Friday, October 13, 2006

The Way I See It # 2,000,000,000

So the Missus, knowing as she does that I can't write from home, has told me that I'm not to leave work until I've posted something to my blog. Which is incredibly sensitive to my creative needs, if you think about it. Perhaps she's the modern day incarnation of Thalia, the Greek mythological muse of comedy, inspiring me to more and better work.

Or maybe it's just sort of bitchy. I reserve judgment for now.

So: my job... busybusybusy. INSANELY so. I should probably be using this breather to double check my work, in order to make sure I haven't overshot the razor thin margin of error I'm afforded by my employers. But, baby, I just DO NOT feel like it today.

Awww. I've missed you, too! Didja lose a few pounds? Ya' look great, I mean it.

I've been so busy that I'm back to drinking (Scooterdad's gloating will resume in 5, 4, 3, 2...) Starbucks. It's just so damn convenient. Plus, they opened a drive thru mere blocks from my house. Which, yeah, it's a corporate joint and all, but may I just take a moment to say WOOOO HOOOO! We're gonna gentrify this neighborhood like a MOTHER F_____!!!

I pulled up on my way to my daughter's daycare and she said "COFFEE." Actually, it was more like "KF'FEEE" but I thought it was completely adorable. Or maybe kinda sad. Again, I reserve judgment.

The unfortunate reality is this - Starbucks coffee is actually a hell of a lot better than just about any of the coffee shops that I haven't bothered to review here. That said - just what is the deal with the inane blather they have printed on the side of their cups, under the heading "The Way I See It "? Really, is there someone out there who's coffee going experience is incomplete until they've received Oprah-caliber wisdom from an acoustic guitarist who's featured in heavy rotation on the Starbucks XM satellite radio station?

I've decided to compile some quotes to of my own for the the cups at my own, imaginary coffee house, a shop that I'm currently calling "The Coffee Clutch" (after a line in the Roger Corman classic The Wasp Woman. As in "Oh, we were just having a little coffee-clutch." Like, water-cooler talk in the break room at work. Catchy, innit?)

(DRAT! Blogger's photo capabilities have gone all wonky, once again - so all you get is the golden tressed, atom powered nemesis of the Man of Steel. I invite the completists among you to perform a Google image search for the great thinkers listed below...)


"maybe I'm the faggot America; I'm not a part of the redneck agenda"
Billy Joe Armstrong

"It's not what you are like - it's what you like: movies, music. These things matter." Rob from High Fidelity.

"What's real? What's not? That's what I do in my act, test how other people deal with reality." Andy Kaufman

"Life is an obscure hobo, bumming a ride on the omnibus of art."
Maxwell H. Brock, beatnick poet extrordinare, Bucket of Blood.

"I'm so cool you could keep a side of meat in me for a month! I'm so hip I have trouble seeing over my pelvis!" - Zaphod Beeblebrox

"If you don't tell me where she is, I will hurt people!" Nuclear Man, from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

"You know, my son, I wouldn't be Emperor of the Galaxy if I didn't have a few powers at my disposal. Imperial Battleship, halt the flow of time! " Emperor of the Galaxy, Starcrash.

"The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, 'You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.'" George Carlin

Feel free to add your own! You know you want to!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Let's Get Down to it, Boppers...

As I alluded to in my last entry, three weeks ago (!), my workload has gotten much, much heavier recently. Such is the injudicious nature of my workplace; some of us will be working at a leisurely pace for months on end, strolling into our cubes 20 minutes late on a daily basis, taking long lunches and forwarding along tired email jokes from 2003; while others weather a veritable shit-storm of work piling up endlessly on their desks. I suppose I can't really complain - I spent the first part of 06 in the former catagory. And of course, it would be unreasonable for me to expect that I should have time to write a great-American novel's worth of blog entries while I'm on the clock. But you'll excuse me if it grates on my last nerve when one of my go get'em, twenty-something coworkers sits complaining about "not having something to do".

Ah... the folly of youth. For me, "to chill" is a skill - one that I've honed over a lifetime of hanging out on coffee house patios and perusing used book stores and record shops. Alas, my talents are being sorely wasted.

Yeah, I know, I know... I could be, probably should be, writing at home. But blogging, in my opinion, is a subversive discipline. The difference between blogging at work and blogging at home is the difference between waiting for your parents to go to bed so you can have sex with your girlfiend in their house, and putting your children to bed so you can have sex with your spouse in your own house. Like graffiti displayed within the confines of an art gallery, something is lost in translation.

I haven't been visiting too many coffee shops lately, anyway. In order to save money, we purchased a 20 dollar Braun, the Saturday-Night Special of coffee makers. I've been picking up my beans from Paris on the Platte, fresh out of their small-batch roaster. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy drinking coffee at home; a fresh pot waiting for me right when I step from the shower. Or a cup on lazy Saturday afternoon, while my daughter sleeps and my son watches a movie. And sometimes, every once in a great while, if I'm just tired enough, a couple of sips over whatever book I happen to be reading before turning off the light to go to sleep.

When I do make it out for a coffee, it's an event. The other night, Scooterdad and I began our "Boys Nite Out" at Paris. Our seats were tucked neatly around the far side of the bar, where we had a clear view of the kitchen and could avoid the smokey teenagers smack-dab in the middle of their rebellious stage. One of the advantages of hanging out with SD is that he understands the importance of the pre-bar cup of coffee. The other advantage is that I get to hang out with all the cool scooter kids without having to actually own a scooter.

Outside Paris, we got a call from SD's compatriot, Elie. The first thing you need to know about Elie is that he's a dude - a straight one at that. The next thing you need to know about Elie is that he's The Man; a legend, a modern day myth. Like the character "Door" in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Elie is a living, breathing portal to events so utterly hip, happenings so utterly fabulous, that their very existence is to be denied to anyone who is not cool enough to know Elie in the first place.

The last thing you need to know about Elie is that if he and SD ever have a falling out, I'm totally getting his number. I don't know what he does for a living, but look at him. It has to be something with graphic design.

Elie told us to meet him at the Oriental Theater; he'd put our names on "the list". (Okay, SD's name... I'm assigned the humiliating role of "Plus One", proving once again that I'll never live down my reputation as his lackey / first wife) The last time I was at the Oriental was back when it was a dollar theater. My brother and I caught a double bill of Wrath of Kahn and Flash Gordon. As I've never been much of a live music guy, I was excited for the chance to check out the extensive re-model of this beautiful old art-deco movie theater. When we showed up, two DJ's were spinning on stage, a complicated remix of Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive" and Wham's "Careless Whispers" that somehow managed to make both songs palpable. But the real payoff was the main event... a multi-media extravaganza - a "mash-up" of one of the greatest B-Movies of all time - THE WARRIORS!!!

The premise of the film is simple; the visionary gang leader Cyrus brings every gang member in New York City area to Central Park in order to unite them under a common cause - a massive take-over of the city with his own gang, The Riffs, leading the charge. Right as his rousing speech reaches it's crescendo, he is assassinated. The Warriors are blamed, and must fight their way back to Coney Island - their "turf".

Now, maybe it's because I'm a parent, or perhaps at heart I've always been a square, but I don't usually care for hyper-stylized action-movie violence in the context of real-world social ills. And when the film was released in 1979, there were plenty of "Concerned Parent" (TM) kinda groups of the same opinion. Luckily for me, this movie doesn't take place anywhere near the real world. When you see a multi-racial group of teenagers, basically the Sweathogs with cigarettes (complete with afros for the white and black members alike) going up against mimes in top hats, the plight of marginalized inner city youth is the last thing on your mind. And when The Warriors manage to not get their asses handed to them by the bat-wielding Baseball Furies, you know dealing with an out-and-out fantasy.

