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Back Buzz - August 28, 1998

pumping heart Café Paradiso, 1005 East Pike Street, Capitol Hill

Café Paradiso is located on East Pike just east of Broadway, next door to La Puerta, a simple but respectable Mexican cafe. Just two short blocks to the east is the Elysian Brewing Company, my favorite Seattle brewpub. This whole area -- called either Capitol Hill or the Pike-Pine Corridor, depending on which you feel like saying -- is chock full of good places to eat, drink, shop, dance, and/or watch the scene. Café Paradiso consists of two stories, and live music is featured in the upstairs room on the weekends. This is a good venue to remember if you're under 21 or on the wagon, not to mention absolutely perfect if you happen to be under 21 and on the wagon.

I visited Café Paradiso during a lull, at 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. All the shaded sidewalk tables were taken, but inside the cafe was practically empty. I sat at a window table with a nice white tablecloth next to the green marble window ledge covered with a fresh stack of Rockets and the day's Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I picked this particular table so I could watch the man on the other side of the window eat something really yummy-looking for lunch. He had a plate of what looked like some sort of tofu scramble accompanied by what appeared to be a pancake or two. A little while later I heard someone in the kitchen say they'd run out of pancake batter, so this must be a lunch staple at Paradiso.

But I was here for the espresso. My double short cappuccino was served in a roomy but pleasantly rounded cup. It was very nicely done, and if the shots had been strong enough it would have been a perfect drink. Alas, the shots were too weak, but I could tell the coffee had a good flavor.

As I recall I had a scone here a few years ago; it was very big and I couldn't finish it. It was quite good back then, and it probably still would be -- a scone they would sell today, that is; not that particular scone. If the remains of that scone still exist, I imagine they would be pretty well petrified or moldy by now.

That reminds me of a green bagel my brother once had. He won it in a high school poetry contest on St. Patrick's Day. The students were asked to write a poem inspired by a green bagel. I still remember K.C.'s winning entry:

Blessings on thee, little bagel
So delicious, sweet, and green.
I had thought that truth was Hegel.
Now I know 'twas you I'd seen.
Little bagel, vision of heaven,
How I wish they'd use some leaven.
©1967 K.C. Mitchell

(Okay, so the last line is a little lame. But there's not much that rhymes with "heaven", right? Just the word "seven" and a few proper names...)

Anyway, my brother never ate that green bagel. But he kept it for years, and it eventually hardened into a petrified rock of a pastry. It was passed around through the family as a paperweight; I'm not sure where it finally ended up, but I feel quite certain it still exists in some form. I once carried around a petrified tangerine in the back seat of my old Datsun. It was light as a feather and hard as granite. Apparently some friend had left it in the back seat on the floor, and the car heater dehydrated it into a perfect replica of a fresh tangerine. I still regret when I sold that car that I forgot to retrieve that tangerine.

What is it that determines whether a piece of food is going to petrify and last through the ages or become moldy and turn into mush? I always heard if you put a piece of fruit under a pyramid aligned with the magnetic poles it will dry out. Of course, you'll get the same result if you use one of those fruit and vegetable dehydrators you can buy on TV which every other person I meet seems to have stashed away somewhere in their basement or garage. Food dehydrators are like the 1990s version of fondue sets, which every family had at least one of in the 1960s and which were sold at garage sales across the nation throughout the '70s. These are the details of 20th Century American history I will remember the most vividly in my old age: fondue sets, lava lamps, Bic pens, floppy disks, Pez dispensers, those little plastic monkeys that decorate tropical drinks...

Speaking of lasting artifacts from the 20th Century, here's an e-mail exchange from last spring with my Bay Area friend:

I'm suddenly obsessed with the following question: how many plastic bag twisties [a.k.a. twist ties] are there in existence? Have you ever thought about this? I figure there's probably 1000 or so of them piled up in our plastic-wrap-and-foil drawer alone. So how many people in the world use twisties -- i.e. how many people buy their bulk goods and breads and fruits and vegetables in plastic bags secured with twisties, not to mention buying plastic sandwich and garbage bags which come packed with rolls of fresh, unused twisties? And how many of these same people don't automatically throw away every twistie they use but drop each of them into a drawer to be reused?

If only 20 million people in the world today had 1000 twisties each, that would make 20 billion twisties alone! And that's not counting all the twisties that haven't been bought, consumed, or used in packaging yet. How many twisties does the average twistie manufacturing plant have piled up in storerooms? And how many twisties litter the streets, sidewalks, and wildlands of the world? How many twisties are scattered around the average city dump? And how many are being used for purposes other than securing plastic bags, such as holding articles of clothing together, serving as cheap friendship rings for poverty-stricken children, holding screens to windows, clasping keys together, etc?

It boggles the mind, it does. It twists all rational thought about numbers into tightly-spun tatters of tangles.

When I first read your e-mail I thought, "That's a pretty trivial thing to go on at such length about." But you planted a seed of thought in my head; and just in the last day, twisties everywhere have been calling for my attention, demanding their right to be recognized for their significant and under-recognized role in our society. The container of neat new ones in the produce section of the Natural Grocery called out in unison their requests to be freed from the tyranny of their uniform existence. When I opened a kitchen drawer, the ethnically diverse assortment of stooped and bent ones, twice or thrice used, voiced a cacophony of concerns. This morning at work, when I took possession of a new computer mouse, I saw that its cord was bound with a refined, well-bred upper-class twistie, attired in shiny white plastic.

Yes, I too am now concerned with the question of how many twisties there are in the world. What would a twistie census tell us about their geographic distribution and current status: newborn, in-use, in-storage, and buried? How many twisties are scattered on the sands of the world's beaches? Are there colonies of twisties floating offshore, or would they sink to decorate coral beds? Have we sent twisties into space -- aboard manned craft or interplanetary explorers?

When did twisties first appear? And where do they come from? Is there a chief country of origin? (Is their relatively sudden ubiquitousness a sign that they originated on another planet?) They would be, I suspect, Asian or Latino, but it's hard to judge by appearances. Once they have reached a critical mass in your drawers, do they begin to reproduce on their own?

Do they exist only in three dimensions -- or, by applying just the right torque, could you twist one into other dimensions? If a twistie is eaten by an animal, is it digested or excreted? If a twistie fell into a black hole, where would it emerge?

What impact have twisties had on history? Can any celebrity deaths be attributed to twisties?

Are we beginning to formulate the super-twistie theory of reality?

Now you've got me really thinking. Have you ever noticed how similar the double helix of the DNA molecule is to those twisted tangles of multicolored twisties you often find at the bottom of your drawers? Your kitchen drawers, I meant to say -- although I suppose it would be possible to find strands of DNA in one's underpants, too.

Could twisties be the result of eons of evolutionary development? And just how do they relate to cheeseburgers?