i saw coffee breathe

March 10, 2008 – 1:43 am

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there’s an intersection somewhere in the urban entrails of cincinnati that urgently needs a french bakery — some crusty baguettes, st. andre cheese and general store items. pipe tobacco. lozenges. opposite, a hulking stone basilica now dominates one corner of this intersection, its blithe amber dome windows confronting a rare Neighborhood Cafe on corner no. 2, and then almost completely overshadowing a turreted three-story brick building on corner no. 3 that will soon be a hotbed of books, coffee and human thoughts, thought aloud and in front of people. it’s corner no. 4, the boarded-up one, that needs staple food. preferably an adaptable selection of proven delights, like beer but for the daytime. then you’d have a place, an urban sanctum.

this junction is where the week o’ feckless spro tripping became very serious, and where i found a posse of people loosely connected to the barista-poet himself on corner no. 3, using coffee like some kind of glorious jumper cable. with it, dormant, isolated people were getting wired together, the bitters and the sweets, the positives and the negatives all put to productive use, the random human dots connected with these stunning, sparking, social arcs.

coffee does this. it casts a glow on human interaction, of course, and sometimes it also makes people boil-brained vassals. the madman, in this case, was a merry, bearded genius named larry bourgeois (!) whose most extraordinary talent seemed to be an ability to tell people what a great time they were having. his secondary qualities included a head-spinning collection of philosophy and theology books, an uncanny sense of just when the children needed plying with large bags of pure chocolate wafers and ownership rights to an espresso machine chorus — a three-group la pavoni lever, a rock-solid elektra deliziosa brownhandle, a la marzocco gs3 fresh out of the box, the ethereal chrome deco elektra micro casa semiautomatica, innumerable prosumer chrome-box models like the andreja premium, the silvia and expobar brewtus and a french press or two that were good for holding stuff.

in such a setting we drank the day away, with a historic blizzard deadening things outside and making us feel like kids crawling around with our toys under a blanket. mr. lewis, of the fresh-minted mountain regional barista title and last week’s pennsylvania keynote address, of course produced his microcosm of delights from the spouts available. shrimp arrived. blends were tested. books pulled you into chairs, and laughing people pried you back up again.

here was a group with an eye for drinking coffee to profound effect, and a ripe city outside their door. more spro flowed — so much of it, actually, that shots became gorgeous, never-drunk beverages that idled on the countertops. our home-brewed kombucha was shotgunned, for our collective cleansing. art appeared on the walls. the snow stopped. nate the finger took his turn, and i seized up my camera. a ridiculously cheery fellow scraped the walks at the church across the way, and the speckled bird cafe opened up, with lighted fish tanks and a thrifty decor.

will i become the complementary fourth corner? i don’t intend to. but then, the net result would be a coffee tour worth taking — for its tangibly mystical qualities. a sacramental experience, not a sanctioned event. we could host a barista jam in the middle of the four-way, for the public, with machines in the road and armchairs on the sidewalks and hard alpine cheese on wide trays and the world watching on the interwebs and big, welcoming lights strung from store to cafe to chapel to flat with a beefy, endless, sparking jumper cable.

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liquid running

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art appeared …

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gs3, carrot juice in press pot, stale cappuccino

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grace, collected

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someday soon, an upright chair, a patio, a garden, some music …

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the madman

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the madman’s bus

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the dishwater, it suffered

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across the street, a thaw