Now, as this was a "mash-up", the film was enhanced by the two DJ's spinning in front of the screen with film and video clips intercut over the movie. Maybe some people though it was overkill when Scandal's video for "The Warrior" came on. Perhaps others thought they were reaching too far when Mascot Mannie, the squirrel from The Yummies, rushed the stage to perform a rap; I personally thought it fit the scene just right.

I got in a conversation with some people about how gangs from other movies would have fared if they were in The Warriors - how would the Mods or Teds from Quadraphenia fare against "The Boppers"? Would Fonzie's gang from Happy Days survive against an attack by the all-lesbian "Lizzies"? Then we talked about how The Warriors would look if it took place in Denver; Scooterists against wirey-limbed bike couriers vs. RollerDolls against Crotch-Rocket riding Larimer Square assholes. Somehow, I don't think cruiser riding coffee drinkers would fare very well. It made me think of SLC Punk, "Rednecks kick the shit outta punks, Punks kick the shit outta mods, Mods kick the shit outta skin heads, Skin heads kick the shit outta those heavy metal guys, The heavy metal guys kick the shit outta the new wavers, and well, the new wavers did nothing cuz they were the new hippies."

The night was moving forward at a great pace; sure, this stuff isn't so "cutting edge" as everyone likes to act, but I eat it up with a spoon. Unfortunately, as it happens so often with these "multi-media events", the Fashion Show began. I'm going to make a tee-shirt that says "FASHION SHOWS: Killing Your Buzz in Denver since 1994" Seriously, who are these snot-nosed, junior high bodied girls strutting around, and why should I care? Do I need one more slim hipped tattoo-palate in my life giving me a negative body image?

And the show was going so well... models and clothes are something you drag out when you're trying to distract from the fact that there's nothing interesting happening on stage - like dancers, rollerbladers, fire-eaters, and whatever else Puff Daddy has on stage with him during a performance.

I'd definitely come out to another show put on by these guys, but The Fashionista's pretty much signaled the end of our night - our buzz-killed, execution style. I guess what that means is, if The Warriors took place in Denver, everybody else would get beaten down by a bunch of cooler than thou, hipster-fashion models. It's just sad, really.

Friday, September 01, 2006

HA ha!

So, when I get back to work on Tuesday, I'm going to be working with a whole new group of people (one of whom is my sister. Damn you, Karole!) Already, their work is piling up at my desk. Lots more work, for the exact same amount of money!

The next couple of weeks may not be very blogger productive... which sucks after what has been a pretty blog-intensive week for me.

But I would be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge this news item...

While I don't condone the sort of shenanigans that the perpetrators of this particular con have engaged in, I do think it's pretty hi-freaking-larious.


Dig all the ways you can deliver that line...

Who wants to be a superhero?
Who wants to be a superhero?
Who wants to be a superhero?

This may not jibe with the casual reader's impression of me, but believe it or not, I'm not actually a comic book geek. If one were to read through some of my past entries, they'd be excused for the misconception - seeing as they'd come across a cornucopia of super-hero metaphors; comparisons drawn between, say, a caffeine high from a particular type of coffee and some random character's superpowers (I.E. - "weak diner coffee is to the 1980's incarnation of The Flash as Turkish coffee is to the Golden Age, time-busting, 'speeding up my molecules in order to enter Dairy Queen without utilizing the door' version of The Flash." No, I never actually wrote that before, but it's apt, so there it is now.)

I'm certainly known to enjoy the occasional comic book - a black and white indie or a dog-eared issue of The Avengers, selected haphazardly from the "4 for a dollar" bin at the lonely shop up on East Colfax. Sometimes I'll even read "The Classics", assuming they're reprinted under one cover and available at a reasonable price. And I have some definite geek tendencies; I get goose-bumps on the rare occasion that a comic book movie "gets it right". Like when MJ delivered the classic line "Go get 'em, Tiger..." at the end of Spiderman 2. Or when Superman fixed the great wall of China by utilizing his little known "brick and mortar vision" in Quest for Peace. You know, all that stuff that's right out of the funny books.

Superman IV - Great Wall of China Vision
I can appreciate a comic for all the cool, detached, ironical crypster reasons; I can appreciate them for the pseudo - Joseph Campbell "it's contemporary mythology!" reasons, and I can appreciate them for the sheer visceral pleasure of groovy pichers. Like Jack "The King" Kirby's "Kirby Krackle", the fizzy-pop distortion in the fabric of reality that accompanies cosmic characters like The Silver Surfer. Or Darkseid. Or me, when I'm dancing. (Seriously, people, it's a thing of beauty)

But honestly, I don't think that makes me a comic book geek - whether the connotation is meant positively or negatively. I don't have hundreds of four-color, FABULOUS 1ST ISSUE!s hermeticly sealed in plastic bags, indexed by "inker" and locked away in a filing cabinet, right alongside my hopes of ever seeing a real-live naked woman. I don't argue in chat rooms over who the best X-Men writer is. I don't even own a trench coat.

Sure, every now and then I imagine that Caffeinator_X is a guy with a great set of abs, a cruiser bike that transforms into a cybernetic exo-skeleton, and the ability to inflict his enemies with the less desirable effects of coffee (jitters, paranoia, "hafta poop now", etc.) just from his stare. And true, I did get a call back for the show, based on my initial application (for the all-new, all-different character "CENTRIFUGE! The Flippin' Idiot!"). But I never could have beat that "Feedback" guy, who looks like one of those Larimer Square crotch-rocket dudes who dress up like they're Japanese animation.

But really... do I want to be a superhero? Nah. I want to be a writer. Or, a paid blogger... that'd be good.

And someday - dream of dreams - I'd like to have my own coffeeshop. And I'll tell you what... somebody who shares that dream could do a HELLUVA lot worse than SML Coffee, off of Washington and Speer. I got the following message from proprietor Brian, just yesterday...

SML Coffee shop for sale - $20,000

Here is an opportunity to own a start up coffee shop at a ridiculously low price.

All the start up work has been done for you.

Lease negotiations
Build out
Building dept. sign offs
Initial customer base created
Equipment purchased and installed
Tables and chairs
Supplies stocked and ready
Take over the coffee shop, make it your own and make it great.

The customer base is strong and the potential growth is even stronger.

There is opportunity for additional signage and expansion onto the adjacent patio area.

The shop is in a really cool building on the busy corner of Speer and Washington with free parking in the attached lot and additional parking on the street.

Price includes all equipment and supplies, most of the furniture and all the customers.

Please email to schedule an appointment

Now, I gotta tell ya - this breaks my heart. That "make it your own, and make it great"? Yeah, it's already great. Though it doesn't have the hang-out-all-night vibe of Monkey Bean (moment of silence, yo); in the short amount of time since it opened, SML has become one of my favorite places in town.

So take heed, whoever jumps on this... don't you dare change a thing. Keep each and every one of the baristas - especially that slim-hipped morning guy who whips up dry cappuccinos the consistency of milk-shakes. Keep the Wednesday movie night. And keep Brian's promise to me to have an annual showing of Bucket of Blood, every Halloween.

Do all that, baby, and you'll be MY superhero.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


In her book "The Meme Machine", Susan Blackmore posits that the meme is as important to human evolution as the gene. Like the gene, the meme is a replicator of information. But rather than genetic code, the meme is a cultural replicator; transmitting ideas, belief systems, habits, philosophies, fashions, fads, and all of the other stuff that gets knocked around between our oversized monkey brains. Memes, like genes, thrive or perish based on natural selection. A caveman "infected" by the "how to light a fire" meme would have a better chance of getting some cro-mag nookie than his in-the-dark competitors; therefore, it would be his genes and memes that were transmitted to the next generation.

