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Back Buzz - May 23, 1997

pumping heart B&O Espresso, 204 Belmont Avenue East, Capitol Hill

This popular Capitol Hill hangout is a surprisingly elegant place with rich decor. In fact, there is absolutely nothing here which remotely suggests the game of Monopoly except for B&O's logo, which uses the game's familiar steam locomotive. There is nothing "choo-choo" about this place, either; perhaps a little more chou-chou, if you happen to be feeling particularly affectionate or cruciferous.

On this particular afternoon the waitress seated me at an odd table which jutted awkwardly into the room. I don't really know why she chose this particular table; the one directly next to it was much more inviting. I would have made a beeline for the preferred table immediately had I not been stalled by the "Please wait to be seated" sign. Why was I not allowed to seat myself in the first place? After all, it was a Wednesday afternoon and the place was practically empty! Perhaps I should be linking each of these cafe reviews to its respective seating arrangement chart, complete with color coding denoting which tables are more serene, which provide a more lively view, etc. And perhaps someday I'll add a link to a long list of all the stupid signs in Seattle which make absolutely no sense. (See Still Life In Fremont review.)

But back to B&O. At the present there's a lovely view from the side windows of large yellow construction equipment ripping Olive Way into a pile of shreds. The muted din of destruction one can hear from inside the cafe lends a fitting backbeat to the inane disco-ish music which assaults the ears as the traffic outside swishes by right where Olive Way marks a slight S-curve. One of the window seats seems like a great place to sit, sip an espresso, and watch a good car crash.

My double short cappuccino was served in a glass teacup. (Thank god it wasn't one of those sacrilegious glass mugs!) There was a festive foam topknot sticking up from the thick layer of dry foam which sat on a layer of milk which rested on the bottom layer of espresso -- in other words, the drink was perfectly layered in the glass for my viewing pleasure. But the topknot made me think of a little girl's hairdo; had it been tied with a polkadot bow, perhaps it would have looked more like Zippy the Pinhead's tuft.Yes, I thought as I tasted the little poof, I definitely prefer the idea of nibbling on Zippy the Pinhead's hair rather than on some strange little girl's tresses.

The espresso itself was deep, intense, and slightly acrid, like a richly-soiled cavern deep within the crust of the earth. Too bad it was such a warm day; if the room had been pleasantly cool it would have added to the subterranean feel. The pretty layers of the drink made me think of the International Stingers on which my friend Cherie used to get drunk (and subsequently sick) when we were 21. But instead of looking forward to drunkenness and a drive on the porcelain bus, I could look forward to a productive and energetic afternoon -- if I could make my way safely through the construction equipment and confused rush-hour traffic without being flattened, crushed, or demolished, that is.

Fortunately I was on foot, a concept somewhat unfathomable for many people. And it's probably even harder to believe that someone who was weaned on the Los Angeles freeway system would walk as much as I do. But since I moved to Seattle 7 years ago I walk almost everywhere; it's one of the joys, not to mention health advantages, of living in a small city. And what better way to get home after consuming a nice strong double shot of espresso -- with my muscles well-exercised and my nerves intact. Somehow the thought of climbing into my car and maneuvering it through an unpredictable obstacle course of rush-hour Pacific Northwest drivers doesn't sound that inviting when my heart is pumping so fast and my imagination is so stimulated. It would be just my luck to find myself an unwilling participant in a car crash -- perhaps on that S-curve in front of B&O. I wonder just how many accidents have occurred on that particular stretch of road. Better yet, I wonder if vehicular accidents are any more frequent on streets that pass by popular coffeehouses. I read an article once about an interesting piece of bad-luck interstate: Route 666. It starts at Route 40 in northwestern New Mexico and connects Gallup with Monticello, Utah via Cortez, Colorado. The article said the strip that runs through New Mexico, otherwise known as the Devil's Highway, is plagued with a high rate of motor fatalities due to drunk driving and general bad luck.

I'm assuming the article was referring to human fatalities. Seeing as how humans are the ones who would believe 666 is an unlucky number, I wonder if the roadkill rate is any higher than on other highways. If, for instance, it was found that there is a higher rate of mortality among jackrabbits on Route 666 than on any other highway, would this be because the highway really is unlucky or because the jackrabbits believe it's unlucky? Do jackrabbits believe in the Devil as a rule?

I'd be interested to find out just how many popular coffeehouses are situated along Route 666...