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Back Buzz - May 8, 1998

pumping heart Be Bop-a-Latte Cafe, 1503 Queen Anne Avenue North, Upper Queen Anne

Be Bop-a-Latte is located on the south crest of Queen Anne Hill where Queen Anne Avenue meets Galer amid a cluster of traffic and businesses. The cafe is attached to the Stewart Salon by means of an interior door, making it easy for the stylists to get their caffeine fixes -- unless they prefer Caffé Appassionato across the street, that is.

Be Bop -- ah yes, I love that name, seeing as how it's the middle name of my cat Malcolm. Anyway, Be Bop is a tiny diner-styled place with cool vintage 1950s antique rose tables and chairs and very cool matching pastel cups in the classic café-au-lait shape. My cup -- bubblegum pink with turquoise interior on a lavender saucer -- made me feel like I should have had whipped cream and a cherry on my ice cream -- oops! I mean cappuccino.

I'll admit it's a bit disturbing to see the coffee-tinged edges of the milk foam rubbing against such an unnatural color. (Is it turquoise? That's what I call it -- but it could be green or blue or aqua or teal or Bermuda Shorts Orange, for all I know, seeing as how I'm a little colorblind.) According to the sticker on the espresso machine the coffee they use is Torrefazione. But a classic Italian espresso experience this is definitely not. My double short cappuccino was quite decent, I must say: strong, satisfying, served in a properly-shaped cup with a velvet blanket of foam. But somehow the vintage '50s and '60s tunes, the vintage '50s furniture and decor, the unique espresso-diner menu featuring ice cream, tuna melts, panini sandwiches, hot dogs, bagels, ice cream floats, and English muffins are all a bit un-Italian. But what do I know? Perhaps classic diners came from Italy; I'm not really up on diner history.

Surrounded by all these rich 1950s pastels I quickly realized how badly I clashed in my bright red shirt and red and black leggings. But my friend Vivien who, wearing an antique rose sweater, stopped in briefly for a cream-colored milkshake, matched perfectly. In fact, she matched too perfectly. It was eerily perfect.

By the time I finished my cappuccino I had become uncomfortably aware of the overabundance of Elvises manifested in Be Bop-a-Latte's decor -- and I'm not talking about Elvis Costello. Yes, I suppose if you're doing the '50s memorabilia bit you have to have a little Elvis. But isn't a little enough? Where are the poodles, anyway? Aren't poodle skirts and poodle pins as much a part of the 1950s as Elvis? But I didn't spot one poodle in the whole place -- not a dog of any breed. Oh, well; since upper Queen Anne Avenue sports a continuous parade of dogwalkers every weekend, perhaps enough real poodles visit Be Bop-a-Latte to make up for the oversight.

Speaking of dogs, following is an up-to-the-minute e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from just a few days ago (which was triggered by the following description of Avignon from his recent Provence travels):

...before heading back to the hotel we looked into the Hotel de Ville, a 19th century public building common to all French cities which, in Avignon's case, still houses some city offices. The ground floor had a high ceiling supported by stately marble columns, and the floor was tiled with large black and white squares. Two French poodles sat impassively on the checkerboard. I waited briefly to see what the next move might be, but I was not sure if I could understand the rules...

What a great idea -- a chess game with dogs for the pieces! Instead of pawns you could have toy poodles and Chihuahuas and Yorkies and Pekes and Pomeranians; rooks could be Great Danes, bishops could be Brussels griffons, and knights collies; and the king could be an English mastiff and the queen an Afghan hound. And the rules would change, allowing for the normal behavior of dogs, especially in relation to the other dogs. Would two dogs meeting head-on have to circle each other counterclockwise in order to briefly sniff each other's asses? Would a collie knight have to make a more far-reaching bound that the traditional knight, allowing for the breed's playfulness?

Yes, I think we're on the track of a fortune-making game here. As far as the chess pieces go, I've seen a few game shops (in Cambria and Berkeley, for instance) that have chess sets with pieces along all sorts of themes -- animals, fairy tales, historical figures, sci-fi -- so some sort of dogs have probably been done. But to vary the moves and rules in accordance with the temperament of a particular breed, that would be interesting. It would probably require computer graphics (perhaps holograms!), if not actual animals, and would open up all sorts of possibilities. We'd need some other animals for the dogs to capture: birds for the retrievers, foxes for the Basset hounds. I'd expect that dogs would be pooping on each other's squares while the owner is out hunting. We'd see things like mongrels trying to move in and mate with the Queen while the King is away, producing bastard children. The number of pieces could increase during a game (but which color would they be?), perhaps overcrowding the board. You'd have to watch out for the Irish setters; they would just lope around haphazardly, knocking pieces off the board at random.

On the other hand, rewriting the rules for a set of cat chess pieces -- with perhaps a Persian king, a Siamese queen, Abyssinian bishops, Cornish Rex rooks, Russian Blue knights and tabby pawns -- would probably result in a very boring game. When two opposing cats meet head-on on the chessboard, the entire game would come to a screeching halt for twenty minutes or so while the cats growl slowly at each other as they go through those painstakingly slow Tai Chi-like moves. I suppose one of the two cats would eventually back up two or three spaces in slow motion, finally allowing the rest of the game to proceed. By that time, though, all the other pieces would have settled down for naps.

No, the pace would be excruciating. Better to stick with dogs.