Also like genes, memes are "selfish" (not in the Janet Jackson, "what has he done for me late-ly?" sense, but in the unstoppable, Terminator robot on-a-mission sense); both genes and memes exist only to replecate themselves, whether or not doing so will be beneficial to their "hosts" (i.e. us... We of the oversized monkey brains). Genes compel humans to procreate in times of famine, memes compel you to order the "Windsor Pilates" 6 DVD set when you're channel surfing at 3 am, even though you're too lazy to ever actually use it.

A good example of memes in action is "The Lovely Latte Ladies Auxiliary". These are the women who visit coffee shops in small groups and try to out-do each other with increasingly complex drink orders. ("Double tall, non-fat, decaf vanilla latte") Their behavior is learned through mimicry, like monkeys at the zoo. Each successive order is placed more loudly than the last, so that any nearby women who are not part of the gaggle can return next time to spread the meme among their own group. ("SOY, NO FOAM ORANGE MOCHA!") There wouldn't appear to be any evolutionary benefit to this behavior, as it's extremely hard to believe that it's the kind of thing that would help them attract a mate. But the memes march on...

The simple reality is this... nobody is safe from the influence of memes. I myself got infected, just the other day. Sitting at Kaladi Brothers, I witnessed a half-caf, 2% milk caramel machiato get trumped by a "Mate Latte". ("THAT'S RIGHT! MATE LATTE, PLEASE! MMM, DELICIOUS! TAKE THAT, WHORE! POW!") Seeing as Kaladi's, with it's DU professors and it's marathon moms, is basically a scale model of the People's Republic of Boulder, I was pretty confident that Mate Latte would be made from rice milk (but only after they asked the rice real nice-like) and organic tree bark. But in the spirit of FAUX COFFEE WEEK, I decided to find out for myself.

Only one problem... when I rushed into Kaladi's this morning, toddler in tow, I was sympathetically informed "I'm sorry, we are out of Mate Latte... can I get you something else?"

So there I stood, a recovering addict in a crack-den, the aroma of the oily black beans firing my synapses to full attention. Didn't these people realize this is FAUX COFFEE WEEK? Doesn't anybody read this blog??

Arms pinned to my sides, I ran out of the building, Napoleon Dynamite-style. My canine-obsessed daughter wailed hysterically as we ran past the friendly-looking golden retriever parked on the patio. I knew just how she felt.

I stopped by Scooter Joe's, figuring that they would be just earth-y enough to carry the stuff. The barista whipped up the drink by brewing the leaves/bark/whatever through the espresso machine's portafilter and topping it off with steamed milk, just like you would a regular-old latte. But then, he put an extra tea-bag of the stuff directly into the cup because it "looked a little weak". I have to tell you, the only thing weaker than what I drank this morning would have been cup of evaporated tap-water. I mean, no disrespect to the barista, he probably made it exactly the right way. The thing is... it's tea. I hate tea. Tea tastes like soap; like a big gulp from a cup of "Bed Bath and B'nasty". Now, I don't hate people who like tea. Not all of them, anyway. Hate the drink, not the drinker, I always say.

(Except in the case of Lipton ice tea drinkers. That stuff tastes like obese-man bathwater, and is surely an abomination against... I don't know... something. )

But if I'm going to be one of the "Meme Machines" who's spreading the word about this stuff, giving throngs of rampant soccer moms one more excuse to raid their local coffee shops, like SUV driving zombies, the least I can do is affect my best Charlton Heston and scream "IT'S TEA! MATE LATTE IS TEA!" Even if you like tea... this is worse than Lipton. Step away from the hype machine... they're trying to brainwash you...

Hello...? Is this thing on?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Coffeecrush, The Motion Picture!

Waaaay back in 1991, Francis Ford Coppola predicted that the wide availability of inexpensive film and video equipment would mean film making would truly become an "art form", freed from the restraints of finance or committee. I'm paraphrasing, of course; Coppola's actual quote referenced a hypothetical "little fat girl in Ohio" becoming "the new Mozart", which offended my sensibilities as far as women who are, shall we say, rounded, are concerned. But the sentiment remains. Similarly, in the novel "Pattern Recognition", William Gibson gives us the "Garage Kubrick", a brilliant auteur operating outside the cult of personality.

As you can see, from the clip above, the future is NOW, dude. If you imagine the camera just a little more still, you can see Jim Jarmusch's sense of mis en scene. And that ever so brief, blink-and-you-miss-it cameo at the end? Can you say Hitchcock...?

Of course, I'm a little biased.

Faux Coffee Week!

Remember when you were a kid, and you would be "anxious"? Anxious for Christmas, anxious for summer vacation; anxious for it to finally be May 25th, 1983, so you could prove to your stupid brother once and for all that when Yoda said "there is Another", he was referring to Obi Wan Kenobi, who would have to come back from the dead to rescue Luke (who of course would be turned to the Dark Side) and not Lando-freaking-Calrissian, because that would just be lame. "Anxious" was a code word for sheer, depthless joy, unbridled and unbounded; a word your parents and teachers used to describe you, back before there were more technical terms like "ADHD".

In adulthood, we call it (along with ADHD) anxiety. Anxiety is the same vacuum, teaming with the same vibrating nervous energy, but now its filled to the brim with all of your grown up baggage. Work! Money! Kids! "Holy Crap, the north facing wall of my 100 year old house is sinking into the earth!!" that sort of thing.

Anxiety, if I'm not careful, becomes a sort of default setting for me, the fumes on which I conduct my busy day after the inevitable caffeine-crash happens. Mornings at Casa Del Caff are a tightly choreographed affair. Out of bed and into the shower to drag a razor over my melon. Get Princess Plucky (a morning person) out of her crib and feed her whatever she wants to eat(Usually "Ba-na-na-na-na!". And whatever her brother doesn't finish). Tend to my son (emphatically NOT a morning person) who stumbles out of bed every morning in his tight little underwear like an angry white Gandhi; force feed him the exact same breakfast he's been eating since he broke his first tooth (two Eggo waffles with butter and a glass of apple juice), then drive my daughter to daycare while the wife talks number one son off the ledge. I may have the better end of the deal, but the routine can still get a little stressful.

I was running late the other morning, so I stopped by Mile High Coffee for my morning jolt, avoiding the 3 Starbucks that are also within the same distance from my house. I want to support this place, I really do. But man, does their coffee have some problems. And it's not like it's consistently bad, It's just that, when I least expect it, after a couple of visits where I've actually gotten some good stuff... that's when they'll hit me with a cup that's as flavorful and aromatic as a can of motor oil. By the time I got to work, 100 proof, pure liquefied anxiety was coursing through my veins. Compound this with the fact that every 15 minutes, the radio on my co-worker's desk taunted me with the meandering pop-pabulum of "Had a Bad Day". This was not a "bad day", this was what the kids call a "bad trip". After gritting my teeth through the mind numbing Deejay banter, they follow up with the umpteenth playing of "How to Save a Life". Hey! Corporate radio overlords, wanna know how to save a life? TAKE "HAD A BAD DAY" OFF OF HEAVY ROTATION!!

I actually wasn't even having that bad of a day. I was just a little annoyed. Intense. Slowly, it dawned on me what was happening... this was the work of my old arch nemesis....


Just look at that smarmy, see-through bastard, torturing those poor people like that - with his clunky moniker right there on his shirt, and that stupid little handlebar mustache. You just know he twirls that thing between his thumb and index finger. What an asshole.

