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Back Buzz - October 23, 2005

pumping heart Utopia Coffee Lounge, 15 The Egg, West One, Fitzwilliam Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

The first time I heard about this place I looked it up in the phone book and was confused by the address. I know where Fitzwilliam Street is in the city centre, but I wasn't sure where West One was, and I'd certainly never heard of the Egg. At first I wondered if it had any relation to Sheffield's infamous Egg Box, the ugly Town Hall extension which sadly I never had the chance to see before it was demolished.

But this Egg isn't anywhere near the Town Hall, and one certainly can't call it ugly in that classic 1950s-through-1970s sense. This Egg is a modern high-tech shopping centre featuring lots of glass and outdoor spaces, located on a corner of Devonshire Green. famous for summer music festivals and antiwar demonstrations. And just down the road from the Egg is the trendy Division Street.

Utopia Coffee Lounge is in a roundish glass building right in the Egg's centre -- or perhaps I should say yolk. As soon as I walked through the door and into the sunlit cafe I instantly liked it, and the very pleasant barista kept commenting on my cappuccino-cup earrings. There is a seating arrangement for all tastes: smoking or non-smoking, black leather sofas around coffee tables or little cafe chairs around round tables or stools at the window counters -- and there are lots and lots of windows with views of the other Egg buildings, the Varsity bar and the Pizza Express across the street, and a corner of Devonshire Green.

My double macchiato was very nicely served in a lovely clear glass Italian-style round macchiato cup on a silver saucer, and of course with a demitasse spoon. There was a biscuit as well, and a glass of water. In other words, it was a perfect presentation. Around the perimeter of my happily fine macchiato was a deep round FOB-style rosette ring. And the taste matched the look: I found it strong enough, fresh and clean, and evidently the machine is cleaned and cared for. While I gazed out at the lovely post-rainy-morning afternoon with that gorgeous blue sky chock full of billowy multi-textured clouds I thought ah yes, I think I see the "utopia" part of all of this! I've been through a lot of stress lately and I've been needing a bit of utopia in my life. So what's next on this lovely Friday? An afternoon of Shangri-La with a nightcap of Nirvana? I suppose most of the pubs I could go to will have at least something by Nirvana on the jukebox, but I'm not so sure about the Shangri-La's...

As far as music is concerned I can't really imagine "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or "Leader of the Pack" in Utopia -- in this coffeehouse, that is. The ambient music suggests more of a black-walled club with neon lights and expensive cocktails, so the see-through walls are quite a change for the mood. I just noticed the strange light fixtures hanging from the high industrial ceiling. They look like Italian techno paper koi fish lanterns, if there is such a thing.

Yes, I definitely like this place and I'm glad I found it. I like sitting here. And they serve Fair Trade coffee and they also have teas and smoothies and snacks. I think this would be an absolutely perfect venue for some impromptu performance art. Years ago in California, when I was part of an all-girl party performance group, I was always trying to talk the others into doing some spontaneous invasions of unlikely locales -- i.e. laundromats, corner taverns, vacuum cleaner showrooms -- and doing some sort of seemingly unplanned performance -- for instance, all of us breaking out into "Leader of the Laundromat" (a parody of the Shangri-Las' hit by the Detergents) while we're loading our clothes into the driers. I think Utopia Coffee Lounge would be an ideal place for a completely unexpected performance -- for instance, a group of wolfgirls driving in on their motorcycles while singing "Leader of the Pack", or a poodle grooming demo, or an Urban Iditerod or a Bob Dylan Holiday Chorus, or at least a bit of flash mobbing. So come on: any ideas?

Perhaps you should stop in at Utopia for a couple of cappuccinos and give it some serious thought.

Speaking of inspiring times and creative indulgences reminds me of a very recent e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend:

The other evening Andrew was reading an article about some guy named Athol and thought that was a strange name. I told him about how amused I've always been by the name of the playwright Athol Fugard, of whom Andrew had never heard. The next morning he gave me a list of all the anagrams he'd come up with for ATHOL FUGARD:


And of course I envision a gothic battle to the death between THOR AFUGLAD and GARTH DaFOUL.

But my favourite brings to mind a sumo-proportioned Kamehameha figure, clad in Polynesian headdress and a grass skirt, riding the crest of a big wave on his giant surfboard, and then you recognise the grinning face as that of my own legendary surfer Unkle Tom: it's HULA GODFART!

That is an amazing set of letters. No matter how you arrange them, it always sounds like an anagram or pseudonym. (It must be the t, h, f & g.) "Ruth Flogada" has a nice ring to it, suggesting the Spanish-ized past participle of "to flog." It could be a Mexican meat dish. If ropa vieja is "old rope," then Ruth Flogada could be the flogged flesh of Ruth. Ruth da la Fog works too.

And then how about Lord Fagahut? Wasn't he in the Royal Navy? If not, he could just be A Fag Hut Lord. Don't miss your chance to Hug A Fat Lord.

Hula Godfart is my favorite too. Can you come up with a sketch? I'm envisioning a whole new web site of cartoon surfing characters with anagrammatic names. This could be time consuming.