Welcome to where the seeds of dreams are planted--where one can sip from the charmed chalice of life & meet interesting folk through (hopefully) intelligent conversation.

One never knows nor can expect who will sail into the fray--what we do know is that no soul here is perfect no matter how we try. So let us celebrate & raise our mugs to the idiosyncratic nature of life--to the Kramer's & Norm's of the world, the Roseanne's & Allan Poe's. Some old, some lost, some tortured, some blessed, all souls sharing a drink at the same time in the same place. The ensuing tales are authentic with names trending towards monikers. The flag waving on our doorstep means we're open, so come perk your curiosity in Le Harbor Bungalow Cafe.

Bonjour! Mesherfin! Hasta la vista! Your barista.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mesherfin...pleased to meet you

Winning the morning battle posed by the remnants of half a bottle of holiday eggnog the night before, the barista felt quite energized for his Sunday afternoon shift at le Harbor Bungalow Cafe.  Heartburn, what is heartburn? The barista thought as his knuckles met the wooden bar frame. 

Le cafe that day was not nearly as busy as the Sunday prior, when every seat was filled, and when a "patron" with the gall to bring a beverage purchased at the neighboring Corporate Grind sat at the first table, taking up two seats with her laptop computer, lifting le HBC's generous free wireless Internet signal for nearly two hours, without purchasing anything.  Not even a 75-cent shortbread cookie.  Now, would-be patrons looking to buy a tasty pastry, rest their tired legs and chat with their significant other had nowhere to sit.  The barista felt insulted—and obligated to say something.

"Can I get something for you?" he asked after an hour passed.
"Shortly," she mumbled, head down and typing.

Almost an hour after that exchange, the barista asked again.  This time, she felt embarrassed, attempted in vain to defend herself and stormed out.  With the table now available, new patrons—the type that actually buy things—rested comfortably at the first table.

"Was I out of line?" the barista asked Jim and Leon who sat at the adjacent tables drinking beverages prepared at le Harbor Bungalow Cafe.
"Nah, man.  She was a mooch."
"She was never gonna buy anything."

The noticeable difference this past Sunday at le HBC was the lack of college students cramming for their semester finals. (College students can afford the 75-cent cookies.) Many seats were available.  The barista found this odd as the final for his writing class was due this week.  Med students are on a different schedule, he supposed. Slackers.

The sleigh bells hanging from the front door knob jingled.

"Salamu alaykum, Mohammed."
"Wa alaykum salam.  How are you Rehgie?"
"Mezian, mezian."
"Can I have one espresso?"

The barista gets a kick out of brushing up his Arabic with Mohammed, a cafe patron and native of Morocco.  (Though the barista must be careful not to overdo the English phrasal verbs.)  Between jobs in the spring of 2010, the barista spent ten weeks in the northwest African country where he learned some of the Arabic language.  During his stay, he tutored English as a second language to Moroccan adults.  The journals he kept and shared caught the attention of his alma mater, La Salle University, who a year later published a profile of our barista in their alumni magazine.

"Funny you showed up now," the barista said. "I am writing a letter to one of my former students in Morocco."

"What is his name?"  Mohammed asked.

"Otman.  He read the story I wrote. The same one you read, that was published in Urbanite Magazine. He had a few questions."

[Editor's note:  To read the barista's Urbanite story see the preceding blog post “A Mountaineer & an Urbanite”]

Mohammed is a polite, middle-aged man who recently stepped out of the unemployment line and behind the register of a  convenience store here at the Point called Fells.  His English is good, but a work in progress.  When time permits, the barista helps Mohammed with English pronunciations, spellings and definitions.

"What does it mean?  To hike," he asked after reading the barista's Urbanite piece.

Having traveled through foreign countries in the past, the barista understands the challenges of learning a new language and a new culture—the potential confusion and the potential loneliness.  If he can ease the transition for Mohammed, the barista will get a warm fuzzy feeling in his belly—like that after a shot of whiskey, only without the burn in the back of the throat.

