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Back Buzz - March 28, 1997

pumping heart Caffé Ladro, 2205 Queen Anne Ave North, Upper Queen Anne

The most irreverently satisfying thing about Caffé Ladro is its location. Situated on the top of Queen Anne Hill just a few steps north of Boston Street, it lies kitty-corner from Tully's Coffee and across the street from Starbucks. Amid the ever-expanding redundancy of Queen Anne Hill -- with coffee houses, bagel shops, pasta stores, and Indian restaurants multiplying like fruit flies -- Caffé Ladro stands out like a beacon against the chain-store cleanliness and predictability of places like Starbucks and its clone, Tully's. Not that I have anything against Starbucks, mind you; it's always a pleasant surprise when you're going through espresso withdrawal in some place like Podunk, Nebraska to bump into a Starbucks. But in Seattle? That's probably one of my aims in writing this column: to lead the unenlightened down Café Road into the arms of cappuccino bliss. And Starbucks isn't along the way.

Caffé Ladro's decor and furnishings are as unique as Starbucks' are predictable, featuring Mexican-style painted wooden chairs, thick tabletops inlaid with pebbles and bits of colored glass, and art on the walls. My double short cappuccino is always served in an appealing cup, which is an integral part of the experience. Though normally of the white china variety, my latest cup was a black teacup decorated with a bizarre canopy of playing cards, chalices, lions, and what looked to me like baseball players. The cappuccino itself features a luscious white blanket of foam hiding that wondrous surprise of rich, aromatic coffee I look so forward to. They use Caffé Vita beans, too -- among the finest in Seattle -- and the baristas will cheerfully customize your drink to your specific needs. (I haven't tried asking them for a cappuccino doppio morodo falsetto yet, but if you'd like to try, be my guest. See Coffee Review's Coffee Glossary for more fancy terms.)

My favorite place to sit at Caffé Ladro is at either of the two elevated window tables on each side of the front door. I suppose I enjoy being window dressing -- especially window dressing consuming fine coffee. But it's also a good vantage point from which to view the passers-by on the street as well as the other occupants of the cafe. I'm really fascinated by the two large ceiling fans at Ladro. The diameter of the one closest to the barista counter extends past the barrier imposed by the stained-glass window overhang; so instead of installing a smaller fan with a smaller diameter, someone has cut a large rectangle out of the window so that the blades have room to stick through. What I'm curious about is if this makeshift opening was a quick fix for a miscalculation during installation of the fans, or if it was wholly intentional. I've always enjoyed asymmetry and distorted perspectives, so I can appreciate it whether it was intentional or not. And I like to imagine that the fan would still work even if the opening hadn't been cut. After all, in a perfect world where perspectives and dimensions are arbitrary, it would.

Which brings me to one of my favorite subjects: multiple dimensions. For the past few years I've been fascinated by such concepts as nonlinear dynamics, superstring theory, and complexity. And I've come up with some of my own ideas, too, such as fractal time and Ball-Of-String Theory. To illustrate the latter, following is an e-mail exchange between my Bay Area friend and two doctors of feline theory with whom I'm acquainted. (The fact that Alexander and Malcolm happen to be the names of my two cats is purely coincidental.)

ATTN: Alexander W. Katt, DFT
and Malcolm B. Katt, DFT

Dear Drs. Katt & Katt:

I have a question for you. Why is my cat Ariel so perceptive in some ways, yet so easily fooled in other ways? At the slightest sound of a mouse in the house -- running on the top side of the ceiling tiles or rustling in a bag of birdseed in my basement room -- Ariel's ears prick up, and she runs toward the source. And when a cat passes soundless by the back door, which is closed and quite opaque, Ariel stares at the door growling. Does a passing cat present a magnetic anomaly that my cat's EM sensors detect?

At the same time, Ariel is easily fooled by a slight of hand. Whenever she brings a mouse or lizard into the house to play, I pick up the animal and, in plain sight, put it into a shoebox and carry it back outside to release. Ariel, meanwhile, continues to stare at the place on the carpet where the animal was last seen and begins to meow in frustration and to make random swats under any stationary object where a mouse or lizard might hide. Why is this?


Dear Rick:

The two events you are witnessing involving your cat Ariel's perceptions are both demonstrations of the Ball of Superstring Theory. According to this theory, a cat sees, hears, and smells in ten dimensions as opposed to the four dimensions (if you include time) in which humans perceive. When another cat passes by an opaque wall unseen, unheard, and unsmelled by you, Ariel may well notice the cat's presence in any combination of the additional six dimensions and, if it happens to be the neighbor's cat, will respond unfavorably to at least one of these six dimensions.

With their acuity in nine dimensions, however, cats have difficulty distinguishing the dimension of time. When Ariel is calculating her pounce approach to a slightly mangled mouse in the middle of your floor, if you remove the small animal from its location and replace where it was -- i.e. nine-dimensional space -- with nothing, Ariel will assume that the information she initially gathered from nine coordinates is still valid. Only when she becomes sleepy, hungry, or otherwise distracted will she come to the realization that the mouse in the middle of the floor has been relegated to the past tense.

Malcolm B. Katt, DFT

Dear Rick:

I have a practical solution for your problem with Ariel's perception of used mice and lizards she brings into the house. Instead of placing them in a cardboard box and taking them outside, try placing them in a cardboard box with holes and sending them to A.W. & M.B. Katt, c/o JC Mitchell, Seattle, WA. We would be delighted to use them in our highly scientific research.

Alexander W. Katt, DFT

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