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Back Buzz - December 24, 2011

pumping heartPrezza, 10-14 Wellington Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

The first I knew of Prezza was from an ad in Now Then, the well-written monthly magazine about Sheffield life, culture, and other interesting aspects of reality. Advertised as an Italian coffee house, pizzeria, bistro, and bar which features live music, movie nights, and DJs, I decided to pop in for a coffee.

First checking Google Maps I thought it would be easy to find: just behind Division Street near Rockingham Street. But after wandering the Wellington Street desert, down past the Devonshire Cat and around the corner past Corporation, I began to lose hope of ever finding my pre-work caffeine treat. Finally, on an empty stretch of road, I spotted a single row of plain storefronts with no signage located across an intriguing pedestrian footpath and just opposite a kebab house. So I followed my curiosity with not much hope of success.

As I walked past the unmarked storefronts I passed a man standing outside one of them, and that's when I spotted the small PREZZA sign in the window. Eureka! I had discovered the coffee house, although I had neglected to bring a flag to plant on the spot.

The man smiled and followed me inside the funky art space which was still undergoing some plastering. The room on the left features a bar with beer fonts and an espresso machine. After ordering a double macchiato, which cost £2.00, I passed through the middle room filled with tables topped by towering candle holders into the room on the right. I seated myself on an inviting crimson sofa next to a roughly art-collaged coffee table. The walls are covered with three-dimensional tile art, and there is an appealing book-and-candle holder-filled alcove in the wall between the rooms. The decor theme seems to be funky mismatched furniture and candle holders, so I can imagine the candlelit atmosphere in the evenings.

My double macchiato was served in a large white china cup and was nicely presented with demitasse spoon. It could have been a bit stronger and less acidic to suit my taste, but it's not too disappointing considering the atmosphere of the place demands something not too pristine.

As I sipped my coffee I noticed the door on the far wall indicating that it leads to an outdoor seating area and to Henry's Cafe Bar. I suddenly remembered my walking companion Trevor and I having a pint in Henry's beer garden and wondering where the passageway off the garden led. Trevor had taken a quick peek inside and spotted somebody drinking a coffee at a table, which could have easily have been me having this double macchiato at Prezza. Could this be the doorway between Double Shot Buzz and Pint Pleasures?

I had to admit I was feeling a bit disoriented. But I did have a mild sinus infection with resulting lightheadedness. Would I end up in Wonderland instead of at work?

Speaking of surreal ideas reminds me of a recent e-mail conversation with my Bay Area friend:

Ever since I've known him, Andrew has been insisting that I read one of his favourite novels,
The New Confessions by William Boyd. After going through a number of library books on postmodernism, Tescopoly, Jquery, old pubs of Sheffield, statistics, and who knows what else, I finally took a break to try out this 550-page modern classic. And I was pleased to discover it's really a great novel, covering advanced mathematics, the early days of film-making, and other subjects and spanning Scotland, Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Big Sur, and New Mexico over WWI and WWII and the McCarthy era up to the 1970s.

Sometimes it's the little bits that make a great novel. Here's one:

"This morning as I shave I catch myself wondering how often in my life I have performed this mundane operation. On average, say once a day since I was eighteen years old? Thousands upon thousands of times...

"I rinse the bristles from my razor. All grey now. Whitebeard. My mind still works at the notion. Suppose, for the sake of argument, I shave off a quarter of an inch of bristle every week. That's one inch a month. A foot a year. That's a fifty-foot beard during a life, give or take a foot or two...I try to imagine myself with a fifty-foot beard. Think of all the hair we men remove in a lifetime. Think of all the hair the human race cuts and shaves, plucks and depilates from heads, armpits, legs and groin. Think of all those locks and fuzz, whiskers and fluff building up through the history of recorded time. Where has it all gone? How astonishing that the world has been able to absorb it!" The issue of those shavings and clippings gives one pause -- and inspire some possibilities. I've thought about the solids that account for the bulk of things washed down the drain (and down the toilet), but haven't given much consideration to hair. My bi-monthly utility bill amounts to about $30 for the water that comes in and $75 for the stuff I flush plus a few surcharges. Nothing yet specifically to deal with the hair.

What if earth-minded people became obsessed with the consequences of hair instead of carbon? Politicians should consider a hair tax on everything that is impacted. A hair surcharge would be added to my EBMUD bill. My stylist would pay a hair disposal fee, which she would have to pass on to clients. This would provide a monetary incentive to collect and reprocess hair, instead of disposing.

Imagine the products. Besides the obvious -- macrame plant hangers, even textiles made of human hair fiber; pillows and mattresses stuffed with human hair -- industry would find a way to transform the keratin in hair into its chemical cousins: fingernail extensions and rhinoceros horn for medicinal use. (The manufactured horns could be scattered in the wild, bonded to the carcasses of already harvested animals so that poachers wouldn't be left out of the economic loop.) I'm sure there are lots more possibilities.