Even before Otman wrote the barista, Morocco had been on his mind.  The writing final he thought about earlier in the day is a 4000-word creative nonfiction story about his time in Morocco.  He wrote the story—Laughing About the Anti-Christ...—to share the experience.  In fact, the barista treated choice café patrons to a sneak preview.  Chances are good; he will post revised excerpts in this venue soon.  Beslama....good bye.

A Mountaineer & an Urbanite

A scene from earlier this month...

"Jennifer, look who's famous!"  The barista's sarcastic tone complemented his enthusiastic skipping to the news rack.  He opened the December issue of Baltimore's Urbanite Magazine to page 15 and placed it on the cafe bar.  It seems one of his submissions was published:



My first hike above tree line—approximately 10,000 feet above sea level, where the bitter conditions allow little to no vegetation—was on the side of a Pacific Northwest Cascade Range volcano named Mt. Shasta. The season was autumn, four years ago.

Anyone in decent hiking shape can make the jaunt from the parking lot along the dirt trails and underneath the towering Ponderosa pines and white firs. And everyone should. Each step took me away from the buzzing highway, further from the trains' bullhorns. Away from the breaking news and the rhythms and blues of what has become the latest American routine.

About 1,500 vertical feet up from the trailhead (a rather mellow, gradual incline), the only sounds I heard were the high winds whistling through the evergreens, the fallen leaves—brown, yellow, and red—occasionally rustling on the forest floor, and the steps of my hiking boots massaging the earth in 4/4 time. More quiet than the hustle and bustle even at the trailhead, but not silence. Not yet. As these external waves of sound became less frequent intruders of my eardrums, the internal sounds of my mind multiplied. Did I bring the house keys? ... I'm kinda hungry ... I sure wish I wasn't alone ... What a great idea it was to move here ... I hope I don't run into a bear ... or a mountain lion. The voices of my mind gave me the quaint feeling of having spoken to an old friend for the first time in years. With less being forced into my ears, I was able to really listen to myself—or whoever was tickling my mind. Still hiking, I remembered the time I was given a free session from a hypnotist at a health fair sponsored by my former employer. My mind became similarly clear and empty. I also recalled the many hours of practicing yoga, focusing on my breath—which was now silent—and reaching that familiar meditative state. The higher I hiked that hill, the deeper I traveled into the depths of my mind normally obscured by noise—even music. The metaphor was not lost on me.
I reached the barren landscape above 10,000 feet vertical elevation and sat down on a rock. No trees. No leaves. No people. No sound. My mind as barren as the landscape surrounding me. Empty, and silent.

Reggie Stiteler currently resides in Fells Point, where he slings coffee and pastries by day while singing and slapping his bass guitar by night. More of his writing can be found at www.harborbungalowcafe.blogspot.com.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Poe-etic Licensing

Today, in his spare time, the barista delivered this letter:

     December 8, 2011
     Baltimore Ravens Football Club
     M&T Bank Stadium
     Baltimore, MD
     Marketing Department

     Dear Marketing Director,

     After taking your football team’s name from a legend, that legend now needs your help.  The local museum dedicated to Edgar Allan Poe, author of “The Raven”—the poem that by popular vote in 1996 named this city’s football club—has been cut off from Baltimore city funding.  If that funding is not replaced, the museum in the poet’s former home will be forced to close.  This would be a shame.
You are familiar with The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum as you generously donated auction items for a fundraiser they held on October 29 at the Lebanese Taverna.  Your tribute to the poet is obvious:  you quote him on your website, you’ve named The Raven’s official mascot Poe, and the purple you wear is the color of the curtains described in his famous poem.  After Poe tragically died and was buried here in Baltimore, the community also has claimed the writer as their own.  Why not go all the way and make The Baltimore Ravens the chief sponsor of the museum?  Sell merchandise there.  Create an outpost.  Expand your audience.  To my knowledge you are the only American professional sports team named after a piece of literature—or any piece of art for that matter.  Take advantage of that uniqueness.

I encourage you to lead the community where City Hall has left a void.  Times are good for The Ravens (9-3), but not “The Raven”.  Help the legend live on.  Contact Jeff Jerome at the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum.


Reggie Stiteler

cc:  Jeff Jerome, Poe House curator