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Back Buzz - May 9, 1997

pumping heart Lux Coffee Bar, 2226 First Avenue, Belltown

I hadn't planned to get a cappuccino at Lux on the Thursday morning I walked down to Belltown. My intended destination was Penny University, a little bohemian coffeehouse equipped with a fine reference section. When I discovered to my dismay that Penny University is no more, I headed over to Lux Coffee Bar, a recent addition to Belltown's eclectic collection of coffeehouses.

Lux is an absolutely gorgeous, fascinating place. The tall ceilings and almost raw wood floors lend a feeling of spaciousness -- a nice dark, comfortable spaciousness, that is. The place is furnished with a wonderful assortment of mismatched chairs, tables, couches, coffeetables, and the coolest collection of lamps I've seen yet. (The metal blimp lamp which hangs over the orchid pot is my favorite.) Condiments are offered like cosmetics on a table crowned by a huge ornate dressing mirror, and a red velvet drape suspended from a half-circle rod frames the sectional couch over in the No Smoking section. (Would it be a No Smoking sectional, then?) I found it rather strange that a Camel Cigarettes neon sign watched over the No Smoking section; perhaps it was there simply as a beacon of temptation.

I, for one, couldn't resist my own temptation. After purchasing my double short cappuccino from the barista I headed directly for the most seductive seat in the place: the antique magenta tufted-velvet bench at the industrial table near the window, mere inches from the huge metal shark which dangles threateningly from the ceiling. From here I could study the interior details along with the exterior action out on First Avenue. I realized quickly, however, that there are just too many details to take in on the first visit; it will require several more visits to account for everything which stands, sits, hangs, dangles, coils, perches, and looms.

But enough about the room -- let's talk about the coffee. My double cappuccino was strong and assertive and the milk foam was pleasantly but not stiffly dry. They use Vivace beans and a fairly standard cappuccino cup which is somewhat large but not oversized. My overall impression of the drink itself seemed to match the industrial tables: strong but not overly sensual, congenial without being sentimental.

According to their sign Lux offers espresso, waffles, pastries, and soup. Hmm...does that mean you could get a Belgian waffle with chicken soup? When I lived in Southern California there was a place in Hollywood called Roscoe's House of Chicken And Waffles. Since I don't eat chicken I never gave it a try, but it is an intriguing combination. How would tomato soup go with blueberry waffles? For that matter, how would tomato soup go on blueberry waffles? I think I'd need a couple of their strong, assertive cappuccinos before I'd be willing to try anything like that. But the idea of eating a waffle inside Lux is quite inviting. I may have to return for breakfast.

As I walked home from Lux I found myself following a man wearing a Zen Couriers backpack. Just how do Zen couriers operate, anyway? Perhaps the pack contained no physical parcels; what the courier delivers to confused businesses are intriguing Zen koans. Or perhaps he wanders aimlessly through the city with his bag of parcels, and one by one they find their way to unplanned but appreciative recipients. Needless to say I was quite surprised when I suddenly lost the courier and found myself face to face with two spotted yet plump bananas sitting on a trash can.


In my home town of Long Beach, California, there was a convent on Ocean Boulevard full of cloistered nuns who'd taken vows of silence. They lived directly next door to the Baba Ram Daas Ashram and directly across the street from the Art Museum. A friend recently told me the Art Museum is now selling its own espresso beans.

Is this also a coincidence?

Perhaps Zen couriers are nationwide, transporting seemingly irrelevant words and questions between two parties. In fact, they could easily have delivered the following e-mail exchange between me and a Chicago friend who'd just spent some time in Des Moines, Iowa.

So what was Des Moines like? How big is it? How many people live there? Where does the name come from? What's the major industry? What are the three major crops grown in Iowa? Is there a Starbucks there? What does a room full of people saying "Des Moines, Des Moines" over and over again sound like? (These are all questions I want answers to!)

Des Moines was Des Moines.

I can't answer your historic and statistical questions about Des Moines. My sister asked me, "Isn't Iowa a strange state?" to which I could only reply, "Well, yes, but only because it's in such a strange country." Pork seems to be the food of choice in Iowa, and there seems to be quite a few Asians in Des Moines; that's all I can say. My sister and I both pondered how and why this country decided to make Hawaii a state. And then my niece, who is 5, wanted to know why people close their eyes before and during a sneeze...a perfectly legitimate question which I also could not answer.