Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wanna Mate? Yes Please.

At the request of a friend, I decided to check out Phoenix Coffee on Lee Rd in Cleveland Heights.  Having taken a two week hiatus from my blog, I wanted to make sure visited a happening spot this week.  Upon entering I'm immediately struck by how large this coffee house is, and really despite the size, how quaint and charming it feels.  I was immediately welcomed by two very friendly baristas.  The more I do this, the more I realize just how important the personalities of the baristas really are.  They don’t just make coffee, but they set the tone for your entire coffee shop experience.  These two particular baristas seem to know just about everybody, and welcome them by name as they enter.  How delightful.

Something on the menu catches my eye and I decide to ask about it.  “How’s the Almond Mate Latte?” I ask.  I should note here that "mate" rhymes with "latte."  The barista says  “Well, mate is very herbie and veggie tasting.”  Sounds disgusting.  “Have you ever seen Interview with a Vampire?” he asks, “yesss…..” I say timidly.  He responds, “You know the part in the movie where Brad Pitt's outside and he thinks the trees are out to get him?  It will make you feel like that.  It's kind of a body-high."  Hmmm… while intrigued, I choose to pass and I order my usual.  He does offer to give me a mate sample however, so I decide to take my chances and try it.  Once I sip it, I’m pleasantly surprised, not disgusting at all really.  Herbie?  Yes.  Veggie ?  Kinda.  Tingly?  Yes, actually it is rather tingly.  I immediately regret my decision to play it safe and vow to be more adventurous next time.  Next week perhaps I'll order a mate while looking for a mate.

“One expertly prepared, exquisitely handcrafted non-fat caramel latte,” he announces.  I thank him and look around to find a seat.  There are more people here than I thought, but then again, it is a Saturday and I’m used to latte-ing on Sundays… I note this for next week and I find a cozy, comfy chair by the window.  This place has a really good vibe.  I love the paint colors; predominantly olive green, navy blue, and mustard yellow jump out at me.  There’s a non-working fireplace that adds to the quaintness, and a bookshelf with what appears to be an eclectic array of outdated magazines.  And is that a bucket of sidewalk chalk I see?  If I wasn’t by myself and people wouldn’t look at me funny I would be all over that outside.  The music is good – alternative instrumental… very mellow and I dig it.  There are prints by local artists on the walls (all for sale of course), framed newspaper clippings of noteworthy happenings at the Phoenix, and an open mic poster with a few familiar faces.

There’s a good mix of people here.  I see a dude working on a mac book (there are lots of laptops/netbooks/ipads here actually) and he has amazing hair.  Very dark and messy.  I wonder if he spent too much time and used lots of product to make it look so carefree, or if he really is just one of those dudes who naturally just looks great.  I decide that he looks that good with minimal effort... because that's more attractive than the alternative.   Dark, curly, messy hair, beautiful olive skin, blue eyes, and the right amount of scruffy stubble.  Damn… sexy.  I choose to sit by him, naturally, though he appears to be deep in thought studying.  That's ok, I can still stare from here.  Where I’m sitting I can see his computer screen - it’s nearly completely destroyed.  Black spots and lines that spider-web across the screen in every direction.  How he can see what he’s doing I have no idea.  I contemplate asking him about the catastrophe that must have caused such destruction, but decide it would only distract him from his studying.  I don't want to be rude (and he's completely out of my league so I let it go).

There are two girls sitting at a table not far away.  They are not talking.  They're both on laptops and one has on an incredibly oversized pair of earmuff-like earphones reminiscent of those my Dad used to sport in the 80's (though hers are blue and my Dad's were gray).  This same girl is wearing a black fishnet dress, purple stockings, white socks and black platform boots that look impossible to walk in.  She's jamming and mouthing lyrics to herself.  Apparently I'm the only one who sees this, or I'm the only one who finds this the slightest bit off.  Not even her friend says anything to her... now that's a good friend.  After some time, the girls get up to leave and sure enough, miss 80's glam rocker nearly trips over her oversized boots.  Ok, I get the whole alternative fashion vibe.  However, when you cannot walk in your foot wear, it was a bad decision.

On the other side of the cafe is another girl on a laptop.  She appears a little anxious and is profusely biting her nails.  Eww.  How incredibly unhygienic.  I understand this habit, as I also used to bite my nails, but then again I was eight.  My Mom begged me to stop, but nothing worked.  That is until she offered me ten bucks to give it up for good and I never bit my nails again.  Go figure.  I wonder if I offer her ten bucks if she'd stop.  When you're an adult, it's kinda a gross habit.  I choose to keep my ten bucks and my opinions to myself.

Over by the faux fireplace I see a man taking a nap.  Hmmm.  Interesting.  I could never nap in public.  While I've never really tried, I just don't think I could.  I'd rather be cozy in my yoga pants and ratty t-shirt snuggled on my couch with a soft blanket and Chloe (my dog) than in a chair in a coffee shop.  But to each their own.  He looks content and relaxed.  I'm becoming more content as well while sitting here.  Perhaps it's the mate, or perhaps it's my new quest to make my life as easy as possible.  You see, I tend to complicate things for myself.  My whole life I've done this.  And at this point, I just don't want to do it to myself anymore.  So, I choose simplicity from here on out. 

There are two women conversing over their own lattes at a table just outside earshot.  While I can't hear what they're saying, I can tell that it is an extremely one-sided conversation.  The keynote speaker of this conversation is a woman approximately in her mid thirties.  She has braces.  I'm a devout believer that nice teeth get you places, so I'm definitely in favor of taking action when things are not in line.  However, I'm eternally grateful to my parents for investing in my oral hygiene early so I wouldn't have to have braces later in life.  From fluoride treatments to braces and retainers, thank you parents for making this choice on my behalf!  But I digress... this woman has talked the whole time I’ve been here and really hasn't come up for air, nor allowed her friend to get a word in edgewise.  I love to talk, but I certainly hope I don't come off this way.  Note to self: shut up.

Enjoying my latte, I'm happy to see my friend Meg who has decided to join me for a bit.  It's a chill kind of day and she's a great person to chill with.  In this moment, I am content.. but not just this moment.  Now.  Here.  Right now in my life.  I'm happy.  And it's been a long time since I've been able to say that.  Could this be the mate talking?  Is the mate a miracle drug that cures more than a male mate ever could?  I decide to buy a case on the way out.

Meg and I see an adorable beagle who has accompanied his owner into the Phoenix.  What a happy little dog!  He visits with a few patrons as he smiles, wags his tail, and rolls around on the floor.  Joy.  This is the only word that comes to mind.  Simple joy.  Meg finishes her yummy-looking sandwich and it's time to pack up.  With this thought and a sunny day ahead, I go home to joyfully roll in the grass with Chloe... without a mate, and surprisingly very happy.

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