I’m at a diner in south Seattle. They’re playing the song “Shanty Town” by Jimmy Cliff. The only reason I know this is it used to be in a wakeboarding video I liked.
The coffee is surprisingly good. I expected it to be bad. After I sat down at the bar a couple came in and sat next to me and ordered coffee and greyhounds. I wondered if I had heard right. But then the waitress said, “Well vodka OK?” and I thought, Jesus, it’s 7:30am in the morning.
The guy had surprisingly white teeth. The kind where you’re like, “Buddy, something’s not right there. The rest of your body is leathery but your teeth look like they got dipped in a radioactive lake.” And of course I’m trying to figure out why they’re drinking so early. Do they work the graveyard shift and they just got off? They look so normal, like upstanding, professional citizens. And the guy is a regular here. I know this because when he came in the server said, “Ooh, you brought the lady” and the presumably-new girlfriend introduced herself.
I’m here because I’m interpreting for 6.5 hours today at a company that makes messenger bags. I’ve been studying sewing words. I should be studying right now. But instead I’m transfixed by this couple and this reggae music and this coffee that’s surprisingly good. The thing I’m interpreting for is a group training. I’m nervous. There might be simultaneous interpretation involved. Best case scenario? It takes two hours and they sign me out for 6.5. Worst case scenario? It takes the full 6.5, I have few breaks, and the interpreting breaks me, i.e., it’s laden with vocabulary I don’t know.
I’ve had two sips of the coffee and I’m already feeling it. I still haven’t figured out why the couple is drinking so early as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. They’re still playing reggae music. And now I must concentrate and learn my sewing words.
I come to Whole Foods every single day. It’s my new routine. I’d say I’m about two visits away from a, “Wait, don’t tell me…12 oz. yerba mate?”
The reason I like Whole Foods is it’s so anonymous. It’s a grocery store. People don’t come here to be seen on their MacBook Pros. People don’t come here to pay 10 dollars for an americano and then tip five because they’re afraid the hip Seattle barista with a tattoo of a manatee will think they’re lame if they don’t. People don’t come here for the atmosphere. Besides being comfortable, there is no atmosphere.
When you walk into most coffee shops in Seattle people size you up, (if they can look up from their MacBook Pros for more than 0.04 seconds) thinking, “Hmmm, who is this guy? Is he a graphic designer? A photographer? Does he seriously have no tattoos?”
I’m just waiting for a hipster to say it one day instead of just passively aggressively thinking it.
Hipster: “Yo, so I’m going to be honest with you,” he/she says after giving me a high five instead of shaking my hand, “You have no forearm tattoos, and it’s kinda weird. Also, you look like you might care about sports. You look like you might be com– compe– competit– (struggles to even pronounce word) compet — comp — comp — competitive.”
Me: “Do I know you?”
Hipster: “Look, just like get a wolf or a beating heart tattooed on your ribs or something. Also, just so you know, it’s cool to play sports like kickball, but not real sports. And it’s never cool to try or care about anything, unless it’s how many followers you have on Instagram. And even then, it’s — OK, how do I put this — oh my God, so awkward — it’s not cool to care how many Instagram followers you have, but it’s also not cool to NOT have very many followers. You get me?”
Me: “So I need to have a bunch. But I can’t want a bunch.”
Hipster: “Exactly. Also, you need to like go to more desert locations and take photos of you and your friends standing around next to huge rocks. But please — please please please — don’t exert yourself. Don’t, like, actually go hiking. Don’t, like, sweat. Gross. Just, like, take pictures using medium format cameras.”
Me: “OK. So I should get a tattoo. And take pictures next to rocks.”
Me: “A tattoo of a wolf?”
Hispter: “That’s one example. Just make sure you get something forest-themed or something to do with the rugged life. Get like an axe or something.”
Me: “Do hipsters like the outdoors?”
Hipster: “No, but we like to pretend we do. Look, you’re obviously not really understanding, so I’ll break it down for you. Cool: Taking a picture next to a huge-ass stump. Not cool: Enjoying the forest by yourself or with a friend but not documenting it. Cool: Trying to chop the stump into smaller pieces, but being so bad at it that you just end up doing a photoshoot with the axe. Not cool: Actually being competent at using the axe.
“Now do you get it?”
Me: “I think so. So, appearances are the only thing that matter?”
Hispter: “God. No. It’s more like, ‘Appearing as if appearances don’t matter even though they totally matter is the only thing that matters.'”
Hipster: “Really good to meet you, man.”
(Another high five. Hipster walks back to table and sits next to pale Caucasian girl with a tattoo of an Indian headdress on the underside of her bicep.)
Anyway, as I was saying, this doesn’t happen in Whole Foods, because even though it has a cafe, Whole Foods is primarily a grocery store. Granted, it’s a neo-hippie, “it doesn’t really matter if it’s organic; what matters is it costs more” kind of grocery store, but that’s the subject for a different rant. And I’m not here to rant. I’m here to sip my 12 oz. yerba mate and enjoy the conservative music coming from the speakers, blissfully unaware that life could be so much better if I just cared a little more but didn’t care, if I tromped around the desert next to huge rocks, and if my forearms had a little ink.
The cafe in Whole Foods is actually called “Allegro Coffee,” but no one calls it that. People call it, “The cafe in Whole Foods” or “The part in the front where they sell coffee.”
They serve bulletproof coffee in Allegro Coffee. Not just grounds but the actual prepared beverage, complete with MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil. I like this coffee, but I do think Dave Asprey, the founder, is a bit of a weirdo. He’s obsessed with “mycotoxins” and the “evil” they reek upon the world, especially peanuts. He’s also huge on beef from grass-fed cows. I was listening to a podcast with him the other day and he said, “I know exactly where my beef comes from. I know exactly what they eat, because it’s the grass surrounding my house on Vancouver Island.” Cool, Dave. Must be nice to live on Vancouver Island and have your own farm and your own grass-fed cows. I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Seattle my roommate and I call “Rancho Relaxo” because when we’re there the only thing we do is sit on the couch and eat food and watch HBO. I wish I had my own cows. I wish I had a farm on Vancouver Island. Also, Dave, do you slaughter the cows? Something tells me don’t. You might, but something tells me you don’t. Something tells me you stare at your kids all day grimacing and wondering if one day they’ll discover the glories of peanut butter. Or something processed. God forbid.
Imagine being Dave Asprey’s kid:
“What’d you have for breakfast today, Tommy?”
“A pop tart?”
(Dave calmly points toward the cellar.)
“OK, Tommy, you know what to do.”
“But there are rats down there!”
“Tommy, do I have to chain you to the pole? You have two options: You can either mainline MCT oil or we can chain you to the pole.”
“But I always miss my veins.”
“Well, the pole it is, then.”
That said, I do like fresh coffee with a bit of coconut oil. Makes you feel invincible, or, some might say, bulletproof.
But I don’t come here for the coffee. I come here for the mate. Whole Foods is one of the few places in Seattle that serves freshly-prepared mate. Now GRANTED, this is not loose leaf mate. It’s mate cocido, aka mate from bags. But it’s still delicious. And energizing. After a 12 ouncer I’m ready to walk the Ravenna trail, think important thoughts, and seize the day.
Speaking of seizing the day my mate is gone now. I tried to walk the Ravenna trail to the Amazon bookstore but realized I don’t have my gift card so buying Tools of Titans by Tim Ferrrrrrrisssssss is going to have to wait. Time to go back to Rancho Relaxo and mainline MCT oil. Or eat a pop tart.