Kingdom Without a King

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First thing in the morning, I like to take a 3-block walk to the Grind Café and Gallery on Main Street at King Edward Avenue. Once I’m there, I like to sit near the window and watch Main Street before it’s fully woken up. There’s a little patch of sky I can see, right over Locus restaurant, and its color forecasts the day: blue or grey.

If I’m lucky, I get 15 quiet minutes to read and write and reflect and, sometimes, to cry. The Grind is a kind of chapel for me. It’s like a schule, a synagogue, because it’s a neighborhood, and it’s a microcosm, which means, literally, a little universe. And a lot of prayer happens there.

There’s the quiet man who comes every day with two parrots, one on each shoulder; the toddler who shrieks with delight at each passing truck; the Friday Or Shalom Men’s Torah study in the back; and the owners, Michelle and Jay, who make every customer feel welcomed and honored.

There is the older gentleman who used to sit outside with his very shy dog. When I didn’t see either of them for many months, I thought maybe the bad weather kept them home. Finally, one day the man came alone and I asked him, “How is your dog?” Tears exploded from his face, and all he could choke out was, “It was horrible.” And all I could say was, “You must really miss her.”

One day, we – that is, the Grind morning community — noticed a commotion across the street in front of Locus restaurant. It seemed to involve three dogs and four people. We figured out that one of the dogs had bitten one of the people. But before any of us could cross the street to help, a very dignified man with a very dignified golden retriever had appeared. They took charge of the situation. The man spoke with each of the people. The golden retriever spoke with each of the dogs. (I am not making this up.) Then the man and the golden retriever escorted the injured woman and her Chihuahua home. They appeared; they helped; they left, like messengers from a higher order.