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.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


“Get ready, FOX News is stopping by at eleven-thirty.”

The barista turned to read the clock on the microwave: 11:01.  “Really?  What’s the occasion?” he asked Jennifer through the telephone.

“They’re looking to interview people about the new Internet bill.  What’s the shop look like?”

“Well…ummm…sparse.”  Inside le Harbor Bungalow Café’s warm confines was the barista, a first-time patron, a work-from-homer secluded around the corner in the back and Fister Mishy

Many patrons pass their time at le Harbor Bungalow Café because Jennifer offers free wireless Internet.  Maybe the blackout kept them away yesterday, a day one of Baltimore’s local evening news programs came searching for their presence.  Copyright activists have provoked free-speech advocates with a proposed bill before the Unites States Congress.  Yesterday a score of websites—most notable being Wikipedia—staged a blackout, intentionally shutting down operations for 24 hours to raise awareness of a potential law they believe is against the First Amendment of this country’s Constitution.  Popular web behemoth Google did not participate in the blackout but they did raise awareness with a black rectangle diagonally masking their logo.  Other websites adopted similar tactics.  The barista signed an online petition urging his congressmen to oppose SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) a week prior, but the details of the acronymed bill escaped the barista as he served coffee that morning.  So he warmed up to the two reporters soon after their arrival.

“I think I got the free speech aspects of this thing, but how does it hit home.”

“It’s a copyright issue brought on, in part, by Hollywood…and the music industry,” the reporter explained with a smile as her cameraman staked out a position by the pastry case for a potential interview. 

“That reminds me of those ASCAP laws, where small bars were threatened with fines if their hired musicians performed songs which were copyrighted—unless of course, they paid an upfront usage fee.” The barista adjusted the microphone clipped to his shirt, which he wore for a sound check.

“Right.  That still occurs.  Now they are targeting sites like YouTube and holding them responsible—not the people who post there.”

The implications of SOPA for a website like Wikipedia could spell its demise.  The encyclopedic website houses sourced content, but those sources now may want compensated for the content Wikipedia—to the barista’s knowledge—publishes free of charge.  If Wikipedia has no means to pay and loses its content, its credibility would be questioned even more than it is now.  But do we need Wikipedia anyway?

“Do you use the Internet?”

A customer chuckled as if the reporter asked if he breathed oxygen, “Yeah, I’m using it right now.”  The barista noticed the ear buds the guy was wearing before he prepared his Americano (no space for cream).

“Have you heard of SOPA?”

“Ah huh,” the patron agreed to an interview and conducted a spiel concluding with Netflix’s influence on the home movie business.

The barista has worked on both sides of the copyright issue.  During his first serious job out of university he worked for a newspaper syndicate in San Diego.  It was his job to license content—i.e. advice columns, political cartoons, comic strips, and editorials—to out-of-town print publications and websites.  It was a common method to gain exposure and extra wages for a professional writer.  But it was near impossible to police the entire Internet from reprinting the licensed content without permission.  Is SOPA their lawyers’ solution?  He wondered.

Most professional writers and journalists at the time—and even now—were not especially well compensated.  These are not typical upper class jobs.  Writers and artists the barista knows personally would love their work to be promoted, played to new audiences, forwarded via email or linked from a blog.  Imagine an author complaining that her book was available to read for free at a public library.  But at some point they need to collect, to make a living.  But at the cost of free speech? 

Not long after the syndicate gig, the barista played in a bluegrass trio in Weed, California.  They booked many gigs in the Mount Shasta vicinity at bars under pressure from SOPA-like ASCAP laws.  These non-corporate, non-franchise establishments—in towns of less than 5000 population—could not afford the ASCAP music licensing fees.  They felt bullied by henchmen of major recording publishers.  One bar owner complained he could not legally play his I-Pod during business hours under the new copyright law.   The affected owners instructed bands like the Fat Sack of Bluegrass only to play traditional songs in the public domain and originals for these gigs.  Scratch the banjo-Zeppelin tunes.  Playing copyrighted material came with a risk—the bar could be fined, shut down, with the musicians left searching for another gig.  The barista sympathized with the owners.  To the barista, the law seemed like an awful large net to cast as it targets independent businesses just getting by, who are not making money by the music they play.  Do radio stations pay licensing fees?--online or otherwise?

Another pumpkin frosted cupcake for thought:
“Have you ever wondered why the song “Happy Birthday” is not sung in any movies?” a patron once asked the barista.  “Because it costs a small fortune to buy the copyright.”

The barista better warn Jennifer, lest she some day post a birthday party clip at le café on her Facebook page.

