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.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Visiting the Oracle

“So Shelly, you won’t be able to reach me for a few days,” said the barista as he placed a bagel breakfast sandwich on the Panini press.  “I’m going back to Shenandoah.”

Change was in the air.  Summer slowly was turning into autumn.  Our barista had hired a new barista who picked up one of his shifts at the café this week.  The Dolphin had a new, safe parking spot with a newer pearly white rear door.  As the events unfolded, the decision made itself.

“Cool! Who you going with?” Shelly asked. 

It was a busy morning at le café: three employees behind the bar and patrons filled the four tables against the wall opposite the coffee bar.  These patrons were eating, waiting to eat while sipping their coffee or behind a laptop computer trying hard not to be distracted by the conversation about to take place. 


“Really?  Do you want one of my dogs?  Do you have a gun?”

“No, no…I’ve done this before. I’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure? How will you protect yourself?”

“I have a hunting knife, some pepper spray…oh, and my redwood staff.”

“Isn’t that where you saw three bears?” Monroe interjected as she pulled shots of espresso.


“You should take my gun,” Shelly pleaded.

“This is the second time I heard you try to pawn off that gun,” said a voice from behind a laptop.

“I’m not taking it,” said the barista. “Bears like me. I’m one of them.”

“What will you do there?” asked the patron who ordered the bacon, egg and cheese bagel—which now rests on his plate, cheese melted in front of him.  The cheese was smoked Gouda—a favorite of both Shelly and the barista.

“Read, write, hike…pick the guitar…speak with the oracle.”

“That means smoke a lot of pot,” Shelly said as she motioned her fingers to her mouth as if she were inhaling a joint.

“No, no,” said the barista. “I have prepared some questions for her.  I will look for her under the waterfall where I plan to swim.”

“Are you shittin’ me,” the patron asked.

“Yeah,” the barista said.  Although he really wasn’t.


Who has a couch in their car, but not in their apartment? The barista, of course. He pondered this idea as he lay stretched on the Dolphin’s foldout couch in Shenandoah the next morning, a stone’s throw from the Appalachian Trail.  The air was at least ten degrees cooler in the mountains than the city.  A gentle breeze penetrated the camper and was a treat for him to breathe in deeply.  As his seven spice chai tea steamed before him (nine spices if honey and whiskey are to be counted), the barista picked up his acoustic bass guitar and played the following set of original songs:

Music Spell
Cupid Blues
Purgin’ the Blues
Burlesque Pirate
Grass-Stained Heart
Stinky Joe

Three little birds jumped and chirped outside the Dolphin’s screen door as he finished playing and singing.  A joyful smile crossed the barista’s unshaven face.

Mid-morning he arrived at the park ranger station to look for maps and acquire a stamp for his national parks passport. He bellied up to the counter.

“I’m looking for a nice, quiet swimming hole,” the barista said.

“Well, we don’t call them swimming holes,” the thick-moustached ranger said. “But there are places to get your feet wet.”  His last sentence might as well been accompanied with a wink.

The barista was in luck.

The ranger highlighted a circular hiking route on the barista’s map, and then marked an X in at least six spots along the way for the barista to cool off in the mountain water.  

Near one of them may be the oracle, he thought. 


The heat of the sun warmed the cool mountain air.  Each step along the trail warmed the barista from the inside, forcing a mild sweat.  In his backpack was a water bottle, at least three different granola bars, a pita loaded with hummus, tomato and fresh basil, a hand towel, a long sleeve shirt, a notebook, pen, lighter, pepper spray and homemade popcorn.  He could not find his hunting knife, but carried his redwood staff as a cane.  If his mountain boots and beach shorts clashed, it could be argued that his blue bandana and sporty shades tied his attire back together. He practiced pranayama yoga breathing with each step: Inhale, pause…inhale, pause…inhale, pause…exhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaale.

Back in the Dolphin laid two books the barista was reading at the time: There is a River: A Biography of Edgar Cayce and Visions and Prophecies, from the Time-Life volume Mysteries of the Unknown. Ideas of a sixth sense fascinate the barista.  For the past decade he held a preference for working in, rather than working out.  Does he hold the potential to travel through time in his dreams, as Edgar Cayce did? 

The barista wondered as he wandered.  After two or three miles along the circuit hike, the barista noticed a stream paralleled the trail. It flowed in the same direction he walked—southeast at the time. Small pools accumulated water, but not nearly enough to swim. He stopped, sat on a log and watched the water. He wiped his forehead with his towel. He drank some water from his bottle. He snacked on the pita and polished the meal off with some popcorn.  He then stretched and coaxed his body off the log with his redwood staff and began to walk again. 

