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Back Buzz - May 22, 1998

pumping heart La Batelle French Bakery and Cafe, Broadway Market, Capitol Hill

The first time I went to La Batelle was when we first moved to Seattle in late 1990. I probably got a latte, but that was back in the days when I didn't know much about coffee. So I thought that -- armed with a more informed mind and vastly more refined tastes -- it was about time to pay the place another visit.

La Batelle uses Fonté coffee which is roasted in Seattle. My double short cappuccino was very nice, consisting of decent shots and a pleasantly dry but sweet milk foam. I have to take several points off, though, although it may be my own fault. You see, I neglected to indicate my preference for one of their lovely little Fonté white ceramic cups, so I ended up with a glass mug instead. I suppose a glass mug makes more sense than an opaque mug, because it shows there is actually some espresso underneath that avalanchean catastrophe of foam. But it's the principle of the thing, not to mention the fact that a perfect cup is in fact available at La Batelle. Such a waste...

La Batelle also sells croissants -- yes, croissants! Remember those? -- as well as baguette sandwiches, pastries, and a small selection of salads.

The cafe, like European Flavor Cafe in Wallingford Center, is actually a part of the ground floor of the Broadway Market. Or is the Broadway Market a part of La Batelle? Ah, well, I already journeyed through the four-dimensional potentials of that concept in my review of European Flavor Cafe, so I won't be redundant here -- in other words, I won't be redundant here. Besides, the character of the Broadway Market differs entirely from that of Wallingford Center. Here -- as I sit at one of the wooden tables papered carefully in a flower-and-fruit-patterned self-stick vinyl -- I'm surrounded by an eclectic mix of carts selling jewelry, sunglasses, and condoms, as well as several clothing stores, an African import shop, a candy store, a hemp store, an instant massage kiosk, a record store, Gyro World (which, by the way, is quite good), movie theatres, Capitol Hill's chopped-down version of the Fred Meyer superstore, and even a Broadway Market B&O Espresso outlet.

If variety is the spice of life, the Broadway district in Capitol Hill offers an extremely savory menu of people to watch. And these tables next to La Batelle provide a great vantage point from which to watch people -- or, even better, to watch people watching other people. I've noticed in the "I Saw U" section of the Stranger's classifieds, there is a surprisingly large percentage of ads which originate from sightings or brief encounters in the Broadway Market. Of course, there are also a lot which emerge from my own neighborhood of Lower Queen Anne, especially at Larry's Market. These hopelessly sad epistles of existential romance are my favorite feature in the Stranger. Sometimes I'll read a lucid, concrete one like "RACHEL WITH THE SNAKE TATTOO: I was the guy with the wooden leg. You sold me a futon and I gave you a dozen onion bagels. Let's do dinner." More often, however, there are the ambiguously bittersweet ones like: "We passed on the street, oblivious of each other. I should have said something but didn't. Coffee?"

Actually, I suppose these ads aren't quite as sad as the actual personals, i.e. MEN SEEKING WOMEN, MEN SEEKING MEN, WOMEN SEEKING MEN, WOMEN SEEKING WOMEN, MEN SEEKING ANGST, WOMEN SEEKING CAR KEYS, etc. I mean, these can be simple and straight to the point, like "30-ISH GBF seeks same for movies, dinner, and whatever"; but it's the ones involving detailed self-description, either inflated or deflated, which make you wonder. I mean, where does "32YO Buff DWM in surprising shape for his age seeks SF 18-48 who enjoys skiing, mountain climbing, alligator wrestling, fine wines, expensive dinners, and watching me work out" get off, anyway? And doesn't "29YO SWM with acne, shaped like a pear, seeks same for coffee, solitaire, and whining about our miserable lives" just tear you apart? While I'm on the subject, what's with this HWP tag, anyway? (No, that doesn't stand for "High-Water Pants.") Just what defines height-weight-proportional, anyway? Does it mean you fall somewhere in between a beanpole and a beachball? Or does it mean you're exactly average, as opposed to a bit thin or a tad chunky?

Speaking of body types, the following e-mail exchange over the course of two weeks with my Bay Area friend suggests some potentially useful terms:

I learned a new word this morning as I was reading Christopher Hitchens' column in The Nation (Oct. 27, 1997): steatopygous, as in "self-abasing prayer, Islamic style, with steatopygous mounds thrust directly skyward." The definition in my dictionary is "possessing extreme accumulation of fat on and about the buttocks, esp. of women." it mere coincidence that most of the loquacious women I know are also at least somewhat steatopygous?

"Steatopygia" was a term I learned graphically in Anthro 101 at UCLA from a photo in the textbook of an unclad African woman, side view, with a platform big enough for her infant son to stand on. I would have thought that the adjective form would be "steatopygious", but the MS Word spell checker recognizes neither word. "Callipygia," by the way, using the Greek prefix kale = "good" (as in calligraphy), means "having shapely buttocks."

...I've been thinking about buttocks all day! There's an unexplored realm of coinages ending with the -pygous suffix:

One could go on for a long time.

How about pygo- as a prefix?

And how about the famous Pygia Nevada mountains, shaped like saw-tooth buttocks?

The word fornication has an interesting root -- must be related to Italian forno, "oven", but why? Ah, in The Browser's Dictionary John Ciardi explains it. Did you know that in architecture "fornicate" (probably with short "a" in American English) is an adjective meaning "arched" or "vaulted"? The root sense is "built like an arched brick oven." Then, Ciardi explains, "because the Romans used the same sort of arched brickwork in the underground parts of great buildings, and because the poor and the prostitutes of Rome lived in such undergrounds c. the time of Christ, early Christian writers evolved the verb fornicari, 'to frequent brothels.'" So it's not truly fornication unless you do it in a brick oven. I like Ciardi's ultimate definition: "fornicate, v. What the upper classes do while the rabble is fucking."

So would "fornipygous" mean "having buttocks built like a brick oven"?

Is a brick oven anything like a brick shithouse? Would a fornipygous woman be similar to one "built like a brick shithouse"? I was just reading how in Roman times public restrooms were considered public meeting places where intellectuals could while away the hours discussing the issues of the day. One Roman noble even requested his meals be served to him in the public lavatory. Did the Romans use brick? If so, a brick shithouse could have housed a brick oven in this case. Perhaps incineration was used as an early method of solid waste disposal, hence brick ovens in brick shithouses.