When Mister CN comes back into MY life, fraying my nerves until they're the limp consistency of the fringe on the back of a heavy metal chick's acid washed jean jacket, I know it's high time for a detox. A couple times a year, just to prove to myself that I'm not actually an addict, I go on a caffeine purge. I mean, whoa... not all caffeine, of course. Let's not get all crazy, now! Usually, I'll have some green tea in its place. And, you know, not necessarily a full week... we're supposed to be going out with some friends this weekend, and I certainly can't deny myself the traditional, post-club coffee and pie. But just a few days off the stuff will do me some good.

So, dear reader, welcome to my nightmare... this is 'FAUX COFFEE WEEK!" If I'm not my usual charming and clever self, I'm sure you'll understand. Just don't bug me when I'm shaving, like the picture above, or I'll cut you. I'm not kidding.

Rather than make you, the reader, suffer through the long, detailed account of my DT's, and to prevent this blog from being polluted with the sort of existential musings that come along when one faces the long, dark coffee break of the soul, I've decided to experiment with some popular "coffee alternatives". So you don't have to. You can thank me later.

I started off this morning with a big, tasty cup'o POSTUM. Postum is a CAFFEINE-FREE coffee substitute that's been all the rage among the Big Love crowd since 1895. If I was the flavor of Mormon that could have a couple of sister wives to cavort with every night, I could actually see trading in my coffee for this stuff. Hell, if I could have a couple of sister-wives to cavort with, I would trade in my lungs for this stuff. Not that I'd actually ever drink it... I'm just all about the hot, sister-wife on sister-wife action. The drink itself tastes like a thirst quenching gulp from a glass of sand, flavored liberally with molasses. Is there anyone who can't be described by the term "mountain folk" who actually likes the taste of molasses? On the bright side, Postum is chock full of healthy, fiber-licious WHEAT GERM. Considering I drank it alongside a great big bowl of oatmeal, and chased it with a couple of prunes, there was one effect from my morning coffee that wasn't missing.

In the advertisements seen above, Postum was hailed as the bane of Mr. Coffee Nerves' existence, the liquid equivalent of the Scooby Doo gang, leaving the villain cursing it's amazing ability to bring families back from the very brink of distraction. Time will tell. But right now, Mr. CN is walking outside my house, sneering, mumbling "you'll be back, bitch." under his breath.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


You know, here we are, on the very day of an attempted terrorist attack, and the President has helpfully taken time out of his busy day (he'll tell you himself... it's "hard work") to come on television and explain that "It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America". Even his ol' buddy Joe Lieberman has likewise explained how this attempt "should serve as the latest, most serious evidence that we are in a war against a brutal enemy that intends to attack us..."

Boy, I'm just beside myself! As a latte-drinking liberal, I did not realize that terrorism is dangerous. I'm gonna go change out of my "Terrorism - It's Not So Bad!" tee-shirt right now!

I mean, it's not like the president hasn't taken every single opportunity to explain how the world was changed on "September Theleventh" - even if he had to veer wildly off-topic in order to do so. How could I be so stupid? These terrorists, they hate freedom! They don't shop at Wal-mart! They blow stuff up!

Since we're all just a bunch of sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show elitists, the current administration is requiring me to display the JavAlert (TM), Terror Advisory System, utilizing, at long last, language we can understand.

GREEN - As in, "Korben m' man, we are green". There is no threat, citizen. Go forth, and enjoy your civil liberties (until told otherwise).

CINNAMON ROAST - general risk. I think. Wait, lemme check the polls...

CITY ROAST - Oooh, this is a tough one... which city? Like, say, Houston or Dallas, you're cool. Austin... not so much. Those folks are a little iffy.

FULL CITY ROAST - New York City or LA? Yeah, you guys are screwed. But you probably have it coming, what with all the gays, and stuff.

ESPRESSO - it's dark. That's how we know it's bad.

FRENCH ROAST - Well, this is clearly bad news. Hello? Are you paying attention? It reads "French" right there. French = Bad. Freedom Fries are not free, people.

And I'm adding my own, "situation immenent" level...

DEPRESSO - as in, sit back, and get used to the taste of this. It's a long time 'til 2008.

Maybe by then we can elect somebody with some real solutions to complex problems - not just a color-coded Rainbow of Fear.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lost In Translation

You never know how far reaching your blog really is. There are days when I resolve myself to the idea that, despite my best intentions to turn "coffeecrush" into an internet phenomenon, on par with Dave's long box or Engrish, maybe I've just maxed out at seven readers - family and good friends all, humoring my usual delusions of grandeur. Then, out of nowhere -and during a particularly long period of blog-abstinence - I receive an email from a San Francisco-based artist named CW (follow that link... very cool stuff) about a post from nearly two months ago. He was questioning my translation of the Turkish proverb,"Coffee should be black as hell; strong as death, and sweet as love."

Sure enough, after a little Googling, I've discovered a plethora of variations on a theme (black as night/hot as hell/sweet as love; hot as Thora Birch/gayer than Paul Lynde/slightly less conniving than Joe Leiberman - and on and on and on) Lost in translation, I suddenly don't feel so bad for my befuddled take on the Middle East crisis, a world-view worthy of my altruistic grandmother - "Why can't they all just get along?"

But I digress. At long last, I've decided to find out for myself which version best applies to the brew at Habibi Hookah Cafe on South Broadway. Past the bars, past the train shop where Gary Coleman used to work, past the (ahem) "massage parlors" ("Innovative Therapy"... Like my dad says "yeah, that's not so innovative"), this place sits in the run down remains of a gas station, strobe lights around the parameter announcing it's presence to passers-by (and warning off epileptics). Inside, the espresso machine looks brand spanking new; a good sign, as the only kind of coffee I want in a place like this is Turkish, brewed directly in a metal ibrik, like campfire coffee on Mars.

I order my coffee and tell the proprietor that I may get something else later. Embarrassed, he quickly advises me that he can't serve any food inside. Apparently, as part of the city-wide smoking ban, not only can you not smoke after your meal, but if you are allowed to smoke, you don't get to eat. I, for one, think it's about time that the government step in to protect smokers from all that second-hand food. Little matter, as the main reason people come to a place like this is for the exotic, ornate hookahs. The proprietor asks me if I'd like to partake, and I decide for one night to lift my own personal smoking ban in the name of visceral experience.

Waiting for my order, I sat down and watched the other patrons; a mix of foreign men playing backgammon... and, as always, the "barely legal" crowd. I once made the mistake of going to a place called Marrakech Cafe on a weekend night, and I was shocked to find it packed with teenagers. I wondered if maybe, for "Generation Z", Sufism (the mystical arm of Islam) would become what faux-Zen was for Generation X. Are these kids enamored with the whirling dervishes, who get strung out on strong coffee and spin wildly around, all in an effort to become one with God? Are they embracing Middle Eastern culture as a slap in the face to their Bush-voting parents? Alas, eavesdropping on their conversations, it's apparent that it's all about the forbidden smoke.

My coffee and hookah arrive. In the tiny cup sits a substance somewhere between the states of "liquid" and "solid", which fits every variation of the proverb and more. Bean-remains float throughout the cup; when the drink finished, the grounds can be turned over onto a napkin and "read" by a fortune teller. Generally, they won't see sleep in your immediate future.

The server is tolerant of my ignorance regarding how to smoke - a hell of a lot nicer than I was as a barista. (Soy milk!? Heresy!) Once I get the hang of it - between the smoke, and the music, and the caffeine - I definitely start to feel a buzz. Nothing like the buzz you get from a certain OTHER substance smoked from a hookah (by which I mean unflavored tobacco. What did you think I was talking about?); but when I notice myself, hose hanging from my lips, saying "Haw Haw Haw! Jeeedy Jedi! JEEEDY JEDI!" under my breath, there's definitely something going on.