(Editor's note: Click here to view the television news clip)

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Dolphin & the Dilemma

Keeping the Hive Alive…Why do cities grow or die? It’s all in the math.

 “Are there more of these?” patron Jerry asked as he read the new cover story of The Urbanite resting on the café bar.

“Behind the front door is the rack,” the barista said motioning with his soapy hand across the bar to his left.

The freebie was the first issue of 2012 for the glossy Baltimore magazine.  Jerry wanted to relate the article to his concentrated collegiate studies on urban planning and/or administration.   The Cincinnati Bengles fan is a seemingly bright fellow who tutors children of rich parents.  The conversation between Jerry and the barista evolved into the topic of automobiles, when from the next table over, patron and house guitarist Jim turned his head.

“I know how to get 50 miles per gallon in my truck,” he said grinning, while he adjusted his beret.

A baffled look crossed Jerry’s face.  The barista has heard Jim’s story before.  He remembered Jim mixing some sort of concoction with his gasoline.  

“When I get some wheels I’ve got to get that recipe from you,” the barista said, being careful not to slice his fingers on the bagel knife as he submerged his hand in the bubbly water of the café’s sink.

“Anybody can find it on the Internet,” Jim replied, typing on his laptop machine.

Just then, a spark flicked in the memory stores of the barista’s head.  I have some wheels.  The Dolphin!

“Per chance, do you know how to fix a leaky roof of a camper?” the barista asked as he dried his hands.

“Aluminize fiber roof coating for trailers.  It’s expensive, but it works,” Jim said with a nod—and without hesitation.

Jim patronizes le Harbor Bungalow Café often.  He will stop by for lunch or tea before giving guitar lessons later in the afternoon.  Sometimes he’ll give a lesson right in the café.  He’s played the guitar for more years than the barista has been alive (in this lifetime).  An encyclopedia of information accumulated in Jim’s head over the years, though some may call him a curmudgeon.  His was a compelling answer to the barista’s $3000 question—the amount he has been asking for his camper in an online classified advertisement the past few months.

22-foot, Class C RV, has three beds, refrigerator, sink, 4-range stove with oven, dining table for two, toilet and shower.  Only 78,000 miles on a four-cylinder, SR-52 engine.  Mechanically, it runs fine.  Cosmetically, the roof needs some repair and the rear AC needs replaced.  This great camping vehicle drives like a small U-haul and can easily fit into any standard shopping mall parking space.  I once lived in it for 10-weeks, but now live in the city and do not have the space nor time to use it.

Should the barista pull the ad, give the roof repair a final attempt and drive the Dolphin another day?

“If it were my camper, I’d run that baby into the ground and then get rid of it,” Jerry said.

The sentimental value of the Dolphin to the barista is through the roof.  Maybe that is why it leaks.  He acquired the recreation vehicle within a week of his being laid off from the newspaper industry in 2009.  After six weeks of repairs and customizations, the barista drove over 5000 miles across ten weeks, from California to Pennsylvania in time for the Christmas holiday with his family.  The investment paid off handsomely; he was ready to move on.

But like a chocolate croissant walnut roll, the road is tempting.  And after the fourth cup of Costa Rican Estate black coffee, the barista’s mind shifted into overdrive.

“You’re right, Jerry.  Why give it away when I can drive it into the ground?—then give it away!  No bargains!”

The Dolphin remains in Pennsylvania.  It needs to move.  Can the camper survive in the hive?—In a dying metropolis?   Maybe, like The Urbanite said, it’s all in the math.  Hmmm…20 + 12 = Carpe Diem.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year's Day: 2012

Storm clouds conspire in the southwest over the peaks and through the valleys of West Virginia's Allegheny Mountains.  Dusk approaches like the head of a snowman rolling down a hill.  The barista wonders how much further to the overlook near the top of Seneca Rocks.  The back of his hands sense cool, sporadic raindrops.  The cinnamon girl is out of breath and offers to wait behind, resting her tokus on a fallen tree trunk along the side of the trail.  The leafless trees provide poor shelter.  A brisk jog shortens the distance to the intended destination.  Around the third bend in the trail about a football field length later, the barista spies a 12x12-foot deck hanging over 1000+ feet of air; space.  The mountain ridge in the distance is still visible--but not for long.  The barista gives thanks while he admires the view.  Creeping, gray clouds instill a sense of urgency.  The barista investigates the trail above the overlook:  WARNING: Dangerous cliffs.  Climb at your own risk.  The wind accelerates as the rain turns to hail  The barista crawls on his hands and knees over a few boulders, peaking at the view to the east.  Another gust of wind slaps the barista on his bearded face.  He snaps a photograph before sprinting back down the trail.

Happy New Year.