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Back Buzz - July 4, 1997

pumping heart Chez Dominique, 77 Spring Street, Downtown

The other day I ventured out in the late afternoon to the heart of downtown Seattle, where the Federal Building is a hop, skip, and an espresso shot from the Central Library (which used to be called the Main Library, by the way -- but for some reason it's now called the Central Library, even though it isn't anywhere close to the Central District -- but that's another column). I was on a quest to find an inviting place at which the typical government office worker could enjoy a properly-served double cappuccino. Imagine my chagrin when I found espresso place after espresso place offering drinks in paper cups only. Even Pegasus Espresso -- the supposedly oldest espresso bar in Seattle, situated in the totally cool lobby of the Dexter Horton building -- couldn't offer me a nonpaper cup. Why do all these places assume you want your drink "to go", i.e. to take back to your desk at work or to consume in your car or while you speedwalk down the sidewalk in your business suit and unmatching athletic shoes? Don't federal office workers deserve to sit and sip a well-served espresso drink at a table with a view?

Fortunately, as I wandered down into the furniture-and-design neighborhood along Western Avenue, I stumbled upon a little cafe on the corner of Spring and Western called Chez Dominique European Pastries and Coffee. The cafe consists of a large dark room on the east side of the counter and a handful of tables by the west-facing windows. Since it was late in the afternoon and cloudy I ignored my photophobic sensibilities and sat at one of these window tables, feeling certain that the big Chez Dominique sign painted on the window would help to filter the UV rays and prevent me from turning bright red -- my normal reaction to sunny window seats.

Chez Dominique uses Starbucks coffee which, if it hadn't been 4:45 and I hadn't been desperately in need of caffeine, may have steered me away from this place. But my double short cappuccino, made exactly to my specifications and served in a standard functional white coffee cup, was perfectly acceptable. The foam was nice, the shots were typically Starbucks -- i.e. a bit too darkly roasted to leave any heady character, and bitter in a weak sort of way. Nevertheless it was enjoyable and served with pride.

Chez Dominique's logo is a silhouette of a chef with a skyscraping hat carrying what looks like a wedding cake on a serving platter. I didn't see any wedding cakes, but I did see lots of pastries in the display counter. I didn't try any of them, but they looked enticing enough. Perhaps if my brother-in-law ever moves to Seattle, or if my friend(s) Dogandi successfully move(s) back, I'll have one of them write a pastry and ice cream column for me. But alas, I'm pretty much of a lightweight in the sweets department.

As I sipped my cappuccino I enjoyed a gorgeous view of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, also known as Highway 99, the double-decker clone of Oakland's Cypress Viaduct just waiting for the Pacific Northwest Big One (which is supposed to occur any day now) to make panini sandwiches out of the southbound traffic. I could also see the Republic Parking lot just kitty-corner, and I had a peekaboo view of Elliott's Restaurant and the Tillicum Village Cruises dock, both along the waterfront, along with the tiniest bit of Elliott Bay, gorgeous during this pleasantly rainy and multi-gray summer. If it had been a bit clearer, or if my eyes were much better, I might have been able to see Alki Point.

It's strange how fast I've become nearsighted. I seemed to have perfect eyesight until I was well into my twenties, when I started wearing glasses for a very minor myopia. But this decade has been hard on my eyes: my nearsightedness went from -1 in each eye in 1990 to -2.25 in 1993, and all the way up to -3.35 now. What happens if one keeps getting increasingly nearsighted, anyway? Do you finally get so you can only focus on the back of your head? Would this be useful if you found yourself on Venus?

Speaking of going blind reminds me of the following e-mail conversation between me and another of my Bay Area friends:

Have you heard of Dale Chihuly, the famous glass artist from Seattle? Perhaps you've seen pictures of him: he looks like a one-eyed gnome, short and stocky with curly hair and an eyepatch. Having started the Pilchuck Glass School just north of here, which is probably one of the most famous blown-glass schools in the world, he's recently become more famous for his mammarian glass chandeliers which are supposed to line the canals of Venice, Italy. He also seems to be buddies with Billy Gates and has become one of Seattle's better-known celebrities.

Well, Chihuly has returned to Seattle with big plans: he wants to open a bookstore. This in itself doesn't sound too surprising, seeing as how Seattle is quite famous for its bookstores. But Chihuly wants to open the biggest bookstore in the world, with an Italian restaurant running down the center employing only Sicilian women and serving only pizza and spaghetti. Chihuly already has a bazillion books or something like that to start out with. But the strange thing is that although he loves books, he doesn't read very much. "I like the way they look," he told the Seattle Times. An employee of his later told the Stranger that Chihuly "has a great deal of respect for reading and for books. He was just stating his own personal opinion, that he doesn't like to read very much. Part of that is because he only has one eye."

It makes me wonder how many books the average one-eyed person reads in comparison to the average two-eyed person. Would Frank Sinatra, for instance, be considered a more voracious reader than Sammy Davis Jr.? If a person had three eyes, would she or he be likely to read even more? Sounds like another good reason to visit Seattle again.

I don't know about eyes, but my grandfather had only one leg and he read some. He also wrote a lot. My grandmother, who had two legs, refused to write a word. I don't even know what her handwriting looked like. This is interesting. Now that I think about it, I'm missing a uterus and I read a lot, whereas Max, who never had a uterus, doesn't read that many books. (He reads plenty of computer journals, though.) And my mother and a friend in Oregon also don't have uteri -- in fact, they don't even have ovaries -- and they both read a lot. Another relative is missing not only her uterus but both breasts, and she reads quite a bit; but one sister-in-law has both a uterus and two large breasts, and she reads an awful lot.

An old friend of mine was missing both kidneys -- she was waiting for a donor -- and she read a lot. (She's dead now, so she probably doesn't read anymore.) My brother has a gold tooth and is missing his appendix, and he reads voraciously. An old friend of mine has a plate in his head and two false teeth, and he also reads voraciously. And another old friend lost his hair very early and has flat feet, and he's always read a lot. My father suffered 16 brain hemorrhages and had a piece of garden hose in his heart, and not only did he read a lot but he read really, really fast.

And another sister-in-law isn't missing anything, and she doesn't like to read at all.

What does it all mean? I'm not missing anything but a few wisdom teeth, and I like to read...