Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Conversations With Our Customers - Mr Guatemala

A guy walks into the cafe oozing absurd amount of confidence. Says, "I'm after a pie. Yeah, I want a pie. You have?"

The daily pie special is a roasted vegetable, haloumi and tomato pie. This customer has too much confidence to eat a roasted vegetable, haloumi and tomato pie. This level of confidence requires something's flesh. He sees the house-made Moroccan lamb sausage roll. He announces that he will try a house-made Moroccan lamb sausage roll,  to takeaway.

Then he turns his confidence to me. I've been watching the guy deal with my helper and wondering just where in the fuck someone gets this kind of confidence. Is there a place you can go and swap some insecurity for some confidence? Why do I not know about this place? Why has no one told me? Perhaps I can trade a little paranoia for some sex appeal while I'm there.

"I might have a coffee while I'm waiting for my sausage roll," the guy tells me with a kind of nod and wink that is neither an actual nod or wink, his confidence a dazzling thing somehow magically just holding back from smarminess. How the fuck is he doing this?

"Um... okay," is my riposte.

"So what can you tell me about the beans?"

Oh God, I think. "They're not a brand you're going to recognise. They're not a 'label' brand. They're kind of our own blend."

"Your own blend?" His tone has turned its head ever so slightly to one side and raised one eyebrow as if to say prey do tell.

"Well it's our supplier's blend. I think she supplies a few select cafes around Melbourne. Like I say, It's not a recognised brand but we think it's good coffee."

"What can you tell me about the components?" he asks, his tone jutting its chin in a slightly outwardly-upwardly direction, making me want us to stop talking about things so that I can just make his coffee, since I can't be suddenly on a beach in Barcelona with my fellow nude Spaniards, sipping mojitos and discussing Gaudi.

Truth is, it's been so long since I've thought of the 'components' of our coffee beans that I can't quite recall them.

"Erm... it's a blend of beans from New Guinea, Guatemala... India..."

I'm really hoping something kind of big, like Armageddon, is going to happen right now because if it doesn't, I'm going to have to start pulling coffee growing countries out of my arse. And if I do that, I suspect this fucker will be right onto me.

"Ethiopia or - "

"I don't KNOW!" I whimper.

"Hmm. Well I like Guatemalan coffee. I'll take a long black."

"In a take-away as well?"

"Nah. hit me with ceramic. I'll sit outside and smash out a cigarette while I'm waiting for my sausage roll."

I fully expect him to shoot me with his two finger guns and make clicking sounds with his tongue.

I am very happy that he is gone, but equally sad that I now have to make this Guatemalan coffee appreciator a long black. On the one hand I am glad he is not a latte drinker because the result of my attempts at latte art are as unpredictable as Melbourne weather. On the other hand, with a long black there is nothing to hide behind. I like coffee and I think ours is good, but I am no connoisseur. This bastard, I feel sure, is.

Which is fine. All I have to do is not fuck up his coffee.

I make the coffee and take it out to him. The grind has been perfect. I manually stopped the extraction at 27 seconds because I like the number 27 (I just like to stop the extraction on a long black before 30 seconds - at 27 seconds - because some of the most legendary rock stars died at the age of 27 and so... er...). The crema - floated so deftly on the surface of the water - looks glorious in its deep caramel hue. It's a good looking cup of Joe. I feel confident.

But not confident enough to double shoot Mr Guatemala with my finger guns.

Service is busy. I'm getting nailed on the coffee machine but as Mr Guatemala's Moroccan sausage roll comes through, I grab it because I want to take it out to him and find out what he thought of the coffee. I need to know.

Outside. I walk towards him. I open my mouth to ask but he cuts me off with his diamond-hard confidence.

"You've got a good cup of coffee there."

"Oh really?" I sob. "Because you had me worried there. You obviously know your coffee." I wipe the tears from my eyes with the heel of my hand.

"Nah. I'm a discerning customer that's all. And a happy one. It's good stuff." His smile is all finger guns and click-clicks. He takes his sausage roll rides off into the sunset.

I skip into the cafe and kind of frolic in my Viking-frolicky way for the rest of this wonderfully sunshine-filled afternoon.

