It's 4 p.m. on a Sunday, and the cottonball waves of fog are just starting to creep over Twin Peaks, challenging the afternoon sun. What are you doing? If you're lucky, you're relaxing on the back patio at Cafe International in the Lower Haight, taking in a set of fine local jazz while relishing the final prefog rays. But even if you're sitting inside this determinedly funky coffeehouse-cum-neighborhood meeting room, it's a pretty nice place to be. In the far corner, there's a local ensemble sending wafts of cool saxophone and muted trumpet through the cavernous space. At the counter, gregarious owner Zahra Saleh is pouring lattes and draught ales. Seated throughout, on various couches and chairs, customers are doing the usual coffeeshop things: chatting, studying, surfing the web, knitting. Outside on Haight Street, the motley hordes of S.F. are scanning passersby, waiting for buses, or holding court on the sidewalk near the International's colorful murals. It's a common scene, but the jazz-sweetened atmosphere makes it seem magical, like a montage out of a film or some Travel Channel special: Behold the cafe denizens of San Francisco, displaying typical Sunday afternoon behavior. Maybe it isn't Paris, but jazz at the International is a free trip you can take yourself every week.
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