Then something strange happens. A man stands up from his table... and walks outside to light a cigarette. I wonder to myself just how far we've gone to demonize good ol' fashioned cancer sticks, when you can sit at a inside at a table and smoke "double apple" (one of the many sweeter-than-candy flavors) from something that looks like a hybrid of a sex toy and something you would administer an enema with.

When I left, I didn't head straight home. Rather, I rode my bike for a while to shake the buzz. The whole "hookah cafe" experience is an acquired taste. It fits with a very particular sense of aesthetics. But it's something every coffee lover should experience at least once, if for no other reason than to get a brief sample of a culture that we Americans know precious little about; even though it's fate is now so intricately entangled with our own.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Monkey VS. "The Man"!

The last couple of weeks have completely kicked my ass. Thrown me down, hammered me, and didn't even have the common courtesy to take me to breakfast afterwards.

dramatic re-creation. Note the stubble in that last panel - if I stop shaving, you know I'm having a nervous breakdown.

I haven't been blogging. I haven't been riding my bike. I haven't been working out, reading, writing, dancing, or doing any of the other things that keep me sane in my daily life. Even my cafe excursions are entirely utilitarian, like lightning is to Frankenstein's monster - fuel for an empty husk. Such is the level of the recent ass whooping delivered to me by my job.

My "day job" - that precious one-third of my life which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of "The Man". Every day it becomes increasingly more soul-crushing. The corporate machine continues to complexify, without ever actually becoming more efficient, like evolving entropy; an exercise in futility.

And the thing is, I've never really had a problem with Huge, Soulless, Multinational Corporations - in theory. "Per se", you know? I mean, yeah, yeah, "corporations suck" and all that. But sometimes, in a fit of conscience (and after a meeting of the board of directors, where all the appropriate forms and releases are signed in triplicate, then reviewed by the stockholders, etc. ad infintum) they can do some good. They'll offer domestic partner benefits, maybe donate some money to a good cause, or even pay a living wage to the workers who toil away, producing their wares. And for me... it's a paycheck. I've always thought there was some post-millenial slacker romance in working for a big, high tech company. Doing customer service for the Evil Empire, as it were. It's sorta funny to be a tiny, outmoded cog in the middle of a bunch of valiantly shining gears, all spinning too fast to realize that I don't actually serve any function.

But sometimes, stuffed into my cubicle like a experimental lab-monkey, cut off from any organic stimulus from the outside world and force-fed a steady diet of Orwellian corporate-speak, I just can't take it anymore. My emotions start to flare up and the thin veneer of my phyche begins to dissolve. Like Darkman. Remember Darkman? The deep fried dark avenger - master of disguise with the superhuman ability to pronounce the letter "p" with no lips? "The Man" would get him down, and his humanity would shatter in a flash of phychedelic psychosis and he'd start KICKING @$$!!

I always thought that Darkman's real motivation was the fact that "The Man" blew up his laboratory, sweet real estate located right above that awesome "Java Cafe". Even way back in 1990, when I first saw "Darkman", I imagined that the interior of "Java Cafe" would be just like Monkey Bean.

Ah, yes... th' Monkey. That archetypical Denver java joint. Never pretentious, just the perfect place to chill with the latest issue of The Onion while sipping an iced americano, while stealing sideways glances at the adorable red-headed barista behind the glass case of rice crispy squares...

The Monkey Bean... which just closed down on July 31st, due to a 400% (!) increase in rent by "The Man"!

This time, "The Man" has gone Too Far!

Screw that... the Monkey was cooler than any ol' "Java Cafe". The Monkey was as cool as Darkman's laboratory. It was my not-so-secret headquarters. If you're looking for Batman, you go to the Batcave; for the Superfriends, you go to the Hall of Justice. And if you're looking for Caff_X... you look in his bedroom, under the sheets, where he's curled up in a ball, weeping softly. You know why? BECAUSE "THE FRICKIN' MAN" KILLED THE MONKEY!

Over the last couple of weeks, in my state of depression, I haven't been taking care of myself. I haven't devoted time to the things that are important to me. I even broke my "no alcohol before the Weekend" policy, rather unceremoniously, on a Monday night, with a Gin and Blueberry Izze(when you see all the kids drinking this in a few weeks, remember; you heard it here first). But now it's time for full disclosure. Every superhero has their shadow, that dark part of themselves that makes them who they are. For Spiderman, it's the fact that he is partially responsible for the death of his beloved Uncle Ben. For Superman, it's the fact that he roofie-kisses the girls and leaves the planet after planting his seed. For me - for no other reason than laziness, I've been getting my coffee from Starbucks. I mean, it's not like my 2 bucks a day would have saved the Monkey (that's a "four", with two "zeroes" and a percent sign, people!) - but NO MORE! I won't contribute my money to the machine that makes the world more bland. "The Man" can keep me holed up in a cubicle all day, he can make me fear for my job... but I don't have to drink his coffee!


Monday, July 10, 2006

Caffeinator's Top 5 Dream-Baristas

5. Reality Bites-era Janeane Garofalo

4. Thelma.

# 3 - a little (okay, a lot) skinny for my usual tastes, but the look - capri pants with the sensible, slip on flats - just completely breaks my heart. And that hair! Jean Seberg is the absolute sexiest, coolest thing to come out of the very cool, veddy sexy French New Wave.

#2 - Enid. ESPECIALLY in this outfit...

And the #1 fetishistic barista hottie is...

"Hi, Loonette. May I have a double, cuban-style espresso? And can you tell me the time again... pretty please..."


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Music for the Masses

I've always believed that the music critics for the Westword represented a threshold. A cosmological constant, like the speed of light, beyond which it was impossible to be more pretentious. The field of theoretical physics was dealt a mighty blow yesterday when the weekly paper arrived on newsstands. Two readers, presumedly independent of one another, wrote in to bemoan the Westword's lack of relevance. One writer went so far as to attack a picture of a local record label producer who dared to wear an Oasis t-shirt (gasp!). Then he heroically lashed out at the restaurant critic's taste in sushi.

Of course, neither one of these nitwits brought up exactly what us serfs should be listening to. (neo-Goth hip hop? industrial bluegrass? samples of flatulent cats, looped over an African drum beat?) But why would they... if we get our un-worthy hands on their favorite music, we'll suck it like a black hole into our dimension, instantly making it not as cool as it was "back when" they were listening to it.

Man, it's hard out here for a hipster.

Not that I'd know. I listen to Erasure on cassette tape while munching California Rolls from Tokyo Joe's.


Music is on my mind. This blog is meant to be a virtual manifestation of the coffee house which currently resides only in my noggin, with all the inane conversation and wacky regulars that implies. To further enhance the atmosphere, I've added some of my favorite music over on the right hand side of the page. If your internet connection is up to speed, I cannot recommend Pandora enough. Unlike most free internet radio there are NO COMMERCIALS, and they have an exhaustive library with which to cross-reference your musical tastes. The only problem is that, rather than finding new music based on other users profiles, Pandora uses the so-called "genetics" of your favorite music (i.e., melody, harmony, rhythm, etc.) If you're an electronic music fan, like me, that means that occasionally it'll dig up some Club Disney techno-crap. Luckily, they also have a pretty liberal policy as far as how many songs you can skip in a given amount of time.

I've made two brilliant musical discoveries for my imaginary cafe (which is a little like saying Ed Sullivan "discovered" the Beatles; I'm admittedly a little behind the times with these things) Gnarls Barkley is just funky enough for the pre-club rush of scenesters, looking for a caffeine fix, and Zero 7 is the sort of music you want to hear after hours, when you're sitting on the couch sipping a capuccino with the complete stranger you're about to take home and get intimate with.

