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November 13, 2007

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Drink Coffee

"Save Yourself: A Semester-Long Exercise in Perspective"

By Liz Polizzi

Here in Ann Arbor, as we all know, action and adventure wait around every corner, and there’s never enough time to do all the fun stuff there is out there. Apple-picking seems like a nice thing to do this time of year – remember those lovely autumn weekend days, walking around with a paper sack full of apples, cheeks flushed from the almost-cold weather, and nothing to do later but drink cider and read a book? Oh, and not to get too produce-intense, but the Farmer’s Market down in Kerrytown must be at its peak this time of year. And if you’re really in the mood for adventure, you could drive out to Detroit and spend all day Saturday strolling the Eastern Market and adjacent shops.

But alas, there comes a time in every law student’s semester when there is simply no time for such frivolity, and one just hopes that every waking hour is enough to get done what needs to be done. For many, including me, that time is now. So I offer you, in place of an action-packed non-law-school adventure-in-waiting, my top three spots to go when I need to get work done but still want a break from feeling like a law student.

Crazy Wisdom Tea Shop

The Crazy Wisdom Tea Shop on Main Street (between Washington and Huron) is basically the opposite of law school, and being there makes you feel like the last thing you could possibly imagine doing or thinking is anything that would make you seem or feel like a lawyer-in-waiting. Yes, the first floor is a New Age bookstore, full of incense and little statues of Buddha. The reading selection runs from magical spell books to yoga guides to a self-help department that’s guaranteed to have something for every neurotic type-A personality (hint hint). If you’re looking for a crystal to help polarize your chakras or a crystal ball to help you decide which firm job to take, this is the place for you.

But upstairs is where the magic really happens. As you ascend the twisty staircase to the second floor, past ancient magical charms encased behind glass, New Age music tinkles in your ears, and you begin to notice the warm, homey smell of baked goods. Reaching the top of the stairs, you turn right and are greeted by a kind-faced earthy young woman, ready to prepare for you a pot of tea, or organic fair-trade coffee, or some delicious soup or other warm and peaceful food. As you proceed into the room with your tea or coffee, the atmosphere is quiet and serene, the chairs are comfortable, and best of all, one entire wall is lined with huge picture windows facing Main Street, offering lots of light and quite enchanting views when it snows.

But like I said, the best thing about Crazy Wisdom is that no matter how deep your nose is stuck in that Evidence casebook, part of you will be drifting on a peaceful cloud of meditation, grasping truths beyond the rule against hearsay.

Rendezvous Café

The Rendezvous Café on South University (just east of East University) has the distinct honor of being the only coffee shop in Ann Arbor where smoking is still allowed indoors. Don’t let this daunt you if you’re a nonsmoker, though – the smoking is sequestered on the second floor and is almost unnoticeable downstairs. The best thing about this place is the vast selection of coffee (including several fair-trade choices) and the fact that it never (I repeat never) has a line like you’ll see across the street at Espresso Royale. Its clientele is very eclectic—yes, it has its share of undergrads, but it also has all sorts of other types of people (although curiously not many law students). The thing that everyone seems to have in common is that they’re relatively quiet and respectful.

The food is also quite good, for lunch or just a snack while studying. Clearly Middle Eastern in influence (their lentil soup and hummus are both amazingly delicious), the menu is diverse and includes most sandwich “staples.” And its proximity to the Law School makes it a reasonable place to go for a few hours, just to get away for a brief respite during your hectic day.

The Ugly Mug Café

As I write this, I worry that the Ypsilanti punk world will somehow retaliate if they catch wind that I’ve divulged the location of their central gathering place to a bunch of straight-laced law students. But I’ll take my chances, because if you leave Ann Arbor without ever visiting the Ugly Mug Café, you will truly be missing out.

The floors are concrete, the décor is old-couch, movie-theater-seat, diner-booth kitsch (in the best sense of the word) – in other words, it’s everything a coffee shop should be. The coffee is roasted on-site and is by far the most delicious to be had in greater Washtenaw County. In short, this is not your average study-hall coffee shop. This is the sort of place you would go to write that heady post-modern novel you’ve been thinking about, while smoking clove cigarettes and pondering the futility of human existence; this is the sort of place where people meet to plan revolutions . . . but I’m sure they won’t mind if you drag out your Fed Courts casebook and set your mind to the perplexing plot-twists of the Rehnquist court – in fact, you might just meet a proselytizing nihilist who can help you make sense of it all.

Being that the place is in Ypsilanti, it’s rather essential that you have a car for this one (or be willing to endure a half hour on the bus – the Ann Arbor Transit Authority 3, 4, and 5 all go there) and even then it’s not easy to find. The address is 317 Cross Street; you’re on your own from there.