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.


cassie d said...

don't worry, josh spat out that pink think on my plate, too.

and you're RIGHT! the goth kids WERE in full force - and fully clothed!!!

how did i ever do it?
oh yeah. i never went outside!!!

caffeinator_x said...

validated at last...