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Back Buzz - September 9, 2000

[pumping heart] Epoca Espresso Bar, 57 St. Martins Lane, London

Earlier this year my friend Mistah Rick from Oakland and I spent a day in central London. After occupying a couple of hours with the perusal of picturesque portraits and paintings in the portals of the National Gallery we'd worked up a thirst from all that art and alliteration for a good espresso. We headed off down the street, passing several places which advertised espresso and cappuccino; but something about each of them -- lack of customers or perhaps no visible espresso machines -- propelled me further on. Finally, just off Trafalgar Square and down from the Chandos Pub, we spotted the Illycaffe sign in the window of Epoca Espresso Bar, and I was sold.

Epoca is a simple, modern deli, a long thin mirrored cafe with counters displaying all sorts of gourmet sandwiches, salads, and prepared deli foods. We ordered our drinks and sat at a table for two next to a mirrored wall. My "double macchiato" was missing the macchiato -- i.e. it was simply a double espresso -- and Rick's single cappuccino was covered with that typical English sweet cocoa dusting, but at least his was presented with a pretty rosette in the foam and both were served in very nice Illycafe cups. I couldn't quite figure out what was on Rick's cup: some high-contrast silhouetted guys in porkpie hats, either a group of noted political philosophers or else the Blues Brothers.

The drinks were very nicely done and the coffee was Illycaffe, which is always pleasantly robust but smooth. The mirror next to our table made me feel as if I was sitting next to myself drinking a quadruple espresso. Or should I say, "osserpse elpurdauq a gniknird flesym ot txen gnittis saw I"? And there were two Ricks as well, drinking a double cappuccino between them. Or do I mean meht neewteb oniccuppac elbuod a gniknird?

Why haven't I ever come across a coffeehouse called Café Palindrome, walled and ceilinged with mirrors and specializing in cappuccinoniccuppacs, lattettals, and their uniquely backwards sosserpsespressos?? I like the idea of drinking a good espresso in a radially symmetric mirrored universe. Hell, I'd drink a good espresso in a black hole if one were available, and as long as the black hole was tastefully done. Although I'll admit being crushed into nonexistence by the forces within would tend to detract from the pleasure of the experience.

On second thought I'll stick with three-dimensional cafes.

Speaking of black holes brings to mind an e-mail conversation with same friend from earlier this year:

A while ago my friend Andrew, his son Rory, and I spent a week packing up Andrew's parents's house for their move to Belfast. An hour before the movers were due to arrive Andrew drove his parents over to their hotel and Rory and I were left to pack the bedding. We had one empty box left, approximately 24x24x30 inches. On the two single beds were a total of 2 sets of sheets, 2 blankets, 2 padded duvets, 2 dust ruffles, and 6 full-sized bed pillows. We attacked the task slowly and methodically, packing the puffy things (duvets and pillows) down as much as we could with all our might. Amazingly we fit everything into the box, taping it shut with full circles of packing tape while we each pushed with all strength we could muster against the sides of our magic box. It was an amazing sight, this little cardboard box that barely weighed anything but that we knew contained an amount of solids negating any current physical theory of matter and space. I labelled the box BEDDING but was tempted to write instead BLACK HOLE - OPEN CAREFULLY, with visions of Andrew's frail little mother being smashed through the wall by a cannon-propelled bed pillow as she opens the box.

The truck took off mid-afternoon for London, heading on to Liverpool on Friday and then to Belfast Saturday morning. Over the next couple of days I kept my ears out for news of physical anomalies or disasters involving Westminster Abbey or perhaps John Lennon's childhood home being sucked into oblivion by a passing moving van, along with other major buildings, vehicles, and passers-by. No word of ships on the Irish Sea disappearing into thin air, I assume the box arrived safely.

But perhaps, as in the Butterfly Effect, this gravitational abnormality may have left everything over here intact but caused destruction elsewhere.

Is the Transamerica Building still there?

My god, what an amazing feat! I wish I could have had the assistance of you and Rory to pack up my 4 x 6 trailer with things from a deceased friend's house. Do you suppose you could have packed a wide screen TV with surround sound into an ordinary TV/microwave box? Perhaps throw in a Nordic Track exercise machine, too? I don't know where I'd let them out in my apartment, though.

Besides the gravitational effects you were worried about, don't things under pressure generate heat? All that bedding might have been in danger of bursting into flames, if not triggering nuclear fusion. If you truly had it packed as tight as a black hole, though, no radiation would escape, so I guess that's not a problem. Will the pillows and duvets come back out, though, or have they been reduced to a point mass?

After several weeks of drought the clouds and rain have returned, so I can't determine if the Transamerica pyramid is still there. Locally, though, it does appear that something materialized from another dimension. I just spent three weeks sorting through my friend's slides from the period 1972 - 1987. I'm putting together a slide show for a memorial with her long-time friends in Los Angeles, and this activity let me reminisce about all the trips the two of us took together. I thought I had reached the end after going through three metal slide boxes, 26 circular trays and the cardboard box labelled "old slides," loaded with odds and ends. I was disappointed, though, when I realized that I had not found any of her slides from trips to Ireland, nor the accompanying rolls of negatives.

Then this afternoon, as I headed off to the market, I happened upon yet another box in the garage labelled "slides and negatives," which somehow I hadn't noticed before while carting things back and forth. There's another 25 or 30 boxes of slides in there. The missing negative rolls appear to be there. But what are all the extra slides? I already accounted for all the trips we took. Did that gravitational anomaly drag out evidence of vacations I was never aware of?

I'll check with Andrew's parents, not to mention his sister, to see if any boxes of slides found their way home to Ireland.

Actually, considering how intensely and violently independent of each other the Irish Republicans and the Ulster consider themselves to be, if slides of Southern Ireland ended up in Northern Ireland due to such a gravitational anomaly, this might very well cause the Earth's magnetic poles to shift their polarities, and then you and I would be suddenly thrust into autumn! So far the leaves on the European trees aren't changing colour. But if you start seeing pumpkins on the porches of Oakland, let me know and I'll prepare for global disaster...