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.


ScooterDad said...

Well said...... but THAT is how I roll.
I mean really if your gonna make shite drinks then you need to be told you make shite drinks.
Dont get me wrong I bit my tounge as much as the next guy but every once and awhile I let them know.

cassie d said...

where did you get that awesome pic of Mork and Mindy? What a great pic to prove your point! i laughed out LOUD!!!!

Caff_x said...

I damn near busted the internets searching for a Mork & Mindy pic that featured Eugene... to think that the ONLY one I found was from the Saturday morning cartoon spinoff. Tell me there's not some racist conspiracy going on there.

mimi said...

looks like Mork is using is magic to get some of Fred (from Scooby Doo) or whoever that is suppose to be from Mork and mindy.