One of the moustached forest ranger’s X’s was about to mark the spot: Rose Hill Falls.  The barista came upon the falls from the top.  The stream cascaded down about ten or fifteen feet into a pool of water nearly six feet deep and twenty in circumference. The trail started down into the gorge, but about halfway from the water it returned back up. The barista continued down the slope. When he reached the bank he rock-hopped between the pool and a second, smaller cascade. He set his pack on a boulder on the opposite bank from which he came and took a deep breath.

Like much of Shenandoah, Rose Hill Falls was calendar-worthy. The barista surveyed the scene. Splashing water dominated the soundscape.  With few hikers on the trail, peace and privacy prevailed. The sun peaked through the trees, though most of the scene was shaded. He found a pebble and tossed it into what he hoped was the deepest part of the pool. It slowly fell far enough to where the barista deemed it safe. Small, finger-length fish moved about. No sight of snakes or other unwanted creatures in the pool. He temporarily relieved his boots, bandana, sunglasses and shirt of their duties and placed them by his bag on the boulder.  Squatting on a rock next to the pool the barista slipped into the water feet first.

So determined the barista was to soak in the mountain water, he never thought to check the temperature with his fingers, or feet.  An intense chill shot up his spine and across his scalp as he submerged completely. The waterfall was muffled. Adrenaline rushed through his veins.  His gasped as he returned to the water’s surface.

“Woo!!! That’s friggin’ co-old.”

The barista stood in the pool and the water reached just under his arms. He kicked his feet up and began to float as his breath slowed to a more relaxed pace. The jolt connected him with the mountain. He was enveloped and remained in the pool undisturbed for about ten minutes.

Climbing out of the pool, the barista sat on the sun-soaked boulder and dried his face with his towel. He could feel the cells in his body vibrate from the effects of the frigid water. His mind was clear, nearly free of thought. That was until he thought about the oracle.

The barista knew a traditional oracle is a person who can verbally answer questions posed in a “yes-no” manner. He also knew that he was the only person at Rose Hill Falls at that moment. What he didn’t know was if any souls happen to be floating about and if they could play the role of an oracle. Sitting with his legs crossed and his eyes closed he began to throw out questions to the universe.

Was it a good idea to come here?


Am I on the right path?


Should I continue to dream of owning a cabin in the woods?


Should I act on that dream soon?


A hesitation in the last answer gave the barista a reason to pause. He tried his best to clear his mind and pose the next question that popped in his head.

Should I have stayed with the cinnamon girl?


Am I meant to have a womanly companion?


Is it someone I have already met?

Silence. The barista wondered if his allotted number of questions were up.

Am I to have a child?

More silence. The barista asked one final question before resting.

Did the thief who broke into the Dolphin last month rip off my hunting knife?



The third sunrise gave the barista notice that his time in Shenandoah was nearly up. He begrudgingly returned power to his reception-less mobile phone to acquire the knowledge of time. In Visions and Prophecies the barista read:

Albert Einstein showed that past, present and future need have no fixed status. In theory, at least, it is possible to perceive them in varying order—future before present, for instance (p. 9).

He brewed some chai tea for the road, tightly secured the items in his camper, rolled down the windows and blazed down Skyline Drive.

The trip to the mountains refreshed the barista, but he certainly was not ready to leave. But le café beckoned. Routine beckoned. He took comfort in the thought that his routine was less routine than the average person’s routine, without trying to prove it.

Returning to his couch-less apartment less than an hour before his afternoon shift he packed his bag for work. He dug up a tape measure so he and Shelly could rearrange the machines behind le café bar. While digging through his toolbox the barista was taken aback. Staring him in the face was his lost hunting knife.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Off to Argentina: Rest in Peace, Otts

The sound of birds tweeting turned the barista’s head on his pillow.

“Call me when you get up…it’s about Otis.”

Jennifer’s text message was foreboding.  During the returned phone call, the sad, inevitable news was delivered.  Otis had passed away at the weathered age of 79.

Thin veils are worn by many characters here at le Harbor Bungalow Café to respect and maintain a certain amount of privacy.  Just as bungalow is a mask for row home, Otis has been a mask for Otts (or Autz, as I’ve seen it spelled both ways).  Now, as Otts passes into the afterlife, the thin veil known as Otis will be checked at le café door.

Like many retired, single men, le café was a second home to Otts.  A retired merchant marine and jazz musician, Otts came of age at the Point called Fells.  He was Jennifer’s very first customer when she opened her shop six-and-a-half years ago.  One of the first things our barista learned on the job was to set Otts’ morning paper cup of coffee (which was served with a dollop of whipped cream) aside behind the counter, so he could re-use it that afternoon when he returned from the neighborhood Good Will.  Often, Otts would return with a second-hand treasure—but only if he scored a good deal on it.  The barista remembers an electronic keyboard, an African mask, a gemstone necklace and never before has he seen a couple of fellows so excited about a hardback, unabridged Bible-of-a-dictionary like the one Otts found and gave to Frank.