Not even Spoonwoman could bring me down now.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

He's Got What Helfgott

We have a new semi-regular customer in the cafe. He doesn't play the piano (or maybe he does - what do I know?), but he reminds me very much of David Helfgott. His name is Pat, and he is a wonderfully quirky fucker. He introduced himself the first time he came into the cafe, then came in again and remembered my name, told me about his partner and his marital status and then made strange jokes all in his rapid-fire way of speaking. He is weirdly charming, totally oddball, and I am intrigued.

A week passed and he came in again. I think he is going to St Vinnies to have something done to his foot. He is hooked on our Moroccan lamb sausage rolls. He said "Hello Lee - my name's Pat," the words tumbling and stuttering out enthusiastically. The thought that I might not remember him was quite funny.

He came over after his meal to tell me again how much he likes our sausage rolls, then tried to get to know me, asking what I was up to this weekend and he bets I'm going to catch some football. Sadly, this is a conversational cul de sac with me because I am not a footy guy. We chatted for a bit though and he intrigued me more. Previously he had been making his wife of 30 years or more (but we're not hitched) laugh over lunch, so I sense he is a nice guy.

I'm going to try to make more time for him and get to know him because the quirky fuckers, they are colour and music.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Love And Information At The Malthouse, Review



Love And Information

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose



It's often fun to go into a play with the bare minimum knowledge about it. Don't read every review ever written of every production ever performed. Don't read interviews with the playwright or various actors or performers to get their take on the play, just go in blind and make your own mind up. Don't be swayed by the opinions of those bloody reviewers (seriously, what do those knuckle-heads know anyway?), get what YOU get out of the play. Definitely don't read publicity for the thing because the publicity machine only has one thing in mind, and that's bums on seats. Don't even read the program before going into the theatre. Just wing it. Dive into the abyss. Let the story pull you in and weave its magic. Let the themes appear to you of their own accord. Let the plot thicken and the characters develop...

All I can say with regard to Love And Information is thank God I didn't do all of this on this occasion because without sneaking a look at the program in the foyer before going in, I wouldn't have had lonely clue what the hell was going on before me. Even armed with the knowledge my program provided, I'm still not game enough to say I completely understood what was going on.

Effectively, from what this knuckle-head can gather, British playwright Caryl Churchill has written something of a game or a puzzle of a play. The play is written in seven sections, each with seven scenes which can be played in whatever order suits the director. There are additional sections to the seven acted out which contain scenes that may or may not be inserted throughout the play. Ultimately there are 76 scenes on offer, involving around 100 characters, played in this case by eight actors. With me? Good, because I'm not sure I am.

So there is no linear narrative. No story, as such, but perhaps many micro stories, all involving questions of love and information, more of the latter than the former, I think. Character development? Yeah kind of, occasionally, in teeny weeny ways. The whole thing really is a big, jangly, often frenetic, sometimes moody, frequently funny collection of vignettes. As such, there isn't the exquisite satisfaction of being told a story. There is no sitting back and letting The Story pull you into its world. This creature is too chopped up, too fragmented like a smashed kaleidoscope for any of that tell-me-a-story stuff.

The play seems to be prodding us to think about the nature of information. We live in the information age, so it's not a bad question to ask. Information is all around us. We devour it, we send it, we are it. Literally, we are information, it's there in our DNA. Information can change the way we see a situation or think of a person. Sometimes we don't want to know certain information, or wonder if we would have been better off not knowing it. Some information we keep to ourselves as secrets; and is this better or worse for them (or us). Certainly, friendship and love can be turned on its head with the appropriate information.

In spite of the absence of the snuggly blanket of a big old story, this certainly was an engaging performance. The stage was stark and white with movable white blocks for props and back-lit doorways around the stage through which the actors entered and exited again to make their hasty costume changes. Sometimes all the cast were on stage together, sometimes just an intimate two engaging in no more than an intimate two or three words. Settings were varied – domestic home; the office; a roadworks site; the gym; a psyche consultation room; a garden; a cemetery; a moving train carriage; a museum... sometimes it was non-specific, just friends in their bubble, swapping information. All scene changes were suggested by the choreographed rearrangement of these blocks by the energetic cast of actors.

The cast was brilliant. They had to chop and change myriad times and instantly change the tone from comical to tragic to mundane and back again.

