Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

IT’S MORNING in Montclair. Sleepy-eyed people start to congregate — looking for coffee and a little conversation. The line grows at Starbucks, where the really “hip” people have only to enter and their drink is being made. And each time they open the door, they let escape that wonderfully warm, nutty aroma of fresh-brewed coffee.

Just a few doors down is the Montclair Donut shop, where the Gaelic guys sit and read at the table in the back. Friends laugh, and call them the Irish prayer group. Rain or shine, they start their morning at the round table.

The cyclists and dog lovers hang out at Royal Ground. These are their spots, and the benches outside are well worn. I glance across the way and see a local celebrity of sorts, George Zimmer of Men’s Wearhouse fame. He’s warming his hands with a steaming cup of java and chatting with another man in front of Peet’s. His shirt is crisp and fresh — not a wrinkle in it. He almost looks too good for this time of morning, but you can’t fault a man for impeccable taste.

A man with a different kind of fashion sense catches my eye. Rocky Becker is opening the old Montclair Barber Shop. “Have you got a customer already?” I ask him, a little surprised at his early business hours. “I open when I like,” he tells me, and that makes sense. Rocky is a rebel of sorts, with his dark leather jacket, silver-black hair and belt buckle sporting the confederate flag. He’s Al Davis’ barber, and he fits the Raider’s image — strong and self assured.

I stop for a moment to pet a blond dog. He’s sprawled across the sidewalk like he owns it. His “master” is somewhere, having a cup of coffee, no doubt. It’s all part of the scene in Montclair in the morning. That time between sunrise and 9 a.m., when folks have a little more time to linger. The sounds, the smells, the gentle way we ease into our day — this is the Village at its best.

Cyber book club

With the high cost of book these days, here’s an idea that lets you try … before you buy. It’s the Oakland Library’s online book club.

Just log on to http://www.oaklandlibrary.org and pick your favorite category of books, including mysteries, fiction and non-fiction, romance novels and even spiritual selections. Type in your e-mail address, and you’ll start getting a 5-minute portion of the “book of the week” by e-mail, each Monday through Friday.

If the book is a bore, just delete it. If you can’t get enough, you can buy it or get on a list at the library. What a great idea!

E-mail bag

On the subject of recent cuts in bus service in the hills, reader Don Mackey writes: “I thought that it might be helpful for you to know that we have an empty bus going up and down Snake Road in Montclair.”

He says that if the route were monitored, it might make sense for the bus service to be reallocated from Snake to an area with heavier ridership. Like most of us, Mackey says he hates to see empty buses driving around town polluting the air.

More e-mail

Oakland’s proposed legislation to limit the number and kind of pets you can have is still causing a stir. Reader Liz Taylor says part of the charm of living in the hills would be lost if restrictions were too severe.

“When we first moved to our home,” she says, “our property was flanked by a scientist specializing in berries and heirloom fruit who used guinea fowl for pest control.”

“On the other side,” she adds, “(there was) a great family with four kids, five dogs, a horse, reptiles and a number of peafowl.”

Taylor says everything from dogs to rabbits and sheep have co-existed in her neighborhood for years and she’d hate to lose that.

Indecent exposure

Making eye contact with a stranger can get you more than an eyeful these days. Just ask reader Jean M. who reports seeing more than she wanted of a motorist on Thornhill Drive. Apparently, the guy drove past her once in a state of confusion, then past her again in a state of undress. Jean reported the incident to police but never heard if they got their hands on the flasher.


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