Of course, my ideal coffee house is a democracy (okay, mostly - no enormous selection of pretentious herbal teas for you!) and I'm always looking for suggestions for new music to play. Any requests?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Coffee Science Theater 3000 PART DUEX !

As any frequent blogger has no doubt experienced by now, blogspot is running SSSSSsssssslllllllooooowwwww. I'm begining to suspect, however, that the problem isn't limited solely to our gracious web-host. To wit; I'm having about a 50 percent success rate logging into my yahoo email account, and my broadband connections, both at work and at home, are running slower than usual.

Has my obsessive compulsive quest for clips from Mexican wrestling movies and information about the nature of warp drive finally caused the world wide web to seize up? Have I broken the internet?

If you're one of the lucky ones who can still abuse your internet privliges at work, you should definitely check out the following clips...

I find it interesting that the Japanese have the same pavlovian response to strangely familiar green labels and ubiquitous references to Washington state as we here in the US do. I like to think that I myself am above such knee jerk reactions to television advertising, but I gotta tell ya, if Jodie Foster circa the mid-1990's tells me to put something in my mouth... boy, I'll do whatever she says. RRROWR!

... Here we have a true anomoly; a commercial directed by that most un-commercial of directors - Mr. David Lynch(!) When I first came across this, I had to comb the internets to convince myself this was truly his, and not just a parody of his work. I've never been a fan (which, I realize, strips me of many layers of indy/arty street cred)... but seeing as "Georgia" is essentially Coca Cola Blak with different packaging - I believe the product and the artist were made for each other!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

arts and culture and coffee ... OH MY!

I absolutely live for the summer. Though anyone who knows me, who's seen me up close and experienced my lily white, nearly translucent skin knows that I don't spend it poolside, worshiping the sunlight. In truth, the weather is murder on my delicate pate. And while I'm an avid hiker and a dedicated city bicyclist, I'm no sort of weekend warrior.

No, my free days in the summer are all about coffeeshop patios and arts and culture festivals; people watching and smack-talking about the assorted mutants and Capitol Hillbillies who turn out for just that sort of free entertainment.

On Saturday, kids in tow, I headed downtown to take in the Italian flavored "Plaza De Arte" chalk drawing festival in Larimer Square. I found some princess parking right by the Japanese micro-district of Sakura Square - only to discover that the Cherry Blossom festival was in full effect. Truly, this was my lucky day - for the freak flag waves triumphantly above this annual event. Buddha groupies and sci-fi goth geeks are out in force, cloaked defiantly in black against the oppressive 90 degree heat. Anime is to the Cherry Blossom Festival as "Lord of the Rings" is to the Renaissance Faire / bondage scene. Pirate video dealers hawk their wares to the fanboys while little old Asian ladies look on beguiled, just wanting to listen in peace to the warbling pop-opera being performed on stage.

"You rang?"

Freak-cred was further established by the fact that I had the pleasure of bumping into fellow bloggers Josh and Cassie, who were nice enough to share their pink-Chinese-foodstuff-bun with my 1 year old daughter, only to have it rudely spat back down onto their table.

One of my favorite things about these events is how all the big companies send out "Street Teams" to shill their products like so many turn of the century carnival barkers; twenty-something college girls who convince themselves this'll look great on their resume once they finish their marketing degree. Watching the sheer volume of free Blak that was handed out, I could just imagine the high-level meetings going on at Coca Cola HQ, deep 'neath the earth's crust - "People blow 4$ a day at Starbucks... why the hell can't we move this stuff off the shelves?" If they had just consulted with little ol' high school dropout, freelance cool hunter me, I could have told them that until 7-11 starts hiring tattooed hipster girls in cat-eye glasses and chunky soled shoes, this stuff will never get a market share.

While I did take a few bottles away from the Cherry Blossom festival for further research, there's really only one ice cold caffeinated drink I want when I'm out pretending to be cultured and urbane. The first entry I ever wrote on this blog had to do with iced coffee; how to make it and where to go get it made that way. Since then, Scooter Joe's, featured in that first entry, stopped making their iced coffee Toddy-style. There are a handfull of other places that keep insisting they make it that way - but the only place that I find I can get a consistent iced coffee, one that leaves well rounded, almost chocolatey tones ringing on my palate is at The Market in Larimer Square. (SML, though, gets honorable mention for their cold-brewed French press variation)

The Market is another of those Denver institutions that you'll find me pontificating about for hours on end. In the 90's, if you needed a cuppa between your shift at the espresso bar in the morning and hanging out at Paris on the Platte all night, this is where you went. And if it's become something of a tourist attraction, you can hardly blame the owners, who have kept the same formula since it's inception; well made coffee, good food (only slightly more pricey than it's worth), and freaky-as-they-ever-were baristas. Hell, some of the baristas have been there for the last 12 years - which makes me happy with where I'm at in my life professionally. But also kinda sad at the same time.

The Plaza de Arte was definitely my 5 year old son's favorite of the two festivals. "Pop"-and-"High" art mingled amongst one another the way they always do on Larimer Square. Starbucks, not to be outdone by Coke's attempt to get in on the coffee biz, had their minions out sampling a new "Banana Frappuccino", which doesn't have a single coffee bean in it.

As long as I can stroll across the street over to the Market and pick up the "real thing", that's a-okay with me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Coffee with Xenu

Last week, I watched my son on his last day of school, a yearbook and a hug from his teacher marking the end of another eventful year, filled with letters and numbers and cup-stacking, and important life lessons, like how you shouldn't pee in the sink in the boys room. It occurred to me how, for the first 18-24 years of life for the all 'merican youth, the slow, steady crawl of the mercury up the thermometer in May signals the promise of new adventures. Camping trips and vacations, afternoons in a chilly movie theater watching square jawed heroes swashing their buckles and blowing up Death Stars, and seemingly endless reserves of sunlight shining until the evening on coffee house and bar patios, where innocent flirting holds the potential for summer romance.

Then, without warning, comes adulthood, with it's perpetual barrage of responsibilities and deadlines. Sequestered in your cubicle of despair, the unchecked case of spring fever develops into a full-blown case of summertime blues. There's an epidemic spreading throughout the city, and it seems as if everyone I know has contracted it.

Me... I'm stressed. Work's getting busy again, and I haven't had as much time for blogging - my creative release. It's nothing I can't handle, of course. But it's certainly enough that you would think it would register on any ol' standard issue, electronic stress-readout doo-hickey.

So imagine my delight - no, no - my absolute mirth, when I went to Mile High Coffee the other night, only to find those alien busting do-gooders, the Scientologists, offering a free stress test outside the front door. That's right, free - and if you know anything about the exorbitant amounts of money that people pay these cats in order to reach spiritual freedom - free is a bargain. And these friendly folks are just absolutely rabid to help. I was barely out of my car before The Auditor, a middle aged man looking more like a community college professor than a cult member, sprung from his seat and offered me the test.

So I got my coffee, sat down, took the "electrodes" in my hands, and let the healing begin! The Auditor asked me a question, something about the first thought that came into my mind. But here's the thing - sitting along side me, also holding a set of "L-Ron's Cans of Destiny", was this hot young alterna-cutie. Voyeur that I am, I cleared my mind in order to focus on her answers. Before I could even register The Auditor's question, he pointed at the quivering needle on his machine, yelping "there it is!". I tried to explain that my mind was as blank as Tom Cruise's during straight sex (and he's an OT VIII!), but he wasn't having it. The e-meter had proved it - I Am Stressed!

