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Back Buzz - March 13, 1998

pumping heart Zeitgeist Art & Coffee, 171 South Jackson Street, Pioneer Square

Zeitgeist is yet another two-level cafe with seating downstairs in the main room and upstairs in the loft. The straight staircase drew me up into the empty loft, where I sat at the table next to a window seat padded in a velvet the color of my eyes (olive green). When I realized I also had green polish on my nails and I was wearing a green sweater, I thought my chosen spot may have been a bit too overbearing -- or too green, at least. But, hey, this is Seattle, and there's plenty of green everywhere, from the trees and the rainwashed plants to the bucks being dished out for outrageous rents and overpriced meals. So you can never really have too much green in Seattle.

Zeitgeist is a delight: a truly arty coffeehouse within a block of many art galleries and kitty-corner to yet another brewpub. The east wall is old brick -- obviously an original wall of this antique Pioneer Square building -- while the other walls are painted pleasantly neutral whites and grays. Even part of the floor looks original, showing scuff marks that probably date back decades. The art on the walls is hung carefully like that in a fine gallery. Could there be a frustrated art curator pulling the espresso shots?

My double short cappuccino was served in a rather large but pleasant white china cup. To my surprise and delight they use Illy Cafe, one of the best Italian coffees you can buy.

Hmm...I thought something felt like home. I just noticed the antiqued gooseneck lamps which illuminate each table in the loft are almost exactly like the table lamp I have in my office at home, the same lamp I've carted around with me since I first left home some...well, no need to say just how long ago. And surprisingly enough -- just as I was noticing the lamp -- a woman happened to turn off the power to the upstairs, plunging my notes into darkness. Why she turned off the power I have no idea, but it was right after she shut the front door to block out that irritating, relentlessly throbbing BONG-BONG-BONG-BONG that's reverberating through the neighborhood. It sounds like some sort of giant hammering drill searching for oil beneath Pioneer Square. Or perhaps it's just some giant's bratty hyperactive kid kicking a metal building over and over again. Whatever it is, closing the front door didn't help; it's still drilling into my skull through the open window next to me, and it certainly doesn't do much for my head. The pains we must suffer for urban renewal...

At least the clanging hasn't set off any car alarms, so I'm not quite driven to screaming. Approximately every five years my own personal vision of hell changes -- the setting, perhaps, along with the major irritants -- but it always includes at least one car alarm. And those more recent alarms with all the variations in irritation bug me even more than the old-fashioned "HONK...HONK...HONK...HONK" or "WEE-oo-WEE-oo-WEE-oo" models.

At least the alarms that say things like "Please step away from the car! You have five seconds before detonation" are more entertaining than the wailing ones. One of my Bay Area friends had a great suggestion for the next generation of car alarms:

"A coworker of mine, who uses the 'my car is such a piece of crap that only a fool would try to steal it' strategy, inspired a new idea. How about a car alarm that goes through various sequences of laughter -- chuckles, guffaws, full rolling belly laughs -- to humiliate the would-be thief of a used car into fleeing to preserve his own pride?"

For more on the subject of irritating city noises, here's a short e-mail exchange with the same Bay Area friend about gardeners:

Isn't there some kind of law limiting the duration of irritating gardening sounds? It's bad enough having to put up each week with an entire Monday of leaf blowers. Now we've got those damn weed whackers to contend with! All day Saturday and Sunday the neighbors just up the hill from us were whacking their weeds constantly; actually, I believe there were two weed whackers in action at any given time. Today I thought I'd have a little relief from weed whackers. But some guy has been out whacking our yard for two hours while the usual Monday leaf blowers blast away across the street. I feel like I've had an angry hive of mosquitoes inside my head for three days!

I'm sorry you have to spend your day with that kind of noise. Couldn't you just politely suggest they use something less acoustically offensive, like napalm? Or maybe fighting noise with noise is the best strategy. Turn the whole neighborhood into one noisefest. Set off a couple car alarms. How many decibels can your stereo crank out? And I've got an idea for the leaf blowers, too. Seattle is an aerospace town, right? A better use for those surplus JATO units than driving 250 mph in the desert would be to aim them at the yard where leaf accumulation is a problem. (I suppose you would have to anchor those little babies in concrete, or firmly attach them to a vehicle with bungee cords and set the parking brake.) When the gardeners fire up the leaf blowers, fire up the JATO units. That ought to clean up the yard, leaves, trees, gardeners and all. No more leaf blower problem.

...and here's another exchange with my other Bay Area friend about household noises:

I've been hearing bees in our walls for the past week...

(Don't worry -- I haven't gone insane. Just a mild case of tinnitis -- I hope.)

You have bees in your walls? I've become very interested in bees during the last year or so. I want to set up a hive.

Sure, we have bees in our walls. Doesn't everybody? To be specific, I'm pretty sure we have bees living in the outside part of our bedroom wall.

Actually, we get bees in our house all the time in the spring and summer. They fly in through the windows, and then they're too stupid to find their way back out again, no matter how much we try to help them. And then we've got these damn stinging things making a huge racket in the house, and they get the cats all excited, and I picture ending up with at least one cat with a bee sting in his's a big problem.

What I'd like to know is if there's anything that works as a bee repellent that I could rub or spray on the window sills. Do you know of anything? Any type of plant or herb or spice or anything?

Don't know of anything that would keep them out except a screen. Is there some reason why you don't have screens?

Bees are terrific navigators but I think they need to see the sun to do it. To help them find their way out of your house, you might try removing your roof. I'm not sure that this will work, however.

We have removable screens we use in our openable sash windows. These screens are about 7 inches tall, so we can use them only when we open the windows 7 inches. This is fine in the summer; but in early spring, late fall, and most of the winter we open our windows only 1 to 3 inches, so the screens won't fit.

Sometimes, if it's really sunny in the spring and there are lots of bees buzzing around the bedroom window, we'll prop a screen loosely against the window. But our cat Malcolm likes to jump up on the window sill when the window's open; if he does this when the screen's leaning against the window, it causes both the screen and Malcolm to tumble to the ground with a crash, upsetting not only the screen but both cats.

And we don't like to upset our cats.

So thanks for the advice. I'm going to call a roofer this morning and see how much it costs to get the roof removed. Should we throw a roof-unraising party?