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, November 30, 2012

Teasing the Anti-Christ

“As your lawyer, I advise you to chug a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster!”
Last month saw the return of the Fells Fun Festival to the neighborhood. The event not only aligned with Orioles Magic, but also with surprise guests at le Harbor Bungalow Café. The barista turned to face the counter as he steamed some milk.

“P3PO!! Welcome back, broseph!!”


“Not really. Would’ve been more surprised if you didn’t hitch a ride with mom and dad and sacrificed this booze-fest.”

Brother-of-barista was unemployed and searching for work. He recently earned his law degree, but the results of his BAR exam were still being processed leaving him in a state of limbo.  Mother- and father-of barista followed the barista’s brother in the door.  After exchanging pleasantries they sat at the bar.

“How was the drive down?”

“The drive was fine,” mother-of-barista said. “Parking was the tricky part.” Parents-of-the-barista live 80 minutes via automobile north of the Big Crabcake, in the same house—the Old Creek Home—where the barista came of age.

“Welcome to the city. You see why I choose not to drive.”

“Quit the small talk and bring a cherry and cheese danish this way,” father-of-barista said.

“I thought you were on a diet.”

“I’ll start it again in January.”

“Whatever you say. Here meet Shelly, le café’s new owner.”

As the barista dug around in the pastry case, Shelly and parents-of-the-barista talked about how the barista is great a person.  On this day in particular he was great, as he easily could have succumbed to his hangover from the previous night’s celebration.  The hometown baseball club won their first playoff game in 15 years. The barista believed the victory was due in part to he and his friends’ enthusiasm and insistence of doing a shot for every play that went the Orioles way. Yuengling, Jack and Jose kept the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers at bay.

But if the flattery inflated the barista’s ego, it was only temporary.

“We have some mail for you.” Mother-of-barista passed an envelope across the bar.

“Uh, oh.” The barista immediately identified the source of the letter. “I’ve been waiting months for this response. I self-addressed the return envelope to you in case I didn’t renew my lease over the summer.”

“What is it?” Shelly asked.

“I submitted a story to Sun Magazine for publication. This is the moment of truth.” The barista imagined opening this letter in the privacy of his own apartment, but everyone was anxious to hear the news, so the barista ripped open the envelope and began to paraphrase the letter aloud.

“Thanks…we’re sorry to say that your story is not right for The Sun…this isn’t a reflection on your writing…process is highly subjective…we wish you the best…yada, yada…Clark, I think it’s time for that Gargle Blaster.”

As the barista decides whether to submit his story elsewhere, he would like to tease the opening excerpt for those café patrons who did not read an earlier version last December. Without further adieu, Le Harbor Bungalow Café is proud to present

Laughing About the Anti-Christ
…and other gap-bridging techniques of a self-appointed ambassador between cultures

“Teacher, you know the AntiChrist?”
            An awkward silence came over the sidewalk café.
            “No, Ali.  I don’t know the AntiChrist.  Why?  Would you like to meet him tonight?”  I laughed, trying to lighten the mood.  My students giggled, too.  Was Ali implicating me—calling me out as an antichrist?
There I sat in Rabat—Morocco’s capital city—between sips of espresso discussing the Antichrist with a group of about ten curious Moroccan English language students.  Understanding between us was not a given, it was a challenge.  The sunny, cloudless spring day was a Monday, so we met outside on the patio of a local café.  Across the round, white, wrought iron table sat Ali.  Likely he was asking whether I was familiar with the story about the second coming of Jesus, who is supposed to lead an end-of-times battle against the evil Antichrist as preached by the prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam, and as mentioned in the final book of the Christian Bible, Revelation.  But I also knew Ali was bright and somewhat mischievous.  Had I somehow insulted him?
A native of Rabat, the 24-year old was more interested in slang and clever dialogue than proper grammar.  Shorty’s got bahdenkedank!” he was keen to exclaim.  Ali gleaned much of his English from trendy American movies and music as well as through written correspondence on the online social networking pages of his American acquaintances.   This learning technique was common among my Moroccan students.  Loose-lipped and short, Ali mixed a manner that was part attempting to keep up with his peers and part trying to take the lead in conversation.  Here Ali had the lead, on a topic he was well versed.
“Yes, I am aware of the Biblical story of how the Antichrist fools good people into worshiping him.   But I understand the story as a metaphor,” I tell my class, hoping to segue into a comparison technique lesson. “Do you think a large bank could be the Antichrist, by deceiving good people into worshiping its money?” 
Months earlier I would have avoided such verbal sparring sessions faster than you could say salamu alaykum.  But two years later, in my Baltimore apartment, burning incense from Jemaa el Fna, I wonder if I was being paternalistic—by challenging their religious beliefs and attempting to expand their minds.  My main reason in traveling to Morocco had been just that:  to expand my mind.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Re-creating Paradise

“Well I haven’t seen you in a while.”

Andrea is the sushi chef at a quaint little Scotch bar three doors down from le Harbor Bungalow Café.  The hangout does not serve food every night of the week, but every Wednesday Andrea starts rolling at 6 o’clock.  Before she punches the clock, Andrea stops by for a large coffee—dark roast.

“I kinda miss working Wednesday nights,” the barista said as the coffee carafe he was pumping coughed in his face. “That writing class I took last fall set me on a routine where I get hump day off.”

“No class this year?”

“I’m doing an independent study,” he said with a grin as he grinded more coffee beans. “Reviewing my creative nonfiction notes from Towson, continuing the blog and reading required texts for students at Naropa.”

“Ahhh…Colorado.” Andrea said as she paid for her coffee.

“Yeah, wonderful country,” responded the barista. “A couple of my college buddies have settled that way over the past decade. If they had it their way I would move there, find a band and contribute to their debauchery