we were in madison and we really could have gone anywhere to linger, have a glass of wine and a meal. my sister had sent me a birthday gift, with instructions that we celebrate with it, so we were on a quest to find the right place. it was a crowded friday early evening and just getting around the streets was nuts. we looked at each other blankly, unable to find a place to park and walk the downtown area to scour for THE place to celebrate. and then i turned the car east.
we drove onto the main street of the little town of fort atkinson and turned onto water street. there sits cafe carpe, a small been-there-since-1985 cafe, bar and music venue, run by two “fairly sentient centenarians” (as it states on their website). we walked in and were two in a total of five. it was early though so we had our choice of seating. we love to sit at the bar, especially if we are in a place where we can gaze out and see most of what is going on, people-watching and enjoying the camaraderie of a place. we found two spots at the bar, on a small stage-like pedestal, and got comfortable. two glasses of wine were delivered; lingering started. and all was perfect.
cafe carpe started to fill up. the door, with the bell on it alerting you to its opening, a sound you associate with shows like mayberry rfd, opened time and again and customers came in, greeted as they did so, clearly locals on their friday pilgrimage. it was a step into the past, and just exactly what we needed. we settled in for the next few hours in a place that felt like a second skin.
somewhere along the way, i noticed i was sitting in front of a spot on the bar with a brass plate that read “just bob” and next to my spot – to my left – was a plate that read “just leslie”. we asked our sweet bartender about this and she told us that the couple that is there every.single.friday.night.for.years. had purchased and installed these plates, marking their territory. we worried that we needed to move and asked her to give us the high sign when they arrived; we would not tread on their designated spots. she laughed and agreed to let us know.
leslie and bob didn’t show up while we were there, so we sat in their spots, keeping them warm for them. i’m sure i can imagine them walking in though. the door opens, the bell jangles against it and they stride in slowly. everyone turns and calls out hello to them and they take their seats at the bar, ordering maybe a standard wisconsin old-fashioned sweet. just leslie. just bob. how good is that?
our celebration? it was just.perfect.