I am sitting in a cafe in SLO, slowing sipping on a latte with the alternating sounds of jazz and alternative pop playing in the background. I like these kinds of places: the privately owned enterprise with an urban, quirky vibe that utilizes a hodgepodge of furniture, a number of well placed lamps, and enough visually arresting, various-sized works of modern and street art to keep my semi-ADD brain occupied for hours. I feel cool just being here, as if the cool kids let me sit at their table in the lunchroom, but the crowd here isn’t high school cool, but rather college cool, which means the kids here likely weren’t cool in high school. These are kids who know stuff, which I know because one of the walls here is a dedicated pantheon to the gods of Western intellectual history, with various sized pictures of such luminaries as Kafka, Marx, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Locke, Steinbeck, Rand, Dostoevsky, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and I believe Wittgenstein. Of course, not all who hang here know the names of the people on the wall, and not all of them go to college, but clearly this is a college scene, and I imagine that many of the clientele find these figures cool in the sense that they represent culture, critical thinking, and commentary on the human condition.
Regarding the people who hang here, they too add to the quirky vibe. The ladies that are currently on shift, along with the lad that was working earlier, all have tattoos, which makes me imagine an interview scenario wherein the boss asks questions about a prospective employee’s tattoos, which would allow said boss to evaluate the potential employee’s sensibilities and values, particularly with respect to how it would resonate with the vibe of the establishment. The formula for establishing appropriate locally-owned, coffee house resonance goes is like this: get various types of employees who will bring the right amount of dissonance, and yet whose dissonance will eventually come together and resolve itself in an unexpected yet consistent harmony. In this way a coffee house becomes a living expression of jazz, which I think is what draws people like myself to these kinds of places. Moving from the employees to the clientele, a number of young men sport mustaches, but I believe they are sporting them ironically, as if they are making a nod to a 70′s cop or porn star, or a porn star dressed like a cop (to my shame, I admit that I have seen this scenario). A number of dudes are bald or near bald, and are wearing dark framed, ala Buddy-Holly-style glasses, and a number of them are sporting English driving caps, including yours truly. I also see dudes wearing shorts and mid-calf-length, black socks, and dudes sporting semi-bed head, and sometimes some of the former dudes are the latter dudes, or are the dudes who are bald or semi-bald and are, or are not, wearing English driving caps. A number of the ladies, including some of the aforementioned baristas, give off a mildly feminist, granola-Gaia, don’t mess with me vibe, but I readily admit that I could be projecting my expectations on the basis of the previously mentioned tattoos. Finally, there are a lot of regulars here. Perhaps I should say normals, as regulars connotes frequency of patronage, and I mean to indicate the overall sensibility of these patrons. These normals wear chinos, or jeans and T-shirts, polos, or button up shirts, of a non-descript variety. Of course, these so-called normals are coming here for their coffee, so it could be that their quirkiness is subtle, and not readily apparent to my observing eye. It could be that they are quirky at a level beyond my capacity to perceive and process, and in the mercurial heights of their subtle quirkiness are looking over at me and thinking, “typical.”
By the way, the above cafe is Kreuzberg Coffee Company, and the following are a few pics to give a sense of the place. Click on the pic to get the full shot.