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Back Buzz - November 7, 1997

pumping heart Roadrunner Coffee House, 2123 North 40th Street, Wallingford

The most charming thing about the Roadrunner Coffee House is that it seems so unlike a coffeehouse. I suppose this is because it used to be a corner market called the Durn Good Grocery. When Durn Good moved out, the Roadrunner Coffee House and Coyote Comics moved in. And now there's no trace of Coyote Comics, except for the signs painted on the windows and the empty shelves in back. So it feels more like a grocery store-turned-comic book store-turned-coffeehouse. And the stacks of folding chairs resting against the walls (used, obviously, for the live folk concerts) add a neighborhood clubhouse feel to the whole thing. So walking into the Roadrunner Coffee House is sort of like walking into a neighborhood clubhouse that used to be a grocery and comic book store. Except that you can order a double short dry cappuccino and the guy will actually fix you one.

Although Roadrunner was decorated with an impressive assortment of animated witches and ghosts on our pre-Halloween visit, the room still seemed sparsely occupied. On one wall was the "kitchen" where full meals are prepared as well as pastries and espresso drinks. The barista was very friendly, assuring us that yes, we had indeed just entered a coffeehouse and yes, we could in fact buy espresso drinks. Of the five or six little tables spaced neatly and evenly throughout the room -- four of them making a straight line -- three were occupied. At the front table in the line sat a young man reading a book; two tables down from him sat an older man with very long gray hair reading the newspaper; and at one of the odd tables sat a man working on his laptop (computer, that is). We chose the fourth table in the line, back by the Halloween decorations -- it just seemed appropriate and symmetrical. After we sat, a man and his little girl arrived and, as if pulled by some sort of equilibrial force, seated themselves at the remaining table in the line. Immediately the little girl ran back to try out all the Halloween gags and toys. Naturally she was most amused by the hanging ghost-witch behind us which, at the clap of the hands, shrieked like a nonstop electronic cicada while having some sort of epileptic seizure. (After the poor witch's fifth or sixth episode the little girl's father came over and apologized for disturbing us. We smiled and assured him it was quite all right.)

The decor of Roadrunner, while rather sparse, is eclectic. There's a large collection of CDs behind the counter; Cesaria Evora, a West African singer in the tradition of Edith Piaf, was the current selection playing. The mostly-empty bookshelves in the back displayed a scattering of pottery, a few cookbooks, and not much else. How different the place must have looked with comic books.

Although Max' macchiato was served in a perfect white espresso cup, my double short cappuccino came in the most creatively whimsical cup from which I've ever had the pleasure of drinking espresso. Big and bulbous yet light in weight, it was painted with a Japanese design. The drink itself was a good, strong, no-nonsense cappuccino with a minimal cloud of big-bubbled foam. I'm not sure what kind of coffee Roadrunner uses, but there was a large Appassionato carafe on the counter, so I'm going to assume they're using Appassionato beans. We accompanied our drinks with a most decent scone, some sort of mixed berry concoction which was surprisingly elegant and tasteful.

But back to this cup from which I was drinking: it felt so good to hold! So round, bulbous, am I thinking of? Pert breasts? No, more like a hollowed-out dried gourd. Perhaps a pert breast housed in a hollowed-out dried-gourd brassiere. Yes, I believe that's the basic impression: sensual and fun. I wonder what it would be like to drink a cappuccino out of a hollowed-out pumpkin. After all, it was only a couple days before Halloween. Yes, a hollowed-out petrified pumpkin -- what an appropriate cup for a pre-Halloween cappuccino!

Speaking of pumpkins, here's some e-mail from last year featuring another Bay Area friend:

Have you seen this article yet? It's another reason to carve pumpkins...

****- Begin Included Message ****-

Cleveland, Ohio:

Brain surgeons from around the world are back home after a week of learning new surgical techniques by picking seeds out of pumpkins.

Two dozen brain surgeons from Italy, Germany and Japan trained in Cleveland using both pumpkins and cadavers, a hospital official said.

"The pumpkins simulate the skull and the brain as physicians bore a tiny hole in the outside pumpkin shell and insert a thin scope into simulated brain tissue," said Dr. Alan Cohen of Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital of University Hospitals of Cleveland.

After getting a feel for the delicate instruments by removing pumpkin seeds through the hole, the trainees graduate to cadaver heads and then, if all goes well, the real thing.

****- End Included Message ****-

So...if they find any pumpkin seeds, can they still toast them?

HA! You are so gross (and funny).

I'm just feeling bad because we forgot to buy a pumpkin this year so we could toast the seeds. It's part of the joy of Halloween, you know. Actually, we didn't get to celebrate Halloween at all this year because nobody in Seattle invited us to the usual parties! Is it our breath? Is it our brain surgery jokes? Maybe it's these socks...

I have about twenty pumpkins left over. Is there a way I can get some of them to you? Anyone you know driving up to Seattle from the Bay Area?

I hate to think what might be inside twenty pumpkins by now. (I'm assuming you bought them for Halloween and not brain surgery practice.) One of my most terrifying memories as a child was slicing open a rotten pumpkin. I...well, I won't go into it. It's just too grisly.

DATE: 11/12/96

Pumpkins usually last a very long time if their skins are not broken. Because they are not as available after Halloween, I always buy pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies in October. Never had a problem. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they kept for many, many months. I vaguely remember once trying to keep one a whole year. Didn't make it, but was close enough that I thought I might. Problems occur when there is a hidden wound which allows bacteria to enter and do its thing. I can just imagine it. The nasty smell associated with rot is caused by anaerobic bacteria. (That's why a properly turned compost pile smells good.) The inside of a pumpkin would favor the anaerobic type. What a surprise when you cut into it!

I almost took a photo to send to you of one of my carved pumpkins rotting. It wasn't an attractive sample when first carved; but in death, as it melted into a pile of leaves, it began to take on a certain charm. The inside turned dark which made the drooping eyes look ominous. I was too late with the camera, however, and now the eyes have disappeared into the leaves.