2009


Beechwood Restaurants in Venice, CA is located on the corner of Abott Kinney and Washington Blvd. It's oddly, yet brilliantly located. Across the street is a gas station and a Jewish community center. There's not another trendy bar/restaurant venue nearby, which may be the secret of Beechwood's success.

Maybe it's because of its elegantly simple decor - wood panels, lounge seats in solid, warm colors, and the candles on every table. Or maybe it's because of that fire pit in the patio, with its hypnotic flickering flames. But there's something really magical about Beechwood. I've only been to the lounge and patio (i.e. bar) portion. But every time I've been there, I've had a very distinct memory.

The first time I went to Beechwood, I was with co-workers from the office. I was an LA newbie then, wide-eyed and fascinated. To me, the place felt like what I'd always imagined the LA bar scene to be -- a mix of stylishly dressed women and men who were carefully constructed to be grungy. And by "carefully constructed" I mean their clothes looked like they belonged in a thrift store, but were from designers I'd never heard of and would probably never know. And of course, everyone was highly attractive.

I was under-dressed, but strangely self-assured. I talked all night with a co-worker about my move from Chicago to LA. I was still with The Ex, Chicago Edition, then. I told my co-worker about how hard it was to make the decision to move to LA since I'd had a lot of hope for a future with this man. I told her with much surety that the distance would simply be a proving ground for the strength of our relationship. I trembled slightly -- the LA evening breeze was surprisingly cool. Or maybe I was trembling because I didn't know if the relationship could indeed survive this proving ground.

Two years later and much less self-assured, I found myself newly single and at Beechwood with a group of girl friends. We were sitting in the patio, by the fire pit. It was almost summer. Cocktails and sweet potato fries fueled our conversations about our desires and struggles with God, dating, and men. There was a woman celebrating her thirtieth birthday with her boyfriend and a group of friends. Her boyfriend stroked her arm with the back of his hand. He looked at her with pleasure. I felt a tremble go down my spine. Months before I'd had a thirty-something birthday, surrounded by friends who loved me, a man who touched me with that much care and looked at me with that much delight. Months after, this delight had turned into struggle, withdrawal and eventually, nothing at all. That night at Beechwood, I thought, but never uttered this fear -- could man's delight ever grow into love, or would I always be left to wander on the edges of longing?

In the Fall, I found myself at Beechwood once more. This time with a man who I never expected would want to be out with me. But strangely, he'd asked, and was now smiling at me with meaning I could not decipher. I smiled back with equal subtext. He was everything that was lovely, tempting and dangerous. And he was just what I wanted. I felt fear and trembling of a much different kind.

And then, he surprised me by opening his heart. And I surprised myself by opening mine. The evening took a turn I was not prepared for. We were two people, sharing our pasts -- the joys and hurts that brought us here, to a corner table at Beechwood, sharing a couple of drinks. We stayed for hours talking, past last call, until they started playing "Closing Time" a little too loud and turning on the florescent lights.

In the end, as we walked out of Beechwood, I would choose. I would choose not to be self-serving. Choose to look at this man not as conquest but as a person - gentle, good and vulnerable. Choose to let this man go. He would rumble off into the night as dark and as mysterious as the reason he ever asked me out.

And then I would continue to choose. Choose to believe that there is much hope for my future. Choose to believe that one day, there will be Someone for me. Someone who doesn't incite longing mingled with fear. Someone whose delight will grow into love. Someone who will not only make my body tremble, but also my soul.

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