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Back Buzz - November 22, 1999

[pumping heart] Cafe Salamanda, Robertsons Street, Hastings, East Sussex

Situated in the heart of the pedestrian precinct in central Hastings, Cafe Salamanda is a modern coffeehouse in the sparsely decorated, brightly-lit tradition of many of Seattle's more utilitarian downtown caffeine stops. On a Saturday morning a few months ago the place was crowded with singles, couples, children, and retirees all having lights breakfasts and assorted coffee drinks.

I made the mistake of ordering a double cappuccino without specifying "short" or explaining that I wanted a single cappuccino only with an extra shot; naturally I received a vast café au lait cup filled to the brim with warm milk. To add insult to injury it was sprinkled liberally with chocolate, as if to mask any possible remaining traces of coffee flavour.

I quickly began to wish I'd ordered a double shot of espresso instead. My companion, who had hoped for a macchiato, ordered a single shot of espresso with "just a little milk" and was served a mini latte instead. Neither of us was able to detect much coffee taste. Was the coffee too smooth? Or were the shots made too weak? Or was it simply another case of lacto-overdosis?

To Cafe Salamanda's credit it offers a nice-looking array of baguette sandwiches and pastries. The bagel on which my brie sandwich was served was authentic, chewy and well-textured, a welcome surprise in southeast England. A generous patio out on the pedestrian walkway offers an inviting spot to watch passersby on a pleasant day, or on any day when one needs to escape the trials and tribulations of this sometimes extremely stressful life.

Speaking of stress, following is a relative e-mail exchange from earlier this year between me and my Chicago friend:

I think grim thoughts related to my increasing fear of dying alone.

I'm sure you must realize what a great fat-burner anxiety can be. I marvel at the degeneration of my body. Plus throw six weeks of unemployment (with five agencies to help keep me unemployed) and what you have is a quagmirel, a volcanic quagmire about to avalanche.

This is all minor compared to your recent painful experiences, I'm sure... so please excuse my blathering on ad infinitum. Can't seem to focus. Today I'm trying to cope with our friend, The Laundry Pile.

I've decided that we should all get together and start an Extreme Stress Club. We could lease a large building in a downtown area, perhaps the former location of one of those trendy co-ed health clubs, and we wouldn't even have to change much -- just hose down the place to get rid of that sweaty smell, get rid of all the weight machines, program the exercise bicycles and treadmills to run backwards and forwards randomly at random speeds, install a little padding on all the walls, and stock the place with lots of pillows and Superballs and giant beach balls and a vast supply of theatre-supply breakable bottles in all sizes, shapes, and colors. And then we could all meet there once a week and leap and thrash about and scream and bash our heads against the walls. It would be trés therapeutic, non?

In fact it might become so popular that we'd start taking memberships, and Extreme Stress Clubs would open all over -- Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo -- and people would willingly pay outrageous membership fees and recruit new members. In no time at all we'd have major Hollywood stars as sponsors; not health nuts like Bruce Willis or Sly Stallone or Julia Roberts, but scrawny paragons of anxiety and neurosis like Woody Allen, Crispin Glover, and Calista Flockheart. And in a short year's time we original members could be comfortably living on our millions and living life like one long vacation.

Does this sound like a plan?

Where should I send my initiation fee for joining the Extreme Stress Club? Do they have a running track we can writhe upon? How about some cardiovascular machines (stairmasters--or for those of us who are paralyzed by stress--staremasters, stationary bikes, etc.) where the more effort, speed and power you put into the exercise, the greater the force of the electrical jolts the machine sends through your body? I'd love one of those right now.

And what does the staremaster do? I can picture it: you run up the rotating steps as fast as you can, staring without blinking at a beaming light in front of you. If you do blink or look away, it charges one of those electrical jolts through your body.

Of course, these hyperelectrical-powered devices would be reserved for the Beyond Hope Gold 2000 Club, which is an extra fee and offered only to those who can pass any of the following tests:

...although certain other special factors, such as showing up stark naked with a shellacked mohawk or hammering little happy-face crucifixes into your palms with a nailgun, will be taken into consideration.