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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Repairing a Refrigerator

Living the life of a barista, like that of a bartender, one is subject to a multitude of stories.  Good stories highlight the imperfections of life, the triumphs and the coincidences.  Retired folks and vagabonds alike, have stories enough to fill their own personal bibles: stories of sailing, serving overseas in the military, on the road with the band, winning the lottery, romance and lack of romance.  One tale that branded itself into the barista’s memory was Buck’s.  Buck recalled visiting his preteen children at their mother’s house one recent weekend.  Interrupting the innocent, quality family time was Buck’s 9-year-old daughter massaging her cheeks with a vibrator.

Where did you get that?!” Buck bursted.

“In Mommy’s desk?”

“Go put it under Mommy’s pillow.”

“What is it for, Daddy?”

“Nothing…she can tell you.”

“Hmmm…I bet she uses it to relax.”

At that remark Buck lost his composure and released a hardy, pink-faced chuckle.  How can a father remove such a scene from his brain?


We never know, nor can expect, who will sail into le Harbor Bungalow Café—especially after hours. 

Upon receiving the news that she sold the shop, the barista promised Jennifer not to tell anyone until she conducted a staff meeting six days later.  His patience was tested—like the silicon-patched roof of the Dolphin in a rainstorm—each time a patron asked, “So what’s new?” If that’s not the most common question the barista hears at the shop, then he’ll stop writing in the third person.  And if keeping Jennifer’s news a secret was like putting a cap back on a shaken bottle of Flying Dog ale, holding back the following story—which was relayed to him independently two times, days later—was like attempting to tap a keg of Natty Boh after it bounced down the stairs to a dingy Fell’s Point cellar:  a cellar not unlike the cellar at le Harbor Bungalow Café.

Two nights before the meeting that Jennifer planned to formally introduce her staff of four baristas to the new owners, she met with Shelly at the shop.  They were nearing the conclusion of about a month-long negotiation.  Shelly agreed to buy le café with her husband, but the shop was her project—explaining the covert conference of two.  The sun had long set, the curtains drawn and the front door was locked.  Fister Mishy lapped around his tank.  The trap door to the storage cellar was open, blocking the bathroom door.  Paperwork detailing the transfer of ownership may have been on the table before them.  Nonetheless, business was being conducted.  Suddenly, the sleigh bells hanging from the front door began to clang.  A key was turned.  Two baristas appeared, drunk, and carrying a toaster.

“Oh…hi.  We just came to use the bathroom.”

Jennifer was flustered.  “Uh, this is Shelly.  She’s here to fix the ‘frigerator.”

Soon after, one of the baristas commenced a goofy, intoxicated dance—unbeknownst to him, before his future boss.  The baristas said they came from a neighborhood tavern.  Apparently the bathroom at the watering hole whence they came was not good enough.  So the bulky trap door was brought to the ground and the barista proceeded into the bathroom while the ownership was being transferred beneath his glassy eyes.  The scene left Shelly bewildered. 

“That’s the exact story they told me when they abruptly keyed in months ago, when I was training Lizzy,” our barista said to Jennifer after he answered her frantic phone call later that night.  “I’ve used Dogwatch’s bathroom.  It’s fine…what do you think they were up to?”

Jennifer could only speculate.

Two nights later certain baristas must have wondered why the refrigerator repair woman was attending the staff meeting.  A sense of befuddlement clouded the dense, café air.

“Meet the new owners of the café,” Jennifer said.

The color drained from certain barista faces as quick as the urine drained from their bladder two nights prior.  Not a word was spoken about the incident.  No apologies offered.

Not many folks at le Harbor Bungalow Café like the feeling of being taken advantage.  So Shelly invited a locksmith to the meeting.  He installed a new front door lock faster than half the staff could prepare a couple of proper large, dirty, iced, soy gingerbread chai lattes—in the background of the meeting.  Our barista found it challenging to disguise his smirk.

Touché—but it’s going to take more than a new lock and key to repair this refrigerator.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Delicate Art of Sacrifice

Decisions reverberate—especially big, life-altering decisions like the one made at le Harbor Bungalow Café last month. 

When the barista commenced his present stint at le Harbor Bungalow Café, it was no secret that Jennifer had ideas of selling her cozy, quaint, warm and tasty coffee and pastry establishment.  In fact, it was her first attempt—which imploded late in the process—that was a topic of discussion during the barista’s first week on the job.  Nearly a year and a half later—and six years since Jennifer bought the shop—the day arrived. 

“It feels like I’m breaking up with you,” said Jennifer.  The barista sensed something was up, but had yet to connect the dots as they strolled down Broadway after work.  “I’ve sold the shop.”


The responsibilities of running a coffee shop while raising a family are many.  For Jennifer they overlapped.  Her daughter was raised at le café.  Her infant son was a regular morning visitor in his car seat.  Now he too, can walk.  Jennifer’s was a delicate juggling act.  Where she once sacrificed aspects of her family life to manage the shop, now she decided to sacrifice part of her professional life by transferring ownership to an enthusiastic couple.  The barista understood.

“Please stay and help out the new owners,” Jennifer encouraged as the factory lights across the harbor twinkled and reflected in the night water beyond the square.  The barista noticed how tough the decision was for Jennifer. 

“Of course,” the barista said.  “I have no plans otherwise…have I met the new owners?”

“I don’t know.  They’ve been in the shop a few times recently.  She’s blond, her husband has close, dark hair…I think their teenage kids were with them once.”

The barista actually remembered a couple that fit Jennifer’s descriptions.  They stuck out from the crowd not only because they tipped very well, but also because they referred to the barista by his first name—without the barista introducing himself.  A tipoff.

“So will you continue baking for the shop?  You’re not going to totally disappear, are you?”

“I hope to (continue baking).  We’re still working out some of the details.”

