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Back Buzz - September 12, 1997

pumping heart Honey Bear Bakery, 2106 North 55th Street, Green Lake

Except for having lunch at Guido's Pizza occasionally, Max and I rarely get up to Green Lake, Seattle's breeding grounds. Although the lake itself is a beautiful place, with birds and reeds and a 2.8-mile trail for walking, jogging, biking, rollerblading, strollering, and grimacing, there seem to be more children and babies in the Green Lake area per capita than in the more central parts of Seattle. Not that we have an aversion to children and babies; but being childless adults we do prefer to hang out with people closer to our own age -- especially when we're drinking coffee.

Nevertheless we made a special trip into the outback of Green Lake to the Honey Bear Bakery, a popular cafe which offers a large array of baked goods as well as occasional live folk music. We'd been here once before, on a weekend morning seven or eight years ago; at that time I remember the place being overly crowded and rude, and I ended up with a forgettable coffee and a lousy scone. This recent visit, however, promised to be different. It was on a quiet afternoon, and we were keeping our minds wide open.

Imagine our horror when we discovered not only does the Honey Bear serve its coffee drinks in paper cups only, but they use paper plates and paper bowls to serve all their food items! Now, I can understand why an espresso cafe which caters mainly to take-out customers might forego the ceramic cups. Or perhaps a brand new establishment might wish to study its clientele's habits first before investing in non-paper cups. But the Honey Bear has been here for years, and it's a place where people in the neighborhood hang out and read, talk, feed their kids, enjoy the live music, and basically spend some time.

So I couldn't resist asking why they don't offer ceramic cups. The reason they gave is because apparently using paper cups instead of ceramic or wood cups -- and giving everybody plastic spoons instead of aluminum or steel -- is "more environmentally correct." What? So as I understand it, tossing yet another plastic spoon into the landfill, along with the paper cup and whatever other soiled paper products that may have touched your food, is better for the earth than providing a decent-tasting and pleasant cappuccino experience in a reusable cup? What kind of bong-addled reasoning is that? (Max thinks the real reason is because they're too f***ing lazy!)

To add insult to injury, they were playing a f***ing Fleetwood Mac record! I mean, it was 1997 the last time I checked. Fleetwood Mac? All right, I suppose there's a few folks out there who really enjoy sitting in a coffeehouse sipping a latte in a soggy paper cup and listening to ageing yuppie music. But I don't think it's a good idea to force such mediocrity on one's children. Obviously I'm not one to tell people how to raise their kids; but if the next generation is going to be spending half its childhood in coffeehouses in Seattle, the Espresso Capital of the Universe, they should be real coffeehouses with real coffee drinks and real music! I'm talking about a certain level of quality here! Parents should be teaching their children how to order a decent mocha instead of foisting fast-food trash on them. This is why I write such a family-friendly column, using family-friendly words like f***ing instead of -- well, you get my point.

And in case any of these tree-hugging mediocrity-loving hippies think I'm anti-environment, I'll have you know I've been recycling my trash for 27 years now, I sold my Honda when I left LA and have been carless for the last 7 years, I don't use insecticides or buy styrofoam products, and I use both sides of every single goddamn piece of paper that passes through my house -- not counting toilet paper, of course.

Okay, okay, I'll quit ranting and tell you about the coffee. The Honey Bear uses Torrefazione beans, which are perfectly respectable beans. My double short cappuccino -- wallowing in its humiliating paper sacrilege -- was satisfactory, although a bit acrid; this was probably due to the fact that the barista seemed inexperienced. The baked goods, on the other hand, seem to be very good. The white chocolate chip brownie Max had was quite lovely, and the green chile cornbread looked extremely inviting. I have no idea how their scones are these days, but I'm hoping they've improved from years ago. Chances are they have.

Oh, and another thing: we were there on a warmish afternoon, and the place was stifling inside. We were sitting directly underneath a ceiling fan, too, but it was turned off. Why? What's the Honey Bear's rationalization for this? That stinky grouchy caffeine-addled breeders and their screaming sweaty kids are better for the environment than a cool and comfortable clientele and a slightly higher electric bill?

In the words of Maira Kalman, go figure!

Speaking of child-raising, here's some relevant e-mail between my Bay Area friend and me from three months ago:

I'm sure you've heard about Share A Smile Becky, Barbie's new wheelchair-bound doll friend. Mattel claims the doll is intended to change attitudes about people with disabilities. But, as I read in a Seattle Times article the other day, "Barbie and friends have not read the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires accessible entrances for wheelchairs. Becky's wheelchair, it turns out, doesn't fit through the doors of the Barbie dollhouse."

Yes, I heard about Barbie's non-wheelchair accessible dream house as an anecdote on NPR's Morning Edition the other day. They also mentioned that a house with modifications will be available this summer. (Would the ADA require that all children with older Barbie houses retrofit them for wheelchair access before Becky is allowed to visit?)

I was wondering if Becky is molded in a permanently seated or disfigured position. That would seem unfair. Can she relax in the bath? Is there no possibility that a miracle cure could restore her mobility? Even before the house is modified, perhaps Ken could carry her up the stairs. I bet if Barbie is not around he would carry her right up to the bedroom. I suspect he's the kind of guy that likes women who lie rigid as he takes his pleasure. (Lacking the proper accessories, we know he has to compensate with mere gestures of dominance.)

Does Becky have a catheter? I wonder if Mattel contemplates other types of disabled dolls. How about an amputated VietNam vet Ken? I suppose children could perform their own amputations (and GI Joe owners probably have done so), but the effect would be more complete if prosthetic limbs were available. (Or is there no realism in substituting one artificial limb for one that was only plastic to begin with?)

Let's balance the sentiment of "Share a Smile" Becky. Her companion could be "What's that smell?" Colostomy Carlos. Maybe a "Go F--- Yourself" Tourette's Tina. Is a wardrobe available to turn Ken into "Spare change?" Streetcorner Sam?

I've heard that there is someone in San Francisco, I believe, who produces altered Barbies with tattoos and piercings and that Mattel is not entirely displeased that someone has seen fit to take their doll as a canvas for creative expression.

Now I want a Colostomy Carlos and a Tourette's Tina! What about Chemo Cassie, Barbie's emaciated friend with hair that falls out? Why not make a Leprous Lenny doll, with removable features? How about an Illiterate Ike -- perhaps spelled IEK, with a backwards K -- a doll that poorly-educated kids can identify with? What about Transsexual Toni, with both the hard plastic breasts and the masculine waist and calves? (I suppose there would be no difference in genitals, seeing as how Barbie and Ken's are identical.) And of course we need Junkie Joanie, complete with track marks and her own set of hypodermic needles and spoons. Oh, and let's not forget Skipper's best friend, 12-year-old Pregnant Priscilla!

When I was ten or eleven I loved creating my own Barbie environments; the Fashion Store and the Dream House were just too limiting. It's about time they offered a new line of Barbie buildings. How about the Barbie Crack House, the Barbie Tenement, the Barbie S&M Dungeon, and the Barbie Woman's Penitentiary, complete with Barbie-sized electric chair. And then there's the Barbie Third-World Clothing Factory, complete with unsanitary conditions and outside locks on the doors; the Barbie AIDS Hospice, where Barbie can go watch her friend, HIV-Positive Harvey, fade slowly away; and, to give equal time to regular working folk, there should be the Megabarbie Corporation, where Barbie and her friends can sit all day staring at their computers in bullpen cubicles, occasionally gathering around the coffee pot or the microwave oven to exchange the latest Microsoft jokes.