“They don’t make these like they used to,” Frank said at the time.


Two years ago, not long after the barista first moved to the Big Crabcake and landed the position at le café, he found himself scrambling for a place to live.  Misplaced trust earned him a place living out of his backpacker’s tent in a spare bedroom—which one had to walk through to get to the bathroom.  While living there, the barista never realized so many English-language words had meanings opposite of what he learned in school.  Words such as loyalty, promise, contradiction and faithfulness were used as if his girlfriend was running for political office.  The old-timers’ unabridged dictionary was deemed irrelevant. 

“What would you think about house-sitting at my apartment,” Otts said.


“I’m going to travel to Argentina soon,” said Otts.  “I’m just waiting for a good deal on a plane ticket.  Probably some time around the holidays.  I have a lot of things that I’d like to have someone keep an eye on.”

“What will you do in Argentina?”

“I’m thinking about opening a café.”

The barista was taken aback.  Was fortune finally smiling down upon him?  Was Otts serious? 

The old-timer checked the fluctuations of his stock portfolio on his laptop computer, placed it behind the bar and retired for the afternoon.  “Think about it,” he said.

The barista picked up the telephone and dialed Jennifer.

“What do you know about Otts and Argentina?”

“Ha!  He’s been talking about that trip for awhile,” she said.  “So long it’s getting harder to take him seriously.”

Other patrons heard the story as well.  One even went as far as to suggest Argentina was a metaphor for the afterlife.  The barista was desperate and had nothing to lose so he visited the old fellow’s place after his shift one, gray afternoon. 

Only a few blocks from le café, the old Polish community hall had double glass doors and a buzzer at the busy sidewalk entrance.  A few minutes later Otts appeared, and with his hands shaking as if he were reaching for his morning cup of coffee, he pushed open the doors for the barista.

“Come on inside.”

The building was large and smelled like a retired folks home, which it seemed to have morphed into over the years.  They rode the elevator three or four floors up to a wide, dormitory-style hallway with high ceilings.  This was no row home.  Otts keyed in his apartment door.  The first room was the kitchen with a view of the bedroom behind it—a studio apartment at first glance.  Items were stacked and cluttered on the dining table and counters.  The walls were covered with paintings and African art.  The floors were filled with shelves, coffee tables, end tables, speakers, turntables, an entertainment center and his bed—like the barista’s, a simple mattress on the floor.  Walkways were narrow.  It truly looked like a Good Will outpost.  If not for the high ceilings—10 or 15-feet high—one would feel swallowed up. The barista didn’t own many things at the time, but the few he did wouldn’t fit—or would get lost—in this joint.

“Here’s another room,” Otts said.

Ah, ha!  The bathroom, the barista thought.  But it was also a bedroom—packed with more stuff: musical instruments—including an upright bass—shelves, trinkets, cool, unique souveniers—enough to open up a shop of his own.

“So is most of this stuff staying here when you travel?”

“I can move a few things to my storage unit,” said Otts. “But for the most part, yeah.”

The barista was grateful for the offer and thought hard about how this could work, but in the end he politely declined.  His situation carried more urgency and he was able to land a nice private, empty space even closer to the café a few weeks later.  His patience was rewarded—the same patience, with the same definition as the one he read about in the old timer’s dictionary.  The barista’s mind was at ease.  


Soon after his move, the barista again found himself in the old man’s apartment.  This time it was a sunny day.

“See, I accidentally knocked it off the table and the dust cover cracked,” Otts said as he toyed with one of his three turntables.  “If you want it, it’s yours.”

The barista lost a few things in his hasty move, two of which were a turntable and stereo receiver. (He managed to rescue his vinyl collection.)  He gave Otts fifty bucks for a receiver and Otts generously gave him the functional, dust-coverless turntable.  He then drove the barista to his new home down the street.

Otts never did make that trip to Argentina.  For that, the barista was sad.  But to get a fleeting glimpse into this man’s life—a man who lived a full life and who reminded the barista of his own grandfathers, was a pleasure. 

“Top my coffee with some whipped cream today.  This one’s for Otts.”

The day before Jennifer broke the news of Otts’ passing, the barista learned that Art, another former daily patron and musician passed away.  Two days prior to that, he learned skin cancer got the best of George.  The barista fondly remembers George as the man who would ask for his receipt and take the numbers on his bill to play the lottery at Royal Farms.  He promised he would share his kitty with the barista when he won. May they, too, rest in peace.

For more about Otts, see the previous post What’s Shakin’.