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Back Buzz - June 5, 1998

pumping heart Boyd's Barista Coffee, 1303 Sixth Avenue, Downtown

Boyd's is a small no-nonsense cafe which caters mostly to walk-aways. My double short "dry" cappuccino was served in a surprisingly large blue coffee cup. The barista asked me if I wanted it "extra dry" and I said, "No, just dry is fine." Big mistake -- I ended up with a very wet drink consisting primarily of steamed milk. I suppose my stomach -- currently in the throes of its occasional spastic flare-up -- was happy to receive more milk than usual, but not my foam-loving psyche.

I'll allow as how the barista seemed to be having a great deal of trouble steaming the milk; some batches of milk seem less foamable than others. But my cappuccino tasted like warm milk with not even a trace of coffee flavor. This, as you can imagine, was extremely disappointing. Either the shots were way too weak or Boyd's Italo D'Oro coffee beans have very little character; I'm not sure which. Perhaps some day, when I've written about all the double short cappuccinos on the West Coast, I'll start over and review straight espresso shots. But for now I'm talking about double short dry cappuccinos, which translates to "two shots, small cup, and foamy." There shouldn't be much variation in these basic requirements.

So what else can I say about Boyd's? It's on Sixth Avenue, nestled comfortably on a slight incline amidst the high-end retail area and some of the better hotels. So it's one of those tiny counter-only-but-you-can-buy-coffee-accessories-if-you-like coffee bars which probably caters mostly to office and retail workers and upscale tourists. It's not a place where you'd linger longer than an hour or so. They do offer a couple of sandwiches for lunch and a dynamic view of Sixth Avenue traffic and scurrying pedestrians in all manner of expensive leather shoes.

I see Boyd's is also very close to Two Union Square, one of the tallest buildings in Seattle. (As you look at the Seattle skyline, it's the tall one with the American flag.) When I was temping several years ago I worked for a couple of days in Two Union Square, on the 50th floor or somewhere close. The job was hideous: it was for a wealthy law firm which was obviously too cheap to fix the air conditioning. It was wintertime, but the room I worked in was heated to a toasty 95 degrees. I, along with the other temps, could easily have fainted of heatstroke. Yes, and then we could have sued the Armani suits off those bastards...

But seriously, the view from the 50th floor was spectacular. I could see the entire Seattle metropolitan area. There aren't many other spots -- other than, perhaps, the top of the Space Needle -- where one can get such an impressive view.

Yes, I do love views. And I love being up high. I used to suffer from a slight case of acrophobia; but in the course of writing my first novel, where the main character jumps off a bridge, I seem to have lost my fear of heights. Now I relish perching on skyscraping balconies, peering over the edge of high rooftops, climbing up lofty structures like the Eiffel Tower, flying in small planes and hot-air balloons and all manner of off-the-ground vehicle. I suppose you could say I'm an altitude aficionado.

Speaking of heights reminds me of two separate e-mail exchanges. The first, with my Chicago friend, is somewhat vertiginous:

The major cultural institution in these here suburbs, outside of the Botanic Gardens, is the Borders store, especially since it's open until 11:00 PM (a great pickup scene for fornicators and sodomizers out there). The other night I happened to be at Borders -- for what reason I cannot say. But overcome with indecision ("Not Dogandi!" you must be saying), I surrendered to the nearest display and bought my very first video movie. I had always wondered why people buy movies. Even if it's your favorite, doesn't owning a TV version take the specialness out of it? But they had this huge pile of Vertigos on I did not have a choice. It's still wrapped in cellophane, though.

If you were actually buying the movie when you bought the video, I think it'd be well worth it. After all, $20 or whatever it costs to buy a video is a small price to pay for, say, Jurassic Park or Toy Story or any of the Star Wars sequels if the price includes all remaining proceeds (including foreign and domestic marketing tie-ins) from the film.

But enough about wealth...let's talk about fame! First of all, I think Huge Pile of Vertigos and Vertigos On Sale are both great names for a band. Which do you prefer? If we get that band together we were recently talking about, we could give ourselves seven different names including Huge Pile of Vertigos. It would be a new concept in band names -- one name for each day of the week -- and we could have at least seven different fan clubs.

Another altitudinal e-mail exchange was with my Bay Area friend after my recent European trip:

The conclusion to your travel journal you sent me is inspiring. I especially like the statement, "Someone has finally chewed up the gum of my mind, softening and releasing the intense flavor of my ideas." And you mention the idea of "little Post-Its obscuring the death in my soul." I, too, feel as if it's time to stand in a strong wind -- perhaps standing on top of a TGV moving at 200 mph would do it -- and strip all the irrelevant clutter off my life, then to stand naked, refreshed, before a foreign world.

Perhaps I should take up nudist skydiving.

Well, don't forget to pack your voile parachute.

Funny you should mention nudists. Yesterday in the shower I was trying to cheer myself up by having an imaginary discussion with myself. I was thinking about what makes people on the Pacific Coast so different from people in the rest of the country and the world. And then I realized it's the militancy with which they take up their nonviolent causes. We've got militant nonsmokers, militant vegans, militant treehuggers, militant animal lovers, militant bicyclers, militant joggers...when I came to the idea of militant nudists I almost drowned from laughing so hard.