After asking a few more entirely generic questions (seriously, your average high schooler with a deck of Tarot cards is more perceptive than this guy), The Auditor made a clumsy segue to his sales pitch: "Have you ever seen this book before?" I told him, politely, that I've thumbed through a beaten up copy of Dianetics at Stella's Coffeehaus, and meekly offered up a review of (ahem) "interesting". After all, I was looking for an interesting antecdote for my blog... not a fight.

"You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese on the Psychlo home world?"

The Auditor then helpfully offered up what he thought is the most important passage in the book. In the introduction (jeez, dude, even I made it further than that) L-Ron explains that its vital to not skip over any word you don't understand. At this point, my Spidey Sense began tingling; my entirely secular, completely reliable, internal needle was registering off the charts - The Auditor was patronizing me.

Like the follower of any guru, The Auditor knows that anyone who thinks he's full of it just isn't at his "level of consciousness". This guy has drank the Kool Aid and seen the glory of the Emporor's New Clothes. I told him that L, with his convoluted rape of the English language, was at least as much to blame for any misunderstanding of his work. The Auditor snapped back that it was important for L to create new words, so his work wouldn't be confused with psychiatry, which has been "drugging the world for the last century".

And there it was.

Look, do I think that the medical profession has a tendency to over-medicate? Sure. Do I believe that religion can be beneficial to some people? I suppose it's happened at some point in the last few thousand years. Do I think that human beings evolved from clams and are infested with alien spirits? Hell, no! - and no amount of "gnosis-it-all" attitude is going to change my mind.

Our "session" ended as amicably as it could. I think what gets on my nerves most of all is that it didn't occur to him that he was delivering his anti-drug sermon on the front steps of my crack-house (though to be fair, irony isn't any religion's strong suit). Worse than the fact that the shop owners let this guy do his thing there is the fact that my coffee wasn't very good. Mile High is the closest independent place to me, and I'd like to treat them right. They use the right beans, and the folks behind the counter are cool. But every time I go in there, either the hot coffee's cold, or the iced coffee is just plain wrong. A coffee shop is my church... where I go reflect, and to put my "stress" into context.

Hey, you can believe whatever ridiculousness you want... but bad coffee? That's just a sin.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


"Coffee should be black as hell; strong as death, and sweet as love. "

Turkish Proverb

Is that treacly-sincere co-worker not sitting in her cubicle today? You know - the one who passes out the inappropriately religious Christmas cards every year, and always sneaks "bless you" into every conversation, even when you haven't sneezed? Who's desk is covered with equal parts anti-vampire arsenal and "Winnie the Pooh" paraphenalia?

Well, maybe she just happened to call in sick to work today... but take a close look at your "Dilbert" desk calendar. Maybe, just maybe, she's been taken up by the rapture, while we here on Earth will have to deal with... "The Tribulation"! ROAR!

If so... why not sit back and enjoy a nice, hearty cup of joe. Or, as the 16th century Catholic church called it "Satan's Drink". After all, being "Left Behind" is just another way of saying "left alone".

And, baby, I'm left behind and feelin' fine! Bwah ha ha ha!

Oh, wait. There she is.

Bah, humbug.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

South Side!

The wife was out of town this weekend, enjoying some long overdue time to herself, putting aside the role of respectable mommy for a few days and getting reacquainted with the hot mama she was back before diapers and day cares and after school activities became the center of our universe. She got back in Sunday night... I'm glad to have both of them back.

For our part, the kids and I managed pretty well. More importantly, I managed pretty well, juggling a 5 and 1 year old for 96 hours. That said, there's only so much time that a parent can spend one on one, much less two on one, with their children. I decided I'd head down to Colorado Springs to wish my mom a happy mother's day, and to re-distribute the amount of attention the kids would require from me. And of course, to get in a couple of cuppas.

Aside from all the incessant focusing on other people's families, I really like CS. The arts scene and gay community are made all the more vibrant by the fact that they're basically ghettoed in the charming downtown. Yeah, the culture and entertainment options are behind the curve of Denver, but seeing as Denver herself is catching up on the curve behind bigger, more sophisticated cities, that's saying something. The hipsters manage to pull off the mellow, hippy dippy edge that comes across as mere posturing in a town like Boulder; even the Shamanic Hypnotherapist Dreamworkers advertising in the back of the free weekly aren't as affected as the "more-enlightened-than-thou" types in the People's Republic. Not only that, but CS has the highest per capita of African Americans anywhere in Colorado. Unlike Boulder, where squeaky clean white folk outnumber people of color 5 to one.

For a community like Colorado Springs, a coffeehouse is a vital resource - a place where the class clown and other assorted social rejects can begin to see the world from a wider perspective than is offered to them in school (or in the workplace, as the case may be).

The most high profile place to assume this role in the downtown is Pike's Perk, which holds it's own, business-wise, against the Starbucks directly across the street. I appreciate what these guys are doing; fair trade certified coffee; organic milk... but the business has gone under new ownership in the last few years, and I could easily tell the difference from previous visits. When I visited on Saturday, the huge space, a 2 story building with patios on both levels, was nearly devoid of customers, matching the sparsely decorated walls... but merchandise, they got that. You know, if I'm looking to buy a coffee maker, I'll go to Cost Plus. Or Target. But at a place that should be your friendly neighborhood coffee house, home espresso machines that invariably make bitter, burnt coffee are just an eyesore. The trouble continued at the counter; when I ordered an iced coffee, the barista asked me which one I'd like. This sounds innocuous enough, until you realize it translates to "which scalding hot coffee would you like me to use to torture the innocent ice cubes sitting in the bottom of this cup?". Disappointed, I changed my order to an iced americano. Telling someone how to make coffee at their joint is like telling someone how to serve communion at their church; maybe I was in Colorado Springs, but that's not the way I roll.

I fared a little bit better later that afternoon, at Boulder Street Coffee - at least aesthetically. The place seems to be the HQ for the Colorado College subculture kids, and featured some gritty hip hop as an antidote to the Billy Joel playing at Pike's Perk. You know, I even have some nostalgia for early Billy Joel, but it just doesn't sit well with coffee. At least get some Coldplay, or some other inoffensive, so called "Adult Album Alternative" - hell, stroll across to Starbucks and pick up one of their company approved mix CD's, even that would be better than 70's top 40. This time I ordered an iced americano right off the bat, figuring it was a pretty straight forward proposition. The barista asked me how many shots I would like. I felt like offering to put on an apron, go behind the counter, and whip the thing up myself, but I held my tongue.

Le Sigh.

Maybe I'm being harsh; the drinks were okay, and service came with a smile, et cetera, ad infinitum. But the big chains already have the market cornered on consistent mediocrity. And service, even quality aren't the only factors to consider. There's a torch that these places need to carry, particularly in CS. Everywhere you look, you're being told to support local business, to "keep ____ weird". And Colorado Springs, you are weird. Embrace it, love it, live it.

Otherwise, if the big corporations shut you out, you've got nobody to blame but yourself.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Desperately Seeking...

Copy of my ad on Craigslist...

"crush"ing on that barista?

Do you have a thing for the cutie who makes your cappuccino every morning? Do you drop their name in the "missed connection" section, hoping in vein that they'll at least acknowledge your adoration?

COFFEECRUSH ( the World's Greatest Blog, featuring Denver cafe reviews and coffee talk, is seeking submissions for a new feature - COFFEECRUSH OF THE WEEK.

I'm looking for photos of and interviews with beautiful baristas from local coffee shops - addressing the hard-hitting questions that are vital to the cowtown coffeehouse community, like...

Name of Shop-

What would it be called if you owned it?

