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The Last Drop Cafe - Skinny Flat White by Magi
Except for me leaning back in a chair, the café’s outdoor tables were deserted. It seemed the perfect spot for lazily watching the world go by. Across the road the ocean sparkled in the morning sunlight; as did I, for life was gently flowing along. And the scalding hot coffee – my almost habitual skinny flat white – tasted wonderful, with aroma sublime. It was perfect; as only The Last Drop Café could brew it.
The whys of its peculiar name was worthy of idle musing. Despite weighty pondering, my best insight by far was that such a name didn’t add to the miseries of the world, and so was far better than being called The Drop Dead Café. What more could one ask for? Thus although I didn’t have the answer, I knew the right question.
It felt so good to be right that I indulged myself with another long sip of coffee. Followed by two more sips, thereby confirming I was caffeine addicted. Raising the question of whether I should join Skinny Flat White Anonymous. Of course, my going on the wagon meant condemning the down-trodden Brazilian coffee bean pickers to the suffering of the poor house. Could I really visit that on the innocent? Did I really want that on my conscience? I noted that I was rather good at asking just the right question – perhaps this was my function in the world. Was that self-discovery or divine revelation?
But I left that floating in the air in order to address the pressing issue in hand. Namely, how many skinny flat whites did I need to quaff in order to save one family of coffee pickers? Perhaps God would enlighten me and then I could sacrifice myself by drinking double the ordained amount – a selfless Christmas offering to the down trodden. One does such magnanimous things during the festive season. And I sipped some more skinny flat white to lubricate the world revolving by.
A shrill wolf whistle interrupted my meditations on the salvation of coffee bean pickers. Another sharp whistle and the burbling sound of a Vee8 engine drew my eye to a red hoon-mobile slowly cruising by, on the prowl for anything bikini clad and bursting with rampant hormones. None graced the street. Alas for the pimpled driver, over dosed with testosterone. Though to be fair, perhaps he was searching for true love but didn’t know where such was hidden. In any event, the focus of his ardour was a willowy, dark haired woman walking along the footpath in front of the café. Clothed from neck to ankle in a black flimsy dress, she was hardly a true-love bimbo.
Our eyes met and, ignoring the petrol head, she walked straight to my table. She smiled and asked if she could join me. Being almost Christmas, what else could I do but nod affably and introduce myself as Saint Nicholas.
“I’m Death,” she said, sitting down.
She paused to sniff the upright, pink rose bud in a small vase on the table. And I idly wondered whether horticulture rather than true love was her thing.
“I’m here about your mortality,” she added, looking up.
“Of course,” said I, as one does on such occasions. “Would you like a cappuccino? Though I recommend a skinny flat white. Such is best for the heart, not to mention the waist line. Either way, the Brazilian coffee pickers will be eternally grateful.”
Naturally, Ms Death and Saint Nicholas commiserated with the unfortunate plight of the tea leaf pickers of the world. But they were unequivocal in their prime commitment to those slaving in coffee sweat shops. And to hell with Skinny Flat White Anonymous! And with hidden true love! Only slow, appreciative sips to savour the superb offering of The Last Drop Café interrupted their consigning to hell all manner of vexation plaguing the world. And they agreed on all sorts of wonderful but mostly weird matters – as do all kindred spirits.
Saint Nicholas observed that the fat lady didn’t sing because she was stuffed full of doughnuts. And for good measure, that he’d once heard of an elephant suffering from Alzheimer’s and thus couldn’t remember the point of what remembering was all about. Naturally, they both sympathized with the poor beast and hypothesized that one day medical science might find a cure. A lady elephant, perhaps.
Ms Death mentioned that she knew an enormous giant, a gentle soul who dearly loved a pygmy princess. Of course, their marriage – undoubtedly made in heaven – had an ice cream’s chance in hell. And such was very little chance indeed! For although Satan was a founding member of Ice-creams Anonymous, he hadn’t managed to kick the habit.
Ms Death offered Saint Nicholas a cigarette, and they both lit up, decadently blowing smoke rings – and to hell with health warnings and being politically correct! After all, the world was totally mad, filled to the brim with barking lunatics. To say the very least. And they laughed, as good friends do, when consigning the world to eternal damnation.
Saint Nicholas reciprocated and offered Ms Death an invitation to ballroom dancing. She hesitated momentarily, and then nodded in acceptance – it would be ungracious to decline, it being nearly Christmas and all, and he being Saint Nicholas. Although ballroom dancing was a fate worse than death, in a manner of speaking, for many a mortified soul. The Viennese Waltz reminded her of whirling Dervishes – all of a spin, going nowhere in a daze and praying to God someone would shoot the musicians. But not being a bimbo, she’d go, and what the heck!
“About my mortality?” said I, broaching a very delicate matter, and one not to venture into lightly – and only then very selectively as to whom. “And your image problem,” I added, never backward in coming forward.
After all, if my mortality was an issue to be addressed, it was only gracious to allow her to have an issue to be discussed. Thus there were two ventures into the unknown awaiting skinny flat white lubrication.
“My image” she said, startled.
“Gracious lady, It’s worse than Satan’s! I mean, the sickle, the grim reaper … Why on earth do such a job?”
“There are down sides,” she replied. “All I touch withers – that’s the worst of it.” She smiled ruefully. “I didn’t want the task but Big G. made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Hell is too hot, no matter how much ice cream Satan’s factories churn out. On the upside, I got to know you.”
“Well,” said I, “maybe I can think of a few things to change your image around.”
She gazed into my eyes and smiled. Suddenly, she cocked an ear. “I can hear the fat lady singing. “It’s time.”
For me, the fat lady was still stuffing herself with doughnuts. The only thing I could hear was the burbling sound of the hoon-mobile approaching once more. It had circled the block many times and was still prowling for true love – bikini clad or otherwise.
Ms Death stood up, said she’d be in touch – she’d look for St Nicholas, here at The Last Drop Café – and walked onto the footpath to flag down the red Vee8. She leaned through the open window, gave the grinning driver a hug and got into the car. Then they roared away, the wheels screeching.
Saint Nicholas idly gazed at the rose bud slumped in the vase, then leaned back in his chair to watch the world’s parade once more passing by. The matter of his mortality would have to wait - perhaps they could discuss it during the Viennese Waltz.
Ann says: This smart, funny, philosophical, and somewhat surreal series is the best I’ve seen on the internet. Enjoy print-quality work for free!
LINKS TO THE REST OF THE SERIES (The loading may be a bit slow, but these do work):
01 The Last Drop Cafe - Skinny Flat White (You’ve just read this one)
Copyright 2013 by Magi
Image: Will Stelgner , Wordpress
“There are lots of conversations in the world about writing which focus on the benefit of the reader and what works for him or her, and of course all writers should care about that, but at the same time, the magic act of making something out of nothing is happening in the writer’s head, and it’s that brain that needs to be tended to first.”—Edan Lepucki, “The Chemistry between Fiction and Reality: The Millions Interviews Ramona Ausubel”
“It suddenly occurred to me that the hottest tech start-ups are solving all the problems of being twenty years old, with cash on hand, because that's who thinks them up.”—
From George Packer’s “Change The World” in this week’s New Yorker, an interesting look at the tech world’s new forays into American politics, as well as the myopic viewpoint so many tech nerds have when it comes to inequality. Interestingly, libraries are not mentioned once in this piece about the information revolution and its relationship to government and public services in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Did I say interestingly? I meant depressingly. The answer to why seems summed up in these two quotes, the first from Nate Levine, co-founder of Delphi, and the second from Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn:
If you’re an engineer in Silicon Valley, you have no incentive to read The Economist. It’s not brought up at parties, your friends aren’t going to talk about it, your employers don’t care.
One of the things that we’re getting is, like, ‘I’m really glad I read that book, and I haven’t read a book in a year.’
Despite the lack of libraries in this article, and actually because of it, I think it’s important that librarians read it. (It’s behind the paywall, so go read it in the periodicals section.) As a profession, especially on the younger side of things, incorporating technology into our services is of paramount importance to us. We talk about it constantly. And the people who make those things just do not give a shit about who we are and what we do; what’s more, the principles by which they live their lives and build the tools we use are just different from those many librarians have. It’s like a freshman having a crush on the captain of the football team and scribbling his name in a notebook. They’re not doing it to be cruel, I don’t think. They just don’t know.
Having just survived my first budget process, I am more aware than ever of how much libraries need to consider the next several years of technological changes when making plans, especially for purchasing, and also very aware of how little of those things we can actually plan for, because they are completely out of our hands. Our downloadable materials budget could change instantly with the decision of any publisher to sell or not sell to us, or if Apple removes the 3M or Overdrive apps from their store, or if audiobooks are suddenly universally available as mp3s, or if Amazon starts selling Kindles for $10. There’s no use getting upset about it, because I don’t ascribe to malice what I can ascribe to ignorance. But it’s something to think about: the tech industry doesn’t know what libraries do (and could do in the future, with better tools) and doesn’t care. When I was a bookseller, I saw this sort of thing play out with Google’s interest and then disinterest in working with indie booksellers to sell ebooks, so I’m always ready for the other shoe to drop.
I’m curious about how other librarians are thinking about this stuff. What it means to me personally is that despite not having much interest in hands-on tech stuff, while I’m studying for my MLIS I need to focus more on tech classes than public service ones. There is a paucity of people who believe in the principles and importance of librarianship but have the tech knowledge of these start-up kids. If I want libraries to be part of these conversations and these articles—and I do! I believe with all my heart that libraries should be and can be at the beating heart of any information revolution!—then I need to teach myself how to do these things instead of waiting for a privately-owned company to do it for me. Or at least be ready to have real conversations with these companies rather than pretending to be grateful when signing up for whatever they decide to design.
(Actually, I guess you see this across the book industry, which explains why many book apps and start-ups are super lame. First, they necessarily are created and exist outside popular apps and websites because the needs of book lovers are not already incorporated into the tools that everybody uses, because it didn’t occur to the people who made the ubiquitous tools to incorporate them. Second, most of these apps are not even really addressing an actual problem, because they are based around what the creators know how to do and a perceived market, rather than something that needs a solution. (See Dominique Raccah at Sourcebooks for a powerful example of what it looks like when the book industry focuses their efforts on identifying the actual problems of their customers and creating a solution.))
None of these thoughts are new, of course—I’ve known since I started pouring over MLIS curricula that I really should force myself to take the data architecture class instead of the oral storytelling one. And I’m internally conflicted about this, because I manage a staff of readers’ advisors, and I believe that skills like RA are very important to the future of librarianship as well. Most of being a good readers’ advisor involves soft skills like active listening, being able to read body language, and an alchemical ability to know a person’s desires better than they do. That is a learned skillset that you can train for, and develop for a lifetime, just like programming. And believe me, someday I’d like all the app developers to try their hand at it, if only so they can understand that the algorithms they are trying to develop are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to book recommendation. But when I read articles like this one, it seems clear that I will have to learn to speak their languages first.
Angel Or Demon
You call me an angel of love and of light,
A being of goodness and heavenly fire,
Sent out from God’s kingdom to guide you aright,
In paths where your spirits may mount and aspire.
You say that I glow like a star on its course,
Like a ray from the alter, a spark from the source.
Now list to my answer; let all the world hear it,
I speak unafraid what I know to be true: —
A pure, faithful love is the creative spirit
Which makes women angels! I live but in you.
We are bound soul to soul by life’s holiest laws;
If I am an angel - why, you are the cause.
As my ship skims the sea, I look up from the deck,
Fair, firm at the wheel shines Love’s beautiful form,
And shall I curse the barque that last night went to wreck,
By the Pilot abandoned to darkness and storm?
My craft is no stauncher, she too had been lost -
Had the wheelman deserted, or slept at his post.
I laid down the wealth of my soul at your feet
(Some woman does this for some man every day).
No desperate creature who walks in the street
Has a wickeder heart than I might have, I say,
Had you wantonly misused the treasures you won,
As so many men with heart riches have done.
This flame from God’s altar, this holy love-flame,
That burns like sweet incense for ever for you,
Might now be a wild conflagration of shame,
Had you tortured my heart, or been base or untrue.
For angels and devils are cast in one mould,
Till love guides them upward, or downward, I hold.
I tell you the women who make fervent wives
And sweet tender mothers, had Fate been less fair,
Are the women who might have abandoned their lives
To the madness that springs from and ends in despair.
As the fire on the hearth which sheds brightness around,
Neglected, may level the walls to the ground.
The world makes grave errors in judging these things,
Great good and great evil are born in one breast.
Love horns us and hoofs us - or gives us our wings,
And the best could be worst, as the worst could be best.
You must thank your own worth for what I grew to be,
For the demon lurked under the angel in me.
— Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“Get scared. It will do you good. Smoke a bit, stare blankly at some ceilings, beat your head against some walls, refuse to see some people, paint and write. Get scared some more. Allow your little mind to do nothing but function. Stay inside, go out - I don't care what you'll do; but stay scared as hell. You will never be able to experience everything. So, please, do poetical justice to your soul and simply experience yourself.”—Albert Camus, from Notebooks, 1951-1959
If you are a Surrealist writer on Tumblr, please tag your poems or prose pieces "surrealist ave", and support modern surrealism
Hello, my friends and fellow writers,
my obsession with Surrealism has deepened in hue. It’s obvious that I like things almost disconnected from conscious reality. I appreciate reading words that transport me to an unfamiliar place. So I want to find a way for the Surrealists of Tumblr to communicate and share experiences outside of the obvious tags . If I get enough reblogs and notes on this post, not to mention a stream of posts tagged “surrealist ave”, I will start a new blog for submissions. A blog that will be dedicated to Tumblr writers that have a dream-like style and approach to modern art. If any editors can shake on this idea, please feature this so that more writers can hear about it.
Thank you, Ellery