The musical score by The Sweats was a large part of the performance and was all synthy energy early on, softening to some wonderfully haunting ambiance in the late scenes. The last couple of scenes were actually quite wonderful. The reading of the... the symbolism of the... the argument about the... You really don't need to hear this information right now from me. Best go see it for yourself. It's well worth it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Twisted Tale Of Demented Mind Games

Some customers walked in to the cafe today and said they had come here because they were told we made the best coffee in the area. This is a big call, given that we are on Gertrude Street. I asked who told them that, and they said one of the nurses at St Vincents. Said the nurse said we were pretty much the best cafe in the area.

Regardless of whether this is true or not, it's pretty impressive that someone thinks this is the case and is willing to recommend us as such.

The customers ordered three Grumpy Burgers and some vego quiche, so I'm guessing the nurse is also a big fan of our burgers. They enjoyed their food and coffee and left saying that they were glad the nurse had recommended us. Warm and fuzzies all round.

Until a hideous thought crawled across my mind the way a zombie demon baby will crawl across your bedroom floor tonight when you are asleep so that it can eat your eyeballs and suck your brain out of the empty eye sockets... what if Nurse Recommendy is that embodiment of evil herself, Spoonwoman? Fucking Spoonwoman!

This vile thought crossed my now tormented mind today after Spoonwoman came in for her afternoon large skim latte with one sugar and OUTRAGEOUSLY was pleasant again. She was really fucking nice. The fucking bitch! How dare she! She asked for her coffee with a please, thanked me when I gave her the coffee (even for this dark witch I will make the best coffee I can), and paid for a $4.20 coffee with a fiver and told me to keep the change. It was almost enough to make me reach out across the counter and strangle the pestilent life out of her on the spot. Because it was then that I noticed the St Vincent's logo on her jumper. All this time I had assumed she was in the area seeking psychiatric help to control the psychotic ways of her mind, and here she is a fucking nurse! Helping people!

The concept that I might have to be grateful to Spoonwoman is more than I can bear.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

True Nature

A recent incident reminded me that I may have mislead some people. In spite of my writing and occasional extrovert behaviour when in the company of close friends, I am actually your poster boy introvert. I wish it wasn't so, and apologies, but there you go. We are what we are.

Monday, June 08, 2015

A Moment Of Clarity In The Shitstorm Of My Mind

Here's a thing. Here's a random memory from my most drug fucked days - not the worst days of my life. The worst days probably happened then, but some of the best days happened too. Some of the most enduring friendships came from those days. Glad I made it through. I almost didn't. Really, I almost didn't make it. I'll tell you about it sometime.

But here's a memory from those days. A new friend. We're out. We're out and we're fucked up in the most wonderful way. I don't really know this person but I like her. I don't remember where we were or where we were going or what was going to happen next. I don't really remember very much about that night at all, except that we were enjoying each others company, this new friend and me.

She made a joke about being transgender, transexual, something like that. And in my fucked up state of fucked-upness, I noticed her broad shoulders, her height, her big hands, her square jawline. In the calm backwaters of my fucked-up mind, a question: shit- is she a dude?

I was in a state. Remember this. I wasn't sober. I was a long way from sober. I started realising that I didn't have a clue about anything.

And looking at her, this new friend, I didn't care. It's too late, I thought. It doesn't matter because I already like you. I absolutely want you to be my friend for a very long time, whatever the deal is.

And a very long time later I'm happy to say we are the very best of friends. She is married now to a lovely and cool guy, and they have kids, this tall, broad shouldered, large handed and beautiful, caring, intelligent woman and her husband.

So there. There's a thing. A beautiful memory from my drug-fucked days.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Currently Reading Medium Raw By Anthony Bourdain

"As I looked around the beach, I saw in the jaundiced light of my unhappiness, the full extent of the horror of this Island of Dr. Moreau I'd willingly marooned myself on. The full spectrum of plastic surgeries gone wrong - right there in the open, curiosities of the flesh, which at a lesser income level would have been confined to the carnival sideshow: mouths that pulled to the side, lips plumped beyond credibility, cheeks filled with golf ball-like lumps, and foreheads frozen so tight you could play a snare drum on them. Identical noses... eyes that refused to blink and could barely even close...
   And there was my date for the night, in her thousand dollar plain white T shirt. Searching - once again - for her cell phone."

I think I would like to hang out with Anthony Bourdain.