If you didn't work there, would you hang out there? And if so, what would you be drinking?-

Other Job / Artistic Persuits

Is that your natural hair color?-

All Time Favorite Coffee-house Album-

Most obnoxious drink order / customer request-

make your obsession known... and maybe even break the ice with the object of your affection.

email or visit to submit

Thursday, May 04, 2006

New Haunt

The first few visits to a new coffeeshop can be like the early stages of a new relationship. Do you share the same taste in music and books? Are you ideologically and philosophically compatible? Erotically speaking, are you charmed by (or at least tolerant of) one another's various eccentricities and fetishes?

So it's been this last week, ever since I began haunting SML Coffee on the corner of Speer and Washington. The cozy space is essentially a bunch of art deco furniture narrowly situated between two identical garage doors, like a recreation of what Frank Loyyd Wright's carport must've looked like. The drip coffee I ordered from the utilitarian menu on my first visit was hot and fresh, and the folks behind the counter are friendly an un-affected. But as a matter of sheer practicality, since I live in South Denver, I figured we'd just be two ships passing in the night, a one night stand.

Until, that is, I saw the schedule for their "Free Movie Night".

In the past, I've fallen firmly into the "against" camp, as far as the whole "coffee shop as multimedia experience" thing is concerned. Maybe it's a knee jerk reaction to all those times I couldn't find a seat among the cyber squatters with all their high tech accoutrements. But movies are different; instead of everyone being plugged into their own screens, it's a communal, community experience. And if you're not interested in what's showing, the right film can serve as the visual equivalent of ambient music, where attention is optional.

For their inaugural showing, they featured one of my favorites - "Ghost World". Not only is this film
a classic story about living in the post-modern Bardo realm of mid-America, where smart people wait in vein for better things, and learn about their capacity to hurt others in the meantime, but it stars the two slices of bread that make the most delicious Caff_X sandwich, Scarlett Johansen and Thora Birch (tho if it was an open face sandwich, it'd be all Birch, bee-

so hot.

The Wednesday night showing was a casual affair, with just a few of us in the audience. There was plenty of room for more, which means it's up to groupies like me to turn folks on to what a sweet deal this is. The film was projected onto a sheer screen against one of the garage doors... in the summer, the door will be open, turning the parking lot into not only an impropteu drive-in theater, but for you smokers, possibly the city's last remaining smoking section.

(one cine-suggestion; a Halloween screening of Bucket of Blood, where all the employees dress up like beatnicks, would make me a customer 4-eva)

But more importantly (is there anything more important?) -the coffee. Full disclosure - when I hit a new place, I usually order just straight, black coffee. One, because it's my "usual". Two, because once I know a place uses quality beans, and can brew a good pot of coffee, if I ever do get a bad espresso drink, I can pin it on the individual barista, and not hold the establishment as a whole accountable. But there's something about art house movies that just screams "cappuccino". The barista, a female of the species, whipped up the best one I've had in recent memory. To the extent that, when I couldn't sip any more from the bottom of the cup, I was clawing my hand in, so I could kiss the thick froth off of my fingertips.

Could this be love?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust...

"The wisest man is he who admits he knows nothing at all" -Socrates

"he's stupid, but he knows he's stupid, and that almost makes him smart" -3rd Bass

Naturalistic philosopher John R. Searle says there'll never be a truly "conscious" machine, a la the android Data in "The Next Generation". As an argument against those who believe otherwise, he came up with a thought experiment called the "Chinese Room". Basically, he asks us to imagine a room, where a man sits, translating Chinese into English. But this imaginary man is no cunning linguist. Basically, he has a table that he works from; when he receives a piece of paper with Chinese calligraphy on it, he consults the table, which shows him exactly what that particular symbol translates to. Thusly, he's able to completely convey what the message says, but is at no point himself able to understand the original language.

Searle argues that this is essentially the case with even the strongest computer; it doesn't understand, it just performs the functions which it has been assigned.

Sometimes, surfing the internets, particularly with the "blogosphere", I get the sneaking suspicion that, rather than living in the Matrix (duuuude), we're actually all just in the Chinese Room. If you're the sort of Bozo who's inclined to get into arguments on the internet, you can plug a few key words into Google that will generally express your opinion and VOILA! You can now attribute your worldview to somebody with a lot more credentials, degrees and kudos than you yourself can ever hope to achieve, since you spend all your free time on your computer, arguing about which of the Star Wars prequels sucked most.

("Attack of the Clones", by the way. But only by a smidge.)

I mean, look at me. What gives me the right to comment on what makes a good coffee house? I've never owned a coffee house; the only time somebody would let me so much as manage one was when it was already run so far into the ground that they figured I couldn't make it any worse. Sure, I was a better barista than some of those places deserved... but I'm hardly an authority on what makes a successful business.

So when I say I'm not surprised that the Uptown Perk and Pub closed down, does that sound like an "I told you so"? While I had good words for that particular location, I've never been fond of the whole "Perk and Pub" concept. The business plan listed on their website is a manifesto that would make the unibomber jealous, laying out plans for world domination, neighborhood by neighborhood (Washington Park Perk and Pub! ... Uptown Perk and Pub!... Commerce City Perk and Pub!... Kabul Perk and Pub!) I've heard some rumblings that the owners intend on re-opening the location, though the "for rent" ad in Craigslist suggests otherwise.

Research and market trends are fine and dandy when you're designing a logo for a new brand of laundry detergent (or, yeah, okay, when you're Starbucks). But when you're attepting to (from the P&P website) "offer services in locations that have a more intimate and neighborhood feel to them, even in the most urban or suburban settings", and create "new vibe of togetherness that didn't exist before", It's better to focus on coffee, rather than "concept". Be the wise man; admit you know nothing; let the customers decide what the joint is gonna be.

Take, for instance, Fluid Coffee Bar, which, at only one (1) block away, was a no brainer for being my next stop after descovering the husk that was once the Perk and Pub. One of the P&P's best assetts was their beans, supplied by Novo Coffee, who are fast on their way to becoming my favorite roaster in town. Lucky for me, Fluid uses the same product. This, however, is the end of any similarities between the two. Where P&P tries to package a homey, neighborhood feel, Fluid knows their exactly who their clientelee is. The joint is located on 19th ave, in a prefab condos n' wine shop n' yoga studio ghetto where the denizens all survived the first dot com bust just fine, thank you very much. Fluid's design is neo-futuristic in a Jetsons (as opposed to Blade Runner) kind of way. If your laptop isn't working, they've even placed terminals along the bar facing the window, so you won't have to look at that forsaken "outside" place. The lighting is lounge-y without being self consciously hip (see: Xandos Coffee in NY), and if cyberspace isn't your bag, you can sit in the comfortable chairs and peruse the wall of books, among which are some science fiction classics, which certainly keeps in the spirit of the atmosphere.

As I said above, the coffee is quite good, and the workers were friendly enough when I asked to wait for the new pot to finish brewing, rather than take the old stuff. More surprising, and worth mentioning was the overall positive attitude of one particular barista (soma in the coffee, perhaps?)

To wit: I love me some gossip. Especially of the coffee variety (hence, the blog). One time, when I was still in the biz, I let slip to the employees of a competing shop that their employer grew hydroponic weed at his house. It turned into this big mess, and the owner showed up one day as I was closing and freaked out about how that he was so big and successful, and had so much to lose, and how, "When you're (Joe), you can't even go out to a movie without being recognized!" Because, apparently, when you own an espresso bar in the basement of an office building, suddenly you're as recognizable as Tom Cruise standing on Oprah's couch.

Hydroponic weed makes you paranoid.

Anyhoo, I was fishing around for some gossip with this particular barista at Fluid about whether she knew anything about the P&P's closing. She showed genuine concern for their well being and, with the utmost sincerity (this is sooo cute) said she hopes that they're back in the neighborhood soon!

Doesn't matter to me, one way or another... I'll be sticking with Fluid.

But what do I know?