 This could be exciting, thought the barista.  The infusion of le Harbor Bungalow Café.  The binging was over.  The purging has commenced.  Like Jennifer, the barista also experienced a sense of relief.  Relief that certain aspects of le café overdue for change will now be changed.

But how will le café be changed?  And why was Fister Mishy sacrificed?

Let me introduce you to Shelly.  She’s here to fix the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Murphy's Law

“Those generators kept me up all night,” a red-eyed and irritated Kathleen said. “Make it a large today.”

Walking out the front door of le Harbor Bungalow Café, patrons are used to seeing Kathleen’s antique shop, the Chess Club, Ped Ex, and J.A. Murphy’s Irish Pub across the street.  But for two weeks, a reality television crew occupied a string of five trailers obscuring the storefronts and taking half a city block of precious parking spaces.  The natives were restless.

“I’m gonna kill Keith!” Riggs yelled before ordering a dark chocolate mocha.  It was about 8 o’clock in the morning, but on this neighbor’s clock it was high noon.  “They’ve got a bundle of wires lining our breezeway…my girlfriend’s got paint on her new coat after their half-ass paint job dripped on our gate—all without a word from that clown.  I’m never going into that bar again.”

Keith is one of the owners of J.A. Murphy’s, the establishment that applied and won an appearance on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue.  Keith is a both a fun-loving boozehound and a persistent businessman who attended university with the barista’s brother.  After losing half his staff to a new tavern around the corner, Murphy’s took a turn for the worse, shutting down for nearly a month.  The barista investigated during the re-opening, slugging a few beers while watching the Orioles game as he often would do, but with the air conditioning busted, fans circulated the stench from the dirty taps and the frat house floors making his Yuengling taste like a Natty Boh.  Intolerable.  Now about six months later, twenty-two cameramen, producers and the like patronized le Harbor Bungalow Café on their work breaks.  The Los Angeles-based crew’s visit spanned two weeks—but they only planned to be on the job for one week.

“We found some mold on the subfloor and it turns out the jousts are not up to code,” said one of the show’s producers as she ordered some muffins for her colleagues.  “So it looks like we’re gonna be here for another week.”

The barista is far from a reality TV buff, but he sensed Bar Rescue, now in its second season, was either underinformed or conducted poor research.  Word is that the show paints, rebrands, decorates and drums up dramatic relationships—things visible to a television camera. So gutting the basement and replacing 36 hidden floor jousts appeared an unintended "rescue" procedure, but nonetheless contractually binding.

“Yeah, we’re way over budget,” the producer admitted as she carried away a carafe of coffee for the newly hired construction crew.  “But once we saw the problem we were obligated to say something.”

The big winner from the barista’s perspective is the owner of the building.  Many buildings—especially row homes such as Murphy's—on the Point called Fells are a couple hundred years old.  One bar even predates the independence of the United States—the same bar Edgar Allen Poe drank his last drink before passing out in an ally wearing someone else’s clothes.  This history may be one of the draws for programs like Bar Rescue, Homicide and The Wire.  Is it any surprise a neighborhood this old has so much structural wear and tear?  The building owner was under no timetable to fix the issues.  Bar Rescue had deadlines to meet.  The production picked up most of the tab.

In the meantime, most of the television crew had nothing to do.  They were communication majors, not construction workers.  So they flew home and back—cross-country.  A flatbed truck appeared across the street to receive wheel barrel loads from the cellar.  Rumors of dead rats bounced off the café walls.   The barista and Jennifer were grateful for the spike in business.  Few others the barista encountered had any sympathy towards the project.  The barista understood.


“So Friday’s the big day I hear,” the barista asked the show’s producer, after speaking to her crew upon their return.

“Yes!  Finally.  Come by at 9 tonight.  We’re giving away free beer,” she replied with a sigh of relief.  The barista had a gig with the CR Experience at Betters of Lead that night and could not attend.  But two nights later he popped into Murphy’s Law—the rebranded J.A. Murphys—and got the scoop from Dan, Murphy’s spiked-haired, tattooed bartender and musician.

“Wow, man! This place smells great!” the barista said taking a deep breath of the fresh hardwood floors.

“Hey, buddy!  Great to see ya.  Welcome to the new joint,” Dan said with a handshake.  “What are you having?  We’ve got a whole new tap system.  But only four of them are hooked up tonight.”


“I recommend the Kilkenny.”

“Irish Red, by Guinness.  Sold.”

It is no stretch to say that Kilkenny was the smoothest, creamiest tap beer the barista had consumed this past year.  Proper Irish Pub-style brew—from someone who has visited Ireland.

“So what’s the deal with the new name?”

“Well, the show wanted to move from the bad associations with J.A. Murphy’s.  So they suggested Murphy’s Law.  You know, ‘anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’.”  That explained the new photos hanging opposite the bar: a banana peal being stepped on, a cow fallen through a ceiling onto a businessman’s desk, among others. 

“Ah…you’ve got a new menu, too.”

“Yeah, it’s short and sweet.  Suits our small kitchen.” 

The barista read the menu: “Healthy” Grilled Cheese—deep fried, Fell’s Fries, Meatball sub…  “Simple pub food.  Nice.  How ‘bout another Kilkenny?  ...So other than the floor debacle, any other surprises?”

“Check this out.  They took a sample from our cutting board.  Not one, but a colony of E Coli.  That’ll be in the show.”

The barista should have been surprised, but he wasn’t.  “How’d Friday night go?”

“Packed.  People waiting outside two hours in the rain.  It kinda sucked, though.  Most of our regulars couldn’t get in.  More people just interested in being on TV.”

Figures.  A fickle, trend-following crowd.  Loyal, regulars outside.  Pissed-off neighbors.  Murphy’s Law in action.