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So that cafe I have been talking about for the last two days (not just the 8:30 am cappuccino, November 14th, 2011 and finding fabulous friends, November 15th, 2011) happens to be called Leva Cappuccino Bar and it is in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. On their website (www.levabar.com ) they note that

Leva is an Italian-style cafe located on a quiet street in the Garneau district. It has been serving Edmonton-area patrons since 2001.”

They do not do themselves justice in this description. I will add that they make great coffee and serve delicious food made with locally produced products wherever possible. Although some will know that I am biased, they do have some of the friendliest and most welcoming staff in town. The description also does not tell you about the sense of community and friendship that I relayed to you in my last two posts.

hmmmm, so nice..

I have been a patron of Leva since 2001 and continue to be a patron even though I now live in another city. Anytime I go to Edmonton, a visit to Leva is always on the absolutely must-do list. I could write a book about the phenomenon that is my Leva experience therefore in my mind the subject deserves at least one more post (or maybe more).

I thought I would tell you a few Leva stories. I have often told these stories to people in my efforts to explain the essence of the place and why I love it so.

A bronze & a stove, a countertop and connections

Every time I glance at the stunning bronze sculpture of a woman that graces my home I think of the friendships that I developed at Leva. There does not appear to be a connection but actually there are many and memories of those connections come to mind through the sculpture. You see about five years ago, when I still lived in Edmonton, we had decided to move to a smaller house and we were in the process of renovating the classic Edmonton three-bedroom bungalow. This was prior to my much more recent fascination with moderation.

Of course my friends at Leva were in on the discussions about what to do where in renovating the house. Given the diverse backgrounds of the Leva crowd this was a good thing and very helpful overall but specifically in two areas.

A gas stove was on the wish list. My chef friend at Leva thought he might have a lead on one. One morning, at Leva of course, he called me over to meet someone. He introduced us and said that we might want to talk about stoves. It turned out this person had a commercial gas stove that he was replacing because of safety concerns with his small son and I wanted a gas stove. So off we went to his place to see this thing. It was a thing of beauty, six burners, very basic, the real thing. We loved it. I had learned that he was an artist so asked if we could see his work. One thing led to another and now I think of him every time I see his bronze sculpture or the gas stove for that matter.

water and wine and beauty

Somewhere in my travels I got this idea that a concrete countertop with stuff in it would be a good idea and seeing the counter and floor in a cafe in Rome firmed up that idea. Although hesitant to stray away from the expected granite I was still keen on the idea. As luck would have it one day over a cappuccino I shared the dream with a Leva friend who reinforced my thinking that this was a good idea and better yet he knew someone who might be able to help this dream become reality. To make a long story short I did meet up with his friend and after some discussion back and forth we proceeded to work with him to make a concrete and recycled glass countertop for our kitchen. There is more. The glass was from a friend’s stained glass workshop and wine and other bottles that we had collected from dinners with friends. When I see the pale blue bit of glass in the countertop I remember the vodka martinis made for me by my friend at a Christmas party at his house.

A place to stay

Per usual when it comes to house renovations, our house was not finished when we had to move out of the other one so what to do? We decided to stay in a hotel for a few days to allow the workers to finish up. This was not enough time. Other options were required and this is where our special friendships that had developed at Leva came to the fore. Unbeknownst to us as we were making arrangements to stay at an apartment, two of the people we shared conversation and coffee with were busy on an idea. The next day they told us their plan, we could stay at their house as long as we needed to. They had made room in the basement and we could come and go as we pleased. Very accommodating, we were impressed. We thanked them and told them that we had in fact found another solution. They gave us their phone number in case we changed our minds. We really appreciated the offer.

Later that week my husband called them to see if they could join us for dinner at our temporary home. His call and his announcement of his full name was greeted with silence at the other end and after a bit more prompting on his part there was a “oh ya” and the invitation went forward. When they arrived for dinner they explained the silence admitting that they were initially confused because they did not recognize my husband’s name. It was at this point that we realized that we had not yet exchanged last names. They were comfortable enough to have us live in their basement and we were comfortable enough to do so without knowing each other’s last names. The realization that we did not know the full names of most of our friends at Leva was amusing but also very telling.

Such a beautiful dancer and the next generation

Multi-generational interactions in our culture generally occur within families. The structure of society does not foster much cross over between age groups especially between adults and children.  There is so much to be gained in these interactions. This is another aspect I loved about the Leva experience.

During my time drinking coffee, visiting and making my connections stronger I was privileged to get to know a young lady so wise beyond her years and yet so beautifully innocent. It was a delight to talk with her and watch her grow. A chance to watch her dance concert is a memory that remains.

Being part of the journey through a friend’s pregnancy and the birth of her son extended the family. It was so much fun to witness all the Leva friends, instant adopted aunts and uncles, fussing over this babe. The next generation for the cafe.

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These stories are only examples of the essential nature of Leva and by themselves may not adequately portray the true sense of community that the place has been for me. The quintessence is however evident in the fact that for several years of my life it was my home away from home. I knew I could go there and feel welcomed and loved and if I ever forgot that I was loved I only needed to walk in the door.  This was a place I could count on for those things that are so important for us humans: a sense of belonging, being valued, being in relationship with others, being part of a community, engaging in conversation and laughter, and feeling the support and the love of friends.

For me it is the touchstone for what we can achieve in our connections with others and for what community can look and feel like.

Irene McDermott © 2011

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Postscript: The bronze I wrote about is the work of Richard Tosczak and I have provided a link to his site: www.richardtosczak.com

You may also be interested in a show that he will be featured in the information as follows:

Scott Gallery (10411-124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5N 3Z5 Phone 780 489 3619)

Celebrating 25 years of Canadian Art, November 26-December 23, 2011

 

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