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Back Buzz - January 24, 2000

[pumping heart]Fitzpatrick's Café, 17 Rendezvous Street, Folkestone, Kent

I apologize for this column being so late. I've been so busy reviewing the vast array of England's pubs that I haven't had a chance to start exploring the espresso outlets of East Kent. To be perfectly honest I dreaded the start of this search; every time I'd spot a "coffee shop" or "cafe" that looks promising I'd soon discover it serves only coffee or tea -- or if espresso drinks are on the menu they're from a vending machine.

So just in time for the Millennium I was happy to stumble upon Fitzpatrick's Café, right in the heart of Folkestone's pedestrian precinct. Situated on the corner of Rendezvous Street right across from Scruffy Murphy's and Pizzeria Posillipo, Fitzpatrick's is a pretty little cafe outfitted with spacious arched windows, a pale wood floor, green patio chairs, a big bulbous and curvaceous chandelier, and a nice rubbed-paint wall treatment. Besides espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes, the cafe serves regular coffee and tea, breakfast, sandwiches and baguettes, toasties, jacket potatoes, ice cream desserts, chilli, spaghetti, Welsh rarebit, and various specials. (The brie and avocado baguette of the day looked especially enticing.)

My single short cappuccino (or regular cappuccino, as they call it here) was a pretty little cream-puff fluff of a cappuccino, heaped with super puffy foam and sprinkled way too liberally with sweet chocolate powder. It was served in a surprisingly perfect little voluptuously round white china cup and was accompanied by two frosted biscuits. The espresso, however, just wasn't strong enough, a bit too milky, and way too hot. Still, considering the luck I've had so far, this was a reasonably good start to my Southeast England cappuccino search.

There's some rather interesting and, to me, oddly nostalgic art on the walls of Fitzpatrick's Café, from simple oil landscapes and French cafe scenes to a real live 1950s-era cubist-kitsch clown -- one of those orangey-red paintings that remind me of the old paint-by-numbers and art tile projects I used to painstakingly complete when I was a little girl, or even earlier than that -- back in that red-orange-yellow Picasso/Henry Moore/Maynard G. Krebs period of my three-year-old consciousness, back when Mad Magazine was relatively new and I was still too young to read the words. I guess we all have our formative kitsch experiences and memories, no matter in which decade we're born. Will we have similar kitsch visions when we die?

Speaking of strange dreamlike memories, death, and clown paintings, here's an e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from a year and a half ago:

The night before last I dreamed you and I were working together at a software company located in some downtown coastal city. The downtown skyline, almost Manhattan-like in its magnitude, was right next to the water, either a bay or an ocean of some sort.

Suddenly we heard an announcement that several of the skyscrapers were going to blow up -- I don't remember if it was a surprise terrorist bombing or a planned detonation, but we were told we had to evacuate immediately. We all headed outside and up the hill, away from the water and downtown. After we'd gotten ten blocks away somebody told us we were at a safe distance. I decided to walk on further with a few people, but you wanted to stay there with your camera because you thought you'd get some great shots. So I continued on for another seven or eight blocks.

And then I saw the first building explode, turning into a huge fireball directly behind two of the taller skyscrapers. I watched as the tops of the buildings broke off and fell in our direction, crashing to the ground a mere half-block from where I was standing. As I watched in shock, realizing that you and the others had obviously been crushed by the collapsing building, I noticed yet another even taller building caving in toward me. This one -- a rich wonderfully rosy red in color -- I could see caving down directly above and a block or two beyond me. Since there was no time for escape I found myself uttering a simple "Uh-oh..." as I waited for the end. Somehow I was comforted knowing the last thing I was going to see in my life was my favorite color, red...

And then I was surprised to find myself still alive and inside a semi-collapsed building full of brightly-colored rubble. Several people in clown suits were riding around on bicycles and scooters trying to push the rubble into artistic arrangements, festooning collapsed walls with colored gels and soft pieces of colored Sculpey. And a couple of the clowns were videotaping the whole thing.

Your skyscraper dream seems appropriate right now, with the structures falling around you, and me smothering.

So when the building fell, you saw pretty colors and clowns, and the rubble was being molded into some new world architecture. (Perhaps a variation on the Music Experience Project in Seattle?) Was there any indication that I survived?

Yes...I think you were there in the rubble with the clowns. Perhaps you were in a clown suit -- or were you the one who was wearing nothing but a green fuzzy wig and a clown-nosed codpiece? Yes -- that had to be you!