Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!

WHAT DO YOU DO when you run out of cafe's in Harvard Square? Before you get take-out (again!) from ABP, we recommend that you set off down Mass. Ave, into the great unknown. When you finally reach Central Square, across the street from The Middle East, is Liberty coffeehouse.

Liberty is everything you expected those cafes in Harvard Square to be when you leafed through the glossy pre-frosh brochures. It has the best coffee in Cambridge, live music and that je ne sais quoi that makes a coffee house. The waiters notice you long enough to give you a menu or take your order, but still maintain enough aloofness to seem like they have higher pursuits, probably a little cooler than yours. The "Large Joe" makes up for the $1.70 T-fare or the schlep out to Central.

And they serve Chocolate Orgasms from Rosie's, and a huge hollowed loaf of sourdough filled with warm Split-Pea Soup. With big chunks of carrot and potato. Plus the tea comes in melior pots. And the spoons are all crooked. This place is the coolest thing since e-mail.

Which, in fact, Liberty has, along with a few computer terminals, a stage for bands, friendly couches, an old typewriter, the world's complete supply of Wired Magazine back-issues and one huge plant--we believe in a vain attempt to purify the clove- and tar-laden air. Although a sign explains that in the future smoking may have to be restricted due to the complete lack of ventilation, Liberty currently maintains smoking and nonsmoking sections. Suggested, of course, not enforced. Ah, the liberty.

The decor is intense. Pseudo-stained glass and paintings cover the walls and ceiling. There are even bathrooms (really!), papered with pages of Euclid (gentlemen) or minarets, masks and medieval maidens (ladies). Bookshelves in a corner are filled with an array of titles, including A Room of One's Own, The Jerusalem Bible, Son of Dune, Dante's Inferno, and a Magazine called "Shark Week." A sign on the scary-looking detector at the door reads, "This is not a metal detector or anything scary like that. It's a bookguard system that will beep if people run off with our books. We got it so that we can greatly expand our library and at some point in the near future sell books.--Colin."


But, far above and beyond the food, the decor, and Colin, the patrons are what make Liberty a mecca. Harvard students have yet to overrun this den of MIT students and Central Square locals. Wardrobe-wise, the fashion consensus seems to be black, black and some black eyeliner with maybe a little black lipstick. Half the patrons seem to mysteriously choose orange as an alternative. A woman with blue hair in an orange Guttermouth t-shirt reads some book about alchemy. A pack of men in makeup hovers by the register. We argue over whether the student at the next table is busy reinventing quantum physics or whether he's just stuck on Matter in the Universe homework sheet #5. A covey of high school nose-piercers play with their napkins. A couple discusses a table full of brochures that sport the words "Black Bread" above an oddly cropped photo of a naked man. We are way to scared to ask.

Maybe we're overawed--we are, after all, young and impressionable. And it's true, the last time we were at Liberty they were playing the Pulp Fiction Soundtrack (which, incidentally, has had its proverbial fifteen minutes of fame). But if anyplace can pull that, it's lady Liberty. Simply, the service is infinitely better than at Algiers, you don't need to worry about running into that TF whose section you just skipped, and it's just so much cooler than we are.