They're having one of those conversations that are designed to be overheard.
"I just don't hear him talk about grassroots activism. Where are the issues? After twenty years in this game I don't feel so hopeful."
The game is social consciousness - or perhaps, a devil whispers, performative smugness - and the player they are talking about the great He, Obama. His handsome face smiles out of every window in our Brooklyn neighborhood, advertising special lunch deals and cut-price sales racks, and his Dreams of My Father is propping up our three-legged coffee table.
We arrived in New York the day before He was inaugerated. In Times Square in the snow I stood behind a middle-aged woman who was scratching a pen across a grubby notebook. It looked like a child's angry scrawling, so I inched backwards, not wanting to catch her particular strain of mad. As the whooping and pantomime booing gathered force, I glanced again at the woman's pad and saw a starkly rendered line drawing of the crowd. There are lots of crazies in New York, but probably she wasn't one of them.
Back in the back room of Stuffed Pittas, a grey-haired woman with a sharp nose was cross-examiner her neighbour.
"So you were working in Chicago for ten years? I'm amazed our paths never crossed... What organization did you work for again?"
"Well I did youth work, outreach work... all kinds of things. And I was in California for a while. All over really."
To me and the sharp-nosed woman, it sounds like he's lying, although I'm sure he isn't.
Across the room we speculate on who the group are, with their right-on mix of age and ethnicity, and their cloying earnestness. I plump for a singles' evening, a Guardian Soulmates social, stripped of all irony and stuffing its face on babaganush. I hear in New York they have the Brainiacs Dating Club. There are no formal entry requirements - not even an IQ test - which I find strangely worrying.