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Back Buzz - September 12, 2007

pumping heart The Reel, Wrigley Sisters Centre of Music, 3 Castle Street, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland

Earlier this summer I spent a week in the Orkney Islands north of the Scottish mainland. On our last night before catching the overnight ferry back to Aberdeen we stopped into the Reel to catch a blues session.

Located on a side street in the centre of the Orkney capital of Kirkwall, the Reel by day serves coffee drinks, homemade soup, sandwiches, and snacks, and in the evening bottles of beer and wine are on sale for the live blues, trad jazz, and original music sessions. Because it was Friday night and we were about to embark on an overnight sleep session on a ferry floor, we opted for bottles of local beer. Even me, ol' Double Shot JC, wanted to stay away from caffeine so I could sleep.

But the coffee aroma was overpoweringly heavenly, making my mouth water and bringing back memories: my first cup of coffee in New Orleans when I was fifteen years old, and then when I discovered filter coffees -- Viennese Roast, French Roast, Kenya -- at the coffeehouses of my later teens. This was the same intoxicating smell that grabs your noise and throat and propels you off into an "Ooooohhhhmmmmmmmm..." reverie. Finally the heavenly aroma drove Ali to order an Americano, which he shared. So I'm afraid this review will be based on a black Americano as opposed to the macchiato or cappuccino I usually write about.

But oh, what a gorgeous black Americano it was: the coffee is excellent, so gorgeously robust you can almost chew it. The Americanos - and probably the cappuccinos - are served in dark green appealingly Italian-shaped cups resting in platelike saucers with room on the side for several large biscottis. I may be going out on a limb here, but I'm positive a macchiato would be exquisite here. I just know it. Trust me. If you're in Kirkwall definitely come here for a coffee. Or if you're on the Main Island of Orkney it's worth a trip over to Kirkwall. I mean it. Trust me!

As far as the evening music upstairs is concerned, the sound is great but you can still converse, and everybody seemed to be happily enjoying themselves, and the staff was very friendly. The Wrigley Sisters are fiddle player Jennifer and guitarist and pianist Hazel, native Orcadians who opened the three-level music shop, art and craft gallery, and coffeehouse in 2005 to promote Orcadian musicians and artists. Their folk music fanbase stretches around the world, from Europe to America, Australia, New Zealand, and the Far East. For lovers of music, coffee, and beer, this centre offers a truly eclectic experience.

Speaking of things eclectic reminds me of an e-mail conversation with my Pasadena artist friend from earlier this year:

Just wondering...are you taking time to breathe these days? I thought of you when today, while doing an unrelated search, I came upon a short and sweet Penguin/David Lynch podcast. You're a Lynch I especially liked the title of his book: Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity. Recently, Michael downloaded Eraserhead to his machine. Hmmm, I just requested a library loan; I am # 5 on the hold list. Looks like I need to take a few items back to the library, or face fines. One item is Classic Maritime Music from the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. We have been listening to sea shanties lately; so large bodies of salty water are still included in my theme park fantasy. There are so many fantastic events occurring lately: music, art, science... If I had been willing to drive to Orange County last Friday, I could have attended: The Science Cafe: The Whales of Orange County. I continue to see at least one whale reference per day.

It's frustrating having to spend so much time in my house that I just can't seem to get clean. Sometimes I have to shut down the computer. Otherwise, there is something that I have to look up, for example: Apple Streusel Bundt Cake. Yummmo -- delicious.

It's time for me to do a little messing around in the kitchen -- Chicken, of course. It's 6:50am and it's my birthday. So good to hear from you -- and I'm completely blown away that you have mentioned cephalopods, Eraserhead, and chickens all in one e-mail, because they've all featured in my conversations in the past couple of days. It's like you're watching my life Truman Show style!

Uh oh...Truman Show! Yeah! Sounds like you are getting delusional on me now. Tell me that The Game and Beautiful Mind also ring true for you, then I will know that you are in deep trouble.

It is 1:14 pm and I am wishing you a very happy birthday. These days I am noticing cephalopods nearly as often as bunnies and whales. What does it all mean? What does it all mean? The day before I received your e-mail, my workmate Craven e-mailed me the following:

"I managed a good night's sleep again, but it was a pretty disturbing sleep. Here is what I dreamt:

"Setting: desanctified cinema. Schoolboy goes to meet friends near door. Friends are outside, lighting their farts. Other schoolboys see first schoolboy and urinate on him, for he is a runt. However, he is laying on a cursed frozen chicken. The urine thaws the chicken into life, and it hobbles out into the street. In the street it sets about inserting a large Easter egg beyond its parson's nose. This causes a spate of copycat insertions of eggs by local schoolchildren. Later, I ask if the chicken has been killed. But it seems it has attached itself to my (in real life dead) dog. So we have to stab my dog. And it bleeds and is very upset. And naturally I wake slightly traumatised by the experience of killing my not unrecently deceased dog.

"Sorry for that, but I needed to share it with someone..."

At which point I replied that his dream, especially the chickens and eggs, reminded me of Eraserhead. And then I told him about my famous dream about chickens that I had a couple of weeks before I went to spend six months at my mom's California house, as follows:

"I was very happy because I'd been officially hired by a Sheffield company for a web design job. So there I was, fresh at my new job -- but as is the case with many jobs one dreams of, I didn't know what I was supposed to do. I was all alone in a large classroom, with a cluster of little desks in the center and a large table on the side covered with packages of cotton balls, construction paper, blunt scissors, paste pots, and large paint brushes -- it looked like a craft project table for kindergarteners. Suddenly my friend Ian showed up. He said he'd quit his job at the news agents because he'd been hired here as Project Leader. I was pleased about this, because I thought he'd be a great Project Leader. So there we were, the two of us, having no idea what we were supposed to be doing.

"And then a chef friend came rushing in. He'd just got off work at the cafe and apologised for being late. "I'll be right back," he said, "I've got to go feed the pigs," and he ran out. After a couple more minutes Ian and I decided to go outside and see where these pigs were. As we stepped out the door the view was absolutely startling: miles and miles of green pastures and hills as far as the eye could see, and everywhere everything -- every available square foot -- was crawling with millions and millions and millions of chickens."

A couple of days before Craven's e-mail, i.e. about 3 days before I read your e-mail, Andrew and I were at our local pub where several friends were stumped by the last clue in the day's crossword puzzle. It was a 10-letter "Sea Creature", and I immediately said "Cephalopod".

So isn't this a beautiful game?