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Back Buzz - September 26, 1997

pumping heart Joe Bar, 810 East Roy Street, Capitol Hill

Earlier this year I was very sad to see the closing of Harvard Espresso on Roy Street. Fortunately a new coffeehouse has opened in its place. Even more fortunate is the fact that it's a very pleasant coffeehouse which makes a damn fine espresso.

Located next to the Cornish College of the Arts and directly across the street from the Harvard Exit Cinema, Joe Bar is a cozy, comfortable coffeehouse in a great location. The sidewalk tables offer a perfect brick-and-foliage setting in which to sip an espresso and watch filmgoers, art students, and traffic. Inside the cafe are stairs which lead up to a tiny inviting loft; strangely enough I've never actually been up there, seeing as how I'm usually grabbing an espresso-to-go to take into the movie theatre. But it gives me something to look forward to on a future visit. And the more experiences you have to look forward to, the more intriguing the future becomes.

On this particular occasion Max and I chose to sit at the small table against the large mirror with the hammered-brass frame. As I was admiring the frame I noticed the entire cafe has a hammered-brass look to it. This is because most of the place -- stairway railing, loft floor, chairs and tables -- is painted with some sort of copper-colored metallic paint. Being a regular indulger in metallic and iridescent acrylic paints (painting with them, that is -- not ingesting them), I feel especially comfortable and warmly welcome when I'm surrounded by things painted with metallic paint. This could be just a quirk on my part, but I really doubt that's all it is. There's definitely a warm, soothing aura projected by metallic-painted wood. I know this for a fact. I can't prove it, but I know it, so trust me.

Joe Bar uses Fonté Coffee which is roasted in Seattle. The coffee is surprisingly good: robust and full-bodied. The green cups which are used for most of the coffee drinks are much too large for a short cappuccino, but I requested the barista to fill mine halfway only. They do offer an absolutely perfect white cup for an espresso macchiato, which will probably become my drink of choice here in the future. But there's definitely something mysteriously appealing about the large green cups -- perfect, by the way, for tall lattes and Americanos. I can't put my finger on what it is about the cups, but I think it may be related to the eerily nostalgic green hue which glows with just a hint of metallic -- a polished metallic, perhaps. The cups go very well with the hammered-brass and copper metallic scheme of Joe Bar. There's also something about the feel of the cups, the deliciously smooth shape, suggestive of a Rodin, perhaps, or at least an olive green Bakelite pint glass...I seem to be having déjà-vu...have I written this column before?

Oh, well. Before I slip off into some obscure treatise on paint auras, I have to mention the absolutely delicious lemon currant scone Max and I shared as we sipped our espressos. It was everything you could ever ask for in a scone: heavenly texture, subtle yet wonderfully satisfying flavor, and physically attractive -- although not so physically attractive that you'd hesitate to destroy its looks by actually consuming it. That would be such a waste: to watch such a delicious creation go stale from neglect. If Joe Bar's other baked goods are anything like their lemon currant scones, then we're talking about some true state-of-the-art pastries.

Now, where was I? I was writing an espresso column...thinking about metallic paint...or was someone else thinking about metallic paint while I was doing something altogether different? Actually, since I'm no longer writing these words -- because the existence of such "written" words proves they were actually composed by the writer in what is now the past -- I could very well be painting a room with metallic paints at this exact moment in time, while you're reading these words. Or perhaps I'm preparing a zucchini feta flan, or drinking a pint of Elysian IPA with a few friends, or figuring out some total stranger's income taxes. Anything is possible. As my friend Dr. Ray Jasinski once pointed out, there's no way to prove the physical whereabouts of one's mind. One's brain, certainly, but not one's mind. So just where is my mind right now, anyway? Or yours? Or Dr. Ray Jasinski's, for that matter? If we can't actually determine the spatial coordinates of our minds, how can we prove we're even using our own minds? Perhaps I've been borrowing someone else's mind all these years; who's to say? I mean, it's not exactly possible to do DNA testing on one's mind tissues, is it? It's conceivable that my mind got switched at birth with the baby boy next to me, and now I've filled his mind with my entire life's experience and vice versa. If this were the case, it would definitely not be practical to attempt to switch minds at this point.

I recall reading a few months ago about how lime Jell-O, when hooked up to an EEG machine, registers movements identical to the brain waves of a normal human adult. Is it possible that lime Jell-O could this very minute be thinking for someone you know? What about that driver who's about to go crashing through that red light? Is he completely out of his mind? Is it possible that some cherry Jell-O -- which apparently is not as intelligent as lime Jell-O -- is doing the thinking for him? Have you ever felt like your dessert was trying to communicate with you?

Speaking of brains and liability reminds me of the following e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend:

Do they sell dream insurance?

Yesterday morning -- after I dreamed about having to go to the bathroom -- I woke up with a mild bladder irritation. It seems to be much better now, fortunately. But the other morning, after I dreamed about being sleepy and trying to fit my body into a tight jigsaw puzzle in order to sleep, I woke up with a sore ring finger on my left hand. Today the hand is quite swollen and stiff; I've got it wrapped in an Ace bandage so I won't injure it further. Unfortunately, since I've got a chronic infection in the ring finger of my right hand, I use my left hand for almost everything these days except writing, forking, and spooning. So it makes it rather difficult to type.

Interesting concept, dream insurance. If insurance companies actually marketed it, would it protect you against dreams or, like "life insurance," reimburse your waking self in the event your dreaming self ceased to dream?

I suppose if you were a reckless dreamer (as opposed to a victim of dreams), you would need some sort of high-limit liability insurance to protect your assets if you lost control of your dreams and inflicted serious bodily harm on your bedmate and then were sued. (California no doubt will make this type of insurance mandatory for all California dreamers -- sorry -- by the year 2009.) And would you need Uninsured Dreamers coverage, in case your bed was broadsided by a resident alien fleeing the dream border patrol in a high-speed chase?

So what kind of dream coverage would you need if you were impregnated by an extraterrestrial in your dream? Or what about if someone else claims to have had the same dream you've had? Do copyright laws apply to dreams? For instance, could I register some of my better dreams with the Library of Congress? Would I need to obtain an ISBN number for each individual dream, or could I just get my unconscious mind bar-coded? If I dream about someone I don't like, can I sue them for trespassing? Would that be considered illegal entry?

And what about if I dream of an earthquake while I'm in the state of California? Would I be covered under my Washington State dream insurance? What about all those dreams I have where I end up in China or Romania? Should someone like myself consider adding extra international-dream coverage, especially if I plan on driving in my dreams?