CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Elliott Bay Book Company Cafe

Back Buzz - December 5, 1997

pumping heart Elliott Bay Book Company Cafe, 101 South Main Street, Pioneer Square

In light of the ongoing battle between independent booksellers and the mega-bookstores, I decided it was time to start reviewing some of Seattle's bookstore cafes. Since Seattle is supposed to have more bookstores per capita than any other major city -- a fact I read somewhere long ago, but I can't remember where -- there are plenty of bookstores to choose from. Elliott Bay Books is one of the better, if not the best, independents Seattle has to offer. This warm, sprawling storehouse of books hosts nightly author readings in the downstairs cafe. I have to admit I've had more glasses of wine in the cafe than cups of espresso because of the readings I've attended. I'm one of the rare souls in this town who believes authors should read their books to a relaxed, appreciative, and readily amused audience. Since alcohol tends to make me much more relaxed, appreciative, and readily amused than caffeine, I always opt for a large goblet of wine over a cappuccino or macchiato -- although I can't say much for Elliott Bay's wine selections.

I've never been too fond of their coffee, either; but I decided I'd wipe the slate clean and give it a fresh, unbiased try. As seems to be the case with bookstore cafes, my cappuccino tasted like it came from an espresso machine which needs cleaning. Slightly sour, vinegary, and chalky, with a faint aroma of red-sauced lasagna. (Am I making you thirsty yet?) Actually it's not as bad as it sounds. The coffee itself, Fonté, is a decent choice, and the barista took care to make my cappuccino as dry as I requested. The fact that it was served in a glass cup with no saucer or spoon knocks a couple points off; but the cafe's atmosphere makes up for it. If you're into hazelnut lattes, tall single mochas, or something on that order, I have this strange feeling they'd probably do a good job. But the espresso shots themselves...that machine...oh, what more can I say? Keep it clean, guys!

The cafe itself consists of quiet wooden tables nestled in the dark wooden reaches surrounding the stairway which leads up to the bookstore. The decor consists of shelves and shelves of books. Not fake books like you find in some coffee houses (like those film-into-book-treatment books that decorate The Library, a deceitfully hip-looking coffeehouse in my hometown of Long Beach, CA). No, these are real books, dusty hardcovers intact, offering real literature and thought. I've always wondered if there's some rhyme or reason to the order in which the books are shelved. They're obviously not by subject or alphabetical by author. Let's see...from where I sit I see The Old Gods Laugh next to Mayfair followed by Banking: Credits & Finance, The Hawk Is Humming, A Week In New York, David the King...oh, wait! Here's a good title: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Knowledge. Yes, that sounds like a good tome to pore over while sipping a double short cappuccino.

By the way, the Elliott Bay Book Cafe also offers cafeteria-style meals and pastries which are quite decent as a rule. Even that weird frothy pink dessert thing in the parfait cup is pretty good, if you happen to be craving something sweet, frothy, and pink -- I imagine it would go well with a historical romance. Perhaps a bowl of hot and hearty soup with a Dostoyevsky novel? How about a plate of lasagna with a book on Florence, Italy? If you prefer reading new books with your food there are plenty upstairs; but you need to purchase them first before bringing them into the cafe.

Hmm, the book titles continue to intrigue me. I wonder what The Walter Syndrome is about? I've known a couple of Walters in my life; pretty unique fellows, both of them. Oh, but what's this right next to Walter? A book called The Trojans. What a fascinating subject! Must be a history of the development of the popular prophylactics. And the titles go on and on...

Speaking of books reminds me of a strange experience I had with the Literary Guild. About twenty years ago I joined the popular book club by selecting four free books. My only obligation at that time was to buy one book a year. In the first year I did buy one book, costing a total of $10.00, and then I canceled my subscription. I received several typical mailings from the Literary Guild asking me to please reconsider and rejoin, but I never did. I had my five books for the price of one book, and I was content.

Probably because I tend to buy a lot of books by mail, last year I started receiving regular offers to join the Literary Guild again. What's really odd is they always include this letter which says, "We miss you as a valued customer! Won't you reconsider and start up your membership again?" It's hard for me to believe they miss my business of $10.00 from twenty years ago. How were customer files kept twenty years ago, anyway? Wasn't that back in the days when computer programs were typed on punch cards and computers filled entire rooms? How could they still remember me, a lousy customer as far as the Literary Guild is concerned? Did my check for $10.00 really make that much of a difference? Was I underestimating my importance as a starving student as far as the economy was concerned?

Perhaps I should write them a letter thanking them for remembering me and telling them that they really shouldn't count on my support anymore. Maybe I should enclose a check for $10.00 to keep them going for another twenty years. After all, I'd hate to have their demise on my conscience.

And since you're reading this column about literature on your computer, here's some e-mail from a few months ago when I tried to send a short story as an attachment to my Bay Area friend:

Enclosed is a draft of a short story I've written.

You can read it at your leisure, and let me know what you think. (It's about 7 1/2 pages long.)

[SHTSTORY.WRD attached -- formatted for Word for Windows, uncompressed, no coding]

Damn! I got the message and the Mime-encoded short story both as an attachment. So it looks like this:

This is a MIME-encapsulated message
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
Content-Disposition: inline
Content-Type: application/octet-stream; name="SHTSTORY.WRD"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="SHTSTORY.WRD"


Too bad. Okay, I UUEncoded and re-sent the text file to both your e-mail addresses.

[SHTSTORY.WRD attached -- formatted for Word for Windows, uncompressed, UUEncoded]

Damn! Failure at both locations.

On AOL I cut and pasted the UUEncoded portion of the message into a new file and ran UUDecode. It seemed to run normally and indicated that it had decoded SHTSTORY.WRD, but Word is unable to read this file. (I still have a copy of excerpts from other text files you've sent, as UUEncoded and WRD files, and they have the same symptoms, so at least AOL is consistent.)

At my non-AOL address I got the message "--uuencoded file (SHTSTORY.WRD) not attached...incomplete", along with a fragment of an encoded file that UUDecode does not recognize.

I thought that MSMail recognizes MIME messages. Try sending it MIME format to that address.

As I said before, MIME is not an encoding option in Claris E-Mailer. There's only UUEncode, Base64, BinHex, default Compuserve, and no encoding.

So how come this old yellowed Post-It note which is taped to my screen says "Word for Windows, uncompressed, UUEncoded to both MistahRick addresses"? Obviously some document must have worked in that format at some time. Is this story too long? (Then why do they call 'em short stories?)

So I'll try no encoding now, to the non-AOL address only. Let me know if it works. Otherwise I'll try splitting it in two and sending it UUEncoded again.

Well, MS Mail thought it received a base64 encoded file, whatever that is ("--base64 encoded file (SHTSTORY.WRD.SIT) attached..."), but it didn't decode it into anything readable.

OK, try UUEncoding in two pieces. This worked for us many times: I have EYEBROW and VICKY and INKBLOT and WEDDING, which included graphics. (Perhaps you need to illustrate your story.) The failure of the UUEncoded version must have been a fluke. In two pieces, that will give you two chances to get through our pesky gateway.

Okay, here's the first part, UUEncoded...

[SHSTORY1.WRD attached -- formatted for Word for Windows, uncompressed, UUEncoded]

...and the second part.

If this doesn't work, perhaps I'll send you a comic strip version of my story. And if that doesn't work, I'll call you up and perform my story in mime.

[SHSTORY2.WRD attached -- formatted for Word for Windows, uncompressed, UUEncoded]

I got two messages saying "uuencoded file not attached...incomplete", followed by gibberish. Well, maybe I can receive only messages with graphics. Try putting a clip of an animated graphic inside the story and sending that.

Um....tell you what: I'll mail it to you tomorrow. You know, like, um, at that post office place, where you, like, glue a stamp to an envelope and stuff? I think that might work. I'll even throw in a coupla photographs.

Is postage free if it tips the scales at zero ounces?

OK, I'll be looking for the package. But be sure to put the story in a binary-encrypted Word 6.0c for Windows .DOC file and the pictures either in .BMP, .GIF. or .TIF format. you mean you're actually going to send it on paper? What a thought!