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Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Attendant, Coffee In a Gents Toilet: London

A somber day in London Town.  Cement sky.  Paving stones glistening.  An invitation to hurry, slip hard enough to show your soles, toss your arms to the sky on your way down,  and bust your ass.  In short, typically London.

So, I got up in the morning
And hurried without warning
Grabbed a coffee in the toilet
Made sure that I could boil it me finish this country-rock ditty.  Feel free to add some “Taking Care of Business” and other apropos Bachman Turner Overdrive touches. 

Not referring to your normal toilet, of course.  Perish the thought.  I do have limits. At least I think so. This coffee toilet sits in London, on the corner of Foley Street and Great Titchfield Street, right outside the Crown and Sceptre pub. (Tubes: Goodge Street, Oxford Circus)

Follow your nose down the stairs, speaking of the coffee, of course.  Find yourself in an underground 1890s men’s room, carefully updated and restored, but mostly intact.  Order a coffee and some cake, plant yourself on a stool in front of one of the original, heavy ceramic urinals, and prepare to be impressed. The tiled walls are as they were, as are the overhead water closets.

Men’s room?  So, you think I’m kidding?  Hey, this is London and having coffee in a men’s room is as normal as seeing men with purple, spiked hair wearing $6000 Savile Row suits.  The Brits are surprisingly subtle in manner and couture, but once they go off the reservation, watch out!

So, I settled back and quizzed the baristas.  Neither of them Brits.   This Victorian era men’s room closed in the 1960s and sat dormant for some fifty years before a two-year deep cleaning brought it to bright and shiny perfection in2013.

But what about the coffee???  Damned if I’d want to sit in a old men’s room and sip black tar.  The Attendant sources it’s beans from London’s own Caravan Roastery, whose products are lauded as the best in London.

The coffee is smooth and full flavored. I drink my coffee with milk.  My companion ops for black.  Have to say, an excellent brew.

The noshes looked succulently tempting, but I held my grounds….hahaha

By the way, The Attendant was named runner-up Best Coffee Shop in London in 2013.

Only one drawback to The Attendant, no mens room.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Glimmering Ghost of German Autumn

I always thought of myself as a summertime guy.  Maybe the image is left over from blissful school days, Spring Break, icy beer, and romance on the beach.  Are those my memories, or somebody else’s?  Seems they were mine…now where was I?

Lived over a decade in a sunny clime.  Temps of 60ºF (16ºC) brought out parkas, gloves, and worries about your kids waiting in the morning cold for the school bus.  Most of the time it was year-round shorts and short sleeves. Central heating was optional. Air conditioning was not.

Now I live in Germany and I’ve come to look forward to the four seasons. 

Summer flashes by in a short burst, ending in wine fests and whole pigs roasting on an open fire.  Autumn takes over like a charging bull.  Hints of wood smoke tantalizingly curl and linger on residential streets.  Wool scarves are part of the uniform.  Warm rain turns to cold rain.  Clouds mask the sun.

I help my neighbors stack a big supply of chopped wood.  Oak. Cherry. Elm. Takes four of us, working rapidly for forty minutes.

My garden is gone, replaced with naked brown stalks and half naked trees.  The last faithful blooms try their best, but it’s only a desperate act of charity.

A field of winter grass grows next to dead corn stalks

Some days the sun teases, but soon disappears at the slightest excuse.   I walk down the narrow roads, trails, and footpaths.  Beautiful color abounds, but soon the tree limbs will be only black scratches against a wall of cement gray clouds.

Ever wonder why the leaves change color?  Here’s a short answer: 

“…in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.
At the same time other chemical changes may occur, which form additional colors through the development of red anthocyanin pigments. Some mixtures give rise to the reddish and purplish fall colors of trees such as dogwoods and sumacs, while others give the sugar maple its brilliant orange.
The autumn foliage of some trees show only yellow colors. Others, like many oaks, display mostly browns. All these colors are due to the mixing of varying amounts of the chlorophyll residue and other pigments in the leaf during the fall season.”

If you need the full explanation, here’s the link.

Here's another thing that robs me of sleep:  Why do we have two names for autumn, or fall, or autumn, or....?  Autumn comes from French (autumne) and farther back, from Latin.  Fall came into the language in 16th or 17th Century England, probably because leaves 'fall’ and poets noticed.  Popular for awhile, but now is heard mostly in America.

Doesn’t matter what you call it.  This time of year, nature’s beauty astounds me.  I see what I was missing all those years in the sunshine.  But after a couple of cold ones,  I think back to Spring Break and icy beer and bikinis….aw shit, why do I do that to myself?