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Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Why not set out extra chairs for the March Hare and the Mad Hatter?!"*

So I'm sitting across from Albert Einstein in Mojo the other day, which is a cool new cafe I was told to visit on the recommendation of a friend named Rachey - and boy, does she ever know me well. What a cool place!

It was pure kismet that I ran into Al there, so you can imagine my surprise when I beheld his unmistakable coiffure on the far side of the counter.

After placing my order for a mochaccino I took my seat against the wall, opposite the famed German physicist. Right away, I noticed how comfortable Mojo's bench seats were, with their leather finish and perfect width. The entire ambiance of this little cafe was quite welcoming and relaxing. Tucked away on a street corner that is busy with car traffic but not so much with pedestrians, it has rapidly become a favorite spot of mine in which to indulge in a little caffeine, a little solitude, and a lot of unwinding.

Not to mention a little hobnobbing with famous dead people.

"So Albert, how's things?" I asked.

"Wenn ich es nur gewußt hatte, ich wurde lieber der Schlosser," he said.

"Uh, Al, do ya mind not speaking German? I got people who are gonna want to read about this..."

"Ach! Ja doch! Sorry my friend, but I did not realize. Tell them that I said, 'If I had known, I would have been a locksmith'."

"Oh no, Albert, having a bad day?"

"Well, being dead is not all it is cracked up to be. You'd think that once you reach the afterlife, you finally get all the answers to life's mysteries. Bis nein! No, Brooksie, that is just the beginning..." Albert lamented, as our coffees arrived. Well, my one mocha and Al's four espressos that were set down before him.

"Got a big day ahead of you, Al?" I said, my eyes wide at the massive amount of caffeine on the table before us.

"You try being dead and coming back to life, sonny," Albert said in perfect deadpan. "This is my fifth round of these already. You've got some catching up to do!" he said with a twitch as he slammed back the first of the four tiny ceramic cups.

"Yes, well, ignoring that little dig that I am so boring I may as well be dead, I'll just ask you what you think of the music that's playing in here."

He started at me, expectantly, holding the second cup paused in mid-air.

I cleared my throat.

"So, Al, what do you think of the music that's playing in here?"

Einstein grinned, showing coffee-stained teeth. "The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives," he said with a glint in his eyes.

"Ah, yes, I thought the funky jazz sound was very fitting as well. Sort of complements the buzz you get from the caffeine, yet is random enough to form a sort of white noise that allows you to focus on your partner or your book or your keyboard," I said, in a lame attempt to philosophize with the master.

"Do not speak to me of white noise, boy. You are in over your head on that one," Albert intoned sternly, though not without compassion.

"Aye, you have the right of it once again, my brilliant imaginary friend. I think I'll head to the next cafe, seeing as how the food selection here is tasty but limited. May just grab one of those Oranginas for the road, however..." I said as I stood from the bench.

"Sei unbesorgt auf euer Hindernisse stoßen Mathematik, ich sicherstellen du das mein sie sind überweigende."

"Albert, the German...?"

"Ach, ja ja ... I mean to say, 'Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics, I assure you that mine are greater'."

"Mm-hmm," I nodded as I tossed down some money onto the counter, where one of the friendly girls on staff scooped it up with a smile. "I think you mean to say, 'I'm too lazy to do the math in my head, so why don't you pay for these coffees instead?'"

Albert beamed at me. "You always were such a bright boy!"

I rolled my eyes as I waved goodbye to the eccentric old man, who I have to admit didn't look half-bad, all things considered.

I then headed uptown, to Newtown, for a favorite coffee spot I’ve recently adopted. It's literally right around the corner from where my acting class meets, so I decided to bowl into The Office for a spot of caffeine like I usually do before class begins.

The amicable girl with the illuminating smile who always seems to be working behind the counter greeted me and took my order. This time, I was having an Americano. I scanned the interior of the cafe, which really also doubles as a pub, with its flat-screen TV above the bar and full-service menu and tables. There is even a downstairs rec room, complete with another TV and a pool table, as well as things for the kiddies.

I took my usual seat at a table facing the large window that opens onto the busy Riddiford Street just outside, and produced a book from within one of my coat pockets (A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers).

Once again, however, I would be pleasantly surprised by the sudden appearance of two more long-lost make-believe (but living) friends. This time my wait for coffee would be filled not by the supremely engaging prose of Mr. Eggers, but instead by the high-octane company of Messrs. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

“Hi-ho, Peter, look what we have here!” said Stephen, obviously in the character of one of his many personae from their hit show, A Bit Of Fry & Laurie.

“Dammit, John, just look at him, will you? Sign of the times, this is …” lamented Hugh, right in sync with his comedy partner as always.

This was their 'boardroom drama' bit, wherein they take the piss out of overly energetic and Type-A American business types. Something that’s not hard to do.

“Hey there, fellas, what brings you to this part of town?” I said, trying to avoid being the target of their jokes. Again.

“’Town’ he says, Peter?! Like this city of Wellington isn’t big enough for his enormous American appetites,” Stephen/John said with a sneer, before belting back a shot of bourbon from a tumbler.

“Typical,” muttered Hugh/Peter as he regarded me with mock contempt from the side of his eye. He swirled bourbon in his own tumbler glass, and clearly it was 5 o’clock somewhere in the world for these guys to be hitting the piss already.

“Look, guys, I don’t know what you’re on about, but you-“

“Hah!” spat ‘John’. “I bet Marjorie put you up to this, didn’t she? Spying out the competition to make sure we don’t get a leg up on her! Dammit, you tell her it’s too late, Brooksie. We’ve got two legs and an ARSE up on her already, so she should just give up!” he cackled.

Marjorie is John’s ex-wife, and is a fierce business rival to he and his business partner Peter in everything they do. She’s ruined them in the health club ‘game’, the share trading ‘game’, and even the organized religion ‘game’, getting the best of them every time with her impeccable timing and charming ways.

But I am not Marjorie's stooge. No more than I am the Queen of England.

“Yes, she should just quit everything, full stop,” suggested ‘Peter’, as he poured himself and ‘John’ another snootful of bourbon each. “She’s finished, done. Over. Over and done with, full stop. Finished. All-stop, hold everything.”

“But the atmosphere in here is so great,” I stated. “It’s so roomy – but not drafty – and the lighting is perfect,” I said, a little defensively. “There are plenty of seats at the bar and even though there are many tables, you don’t feel crowded at all but rather nicely secluded. So it’s the perfect spot for a date, or just to spend some time sipping a latte and catching up on the latest novel.”

I took my coffee from the waitress as she brought it to my table and thanked her. As usual, the service here was always polite and prompt.

“Dammit, Brooksie! You can forget about her,” ‘John’ warned. “She’s one of ours now. No way are you going to lure her over to Marjorie’s side. I don’t care how many coffee shops she opens in the CBD! You haven’t even tried any of the food here yet – and it’s excellent!”

‘Peter’ nodded in agreement. “And we’re going to make this coffee shop the one that puts Uttoxeter on the damned map!” he threatened.

“It’s Newtown, Peter. Newtown,” Stephen whispered to Hugh, sotto voce.

Hugh cracked a huge grin, jesting and not insincere. “So how are ya, mate? Life treating ya good? How’s the flatting out in Upper Hutt going?”

“Yes, yes, how is the dear old flat, chap?” Stephen said, flashing a reptilian smile. “Still in the market for that house we showed you over in Seatoun? Marvelous views there. Simply stunning.”

I laughed as I took a sip of my drink. “Yeah, guys, life goes well. And it’s good seeing the two of you again, even if you are always performing.”

They were into their ‘estate agent’ bit now, sending up the stereotypical persona of bad realtors: slimy, repulsive and sickeningly eager to act as your best friend. At that, it was my signal to go, before I ended up either paying twice market value for a shoddy house or shooting the two of them dead for their overly-accurate portrayals of estate agents.

In any case, I was late for my next coffee with another dear friend, all the way back in the CBD.

As I strode hastily into Felix, Dr. Niles Crane was already there, wiping down his chair.

“You’re late, Brandon,” he said sternly, but not hostilely.

“I know, Niles, and I’m sorry for that. But I’ve had the most unbelievable day. Really most extraordinary,” I said apologetically.

Tucking away his omnipresent white handkerchief, he studied me for a moment and then said, “It’s all right, I was running a bit late myself actually. My meeting with my Bipolar Disorder group became a little chaotic when Dr. Schenkman’s Passive-Aggressives group sullenly refused to leave the room and began using sarcasm. Luckily, none of the bipolars were in a manic state.”

This made me laugh, even if it were at the expense of others. But then I always enjoy the younger Dr. Crane's (make-believe) company over coffee.

We were seated at one of many small tables set along the long floor-to-ceiling windows of Felix’s café. This was a prime spot of real estate for just such a venture, as you could see most of Wellington stroll by on any given weekday.

I gave a sudden start as I looked up at the coffee bar, realizing that in my haste to get to Niles’ table I hadn’t yet placed my order.

“No need to worry, Brooksie, I’ve taken care of it,” said the observant Niles.

“Thanks for that. What did you order?”

He grinned cleverly. “Oh, nothing too special. Just a new Zimbabwean blend, with a hint of vanilla and a whisper of cinnamon. I asked them for a moderate amount of foam, however, such as to suggest the clouds in a Monet painting but not so much as to be something drastic, like say from Edvard Munch's Scream.”

This was vintage Niles. “Sounds perfect, my friend. Told them to hold the nutmeg, though, didn’t you?”

He smirked. “Yes, you know how that inflames my stomach lining!”

“I know, I’m just kidding.”

The energy in Felix, at least on this day, was much different from that of the other coffee shops I had sampled so far. There was a sense of urgency in the air, although not one of impatience but more from people on the go. It mirrored the energy of the crowd outside, full of people moving swiftly to get to their varied destinations.

And I’m not sure if this has anything to do with it, but the long and slender shape of this bar might have had something to do with the pace of the crowd within. If I knew anything more about feng shui I could probably make an educated comment about it here, but I don’t know jack about it.

So I asked my friend Niles about it.

“Oh, yes, I see what you mean,” Niles agreed. “It’s like my gardener Yoshii explained to me, before he died in that elaborate hedge maze he created. It's all about how it directs the qi or energy of the room. The way the coffee bar parallels the windows along the length of this building, combined with the smooth, black polished surface of the bar, serve to give the flow of energy in here a very positive and direct feel.”

Suddenly, I felt dizzy.

“Ah, here’s our coffees now,” I said, as the waiter hurried them over to our table.

These drinks were in keeping with the high standard of coffee houses I’ve frequented all over Wellington. By that I mean they were of ample portion, perfect temperature, smartly presented on a saucer complete with serviette and a dusting of cocoa. Two fat marshmallows adorned the side of the mug on the saucer, and the impression of a silver fern floated on the head of foam at the top of the drink. We each had our own personal tea spoon as well. Three different types of sugar and artificial sweetener were at every table, along with cream.

“Perfect,” Niles pronounced as he took the first sip of his drink.

“Yep,” I agreed, ever so articulately, as I sampled mine.

“We’ll have to come here more often.”

“I agree, my fictitious friend!” I said with a smile.

But before I can meet the eminent Dr. Crane (either one - it's all made up, who cares?) at Felix again, I first have about thirty or so other cafes to explore before I can be satisfied.

And I don’t know about you, but the prospect of that intrigues me to no end!


* That is a quote from an episode of Frasier. The nature of this posting is strange, I grant you that. But I wanted to present these reviews of these coffee houses in a different way, that way being in the manner of having coffee with random people who have influenced me in some way. When I have coffee somewhere with a friend, I'll post that, too, and I believe you can easily spot the difference when that occurs! Also, I wrote all of these on my own before reading any of the linked reviews, so I was particularly surprised (and pleased) to see that the Frommer's reviewer got the same sort of impressions I received when I was at Felix. I'm not plagiarizing here, honest! If you like this format, let me know and I'll continue to use it. If not, fair enough, and I'll come up with something different. Hell, I may just do that anyway!


Blogger Beechball said...

I am anxious to read all this but since I am in class I don't have the time to read it rigt now... I'll definitely read it all later :P And I wouldl ove free music, but do you mean downloads or mail? lol Cause you don't need to send me anything through the mail, that'd be craziness! Anywho.. ahh, school.. gotta run! P

4:04 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

No worries, Lyndsay - school comes first! And the iTunes would've been through the email, but since you don't have it I'm happy to use 'snail mail'. Really!

6:38 PM  
Blogger Beechball said...

I finally read the post, very interesting, I don't know where you come up with all this stuff brooksie, you should write a booK! hehehe

1:21 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Thanks Lyndsay! You did well to get through that post. It was long and random, but it makes writing the old 'cafe review' a lot more fun and interesting!

9:17 PM  

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