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Back Buzz - September 3, 2003

pumping heartCoffee Moco, 202 West Street, Sheffield S1, South Yorkshire

Located on a busy road in Sheffield's City Centre, Coffee Moco is a small espresso cafe featuring the high-tech decor typical of many small espresso cafes, with sidewalk tables offering a view of passing pedestrians and Supertrams. Besides espresso drinks the menu features ice cream shakes as well as interesting-sounding ready-made panini sandwiches and baguettes.

On the Monday afternoon of my visit I ordered a single macchiato (£1.20) which was served in a plain white espresso cup and was capped with a tasteful amount of milk foam. Although it looked perfect as far as macchiatos go the shot tasted a bit weak and sour. Considering the barista who served me seemed rather sad it could have just been her mood that produced such an effect. Coincidentally I had just visited a poorly lit photo booth at Boots for passport photos where I ended up with the most atrocious mug shots of myself ever produced, in which I appeared as if I'd just had a nervous breakdown and my liver wasn't functioning properly. In fact, if my quadruple likeness had been used in the film Amelie it would have been classified as a horror film. So I probably didn't look so chipper myself.

There were only a few people in the cafe on this Monday afternoon, and they all seemed a bit sad. The TV in the corner of the cafe was showing an emotional scene on an afternoon soap, and the stack of Harp Lager ashtrays seemed sadly ironic in an establishment that doesn't serve alcohol. Even the chairs, with the word "SHED" carved into the backs, suggested tears being shed. I'll admit it was a Monday afternoon, but I've never subscribed to that oh-no-it's-Monday and thank-god-it's-Friday sort of attitude to life. At least the sandwiches -- brie and mango, prawn and crab, mozzarella sundried tomato and pesto -- sounded promising and optimistic. Perhaps I should have had one of those before I visited the photo booth.

I'm sure Coffee Moco is probably quite the cheerful, lively place at the right times. But on this afternoon I found myself wondering if this could be the place the 1980s band Sad Cafe named itself after. Or no, I suppose they might have gotten their name from The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, a story by Carson McCullers -- who must have been inspired by this cafe.

As I finished my macchiato and left a supertram passed by full of passengers. Where were they heading? To greener pastures? To fortune and fame? Or back to their boring jobs? Would they meet friends after work and paint the town red? Or would they hole up in their homes watching yet another uplifting chapter of EastEnders?

Ah, the sadness of life...reminds me of a cancer-inspired e-mail exchange from several years ago with my Bay Area friend:

My poor aunt! She's been so tired recently, and her daughter has been dealing with breast cancer. Fortunately the doctors think the surgery earlier this month got everything; she'll go through a few weeks of radiation therapy to make sure.

Still I couldn't help rolling on the ground when I read her xeroxed holiday letter where -- after she discusses her daughter's surgery -- she states the following:

"Please tell everyone you know, even if they are under 40, to get a mastectomy."

Hmm...that's some severe advice! I doubt my gynecologist would recommend it. She does, however, think a woman my age should get a mammogram every two years. That sounds a lot cheaper and less invasive to me.

A friend of mine once mentioned making the same mistake. I think it was sometime after her surgery and chemotherapy, and she asked a nurse when the appointment was for her next "mastectomy." I understand how those words with Latin and Greek roots and suffixes can get confusing: mammogram, mastectomy, podiatrist, pediatrician, orthopedist, pedestrian, pedantry, pederasty. The repercussions of making such a mistake on a form letter, though, point out the importance of an alert proofreader. Or perhaps argue against getting too personal in a form letter.

Didn't all Amazon warrior women have their right breasts removed so that it wouldn't interfere with releasing a bowstring? If women take your aunt's advice, they will perhaps become better archers. I've always been a very flexible person. Not only can I wrap both ankles momentarily around my neck and lie flat on my back with my knees bent and my feet lying flat (I can imagine you trying to picture this), but I've always been able to bend backwards from a standing position and fall gently into a backbend, landing in an arch with my hands flat on the ground. I haven't actually tried this last stunt in the past ten years, fearing that my increasing back problems and potentially stiff neck might cause some unprepared muscle or vertebra to pop out of whack if I try a back bend.

Perhaps I should get a mastectomy so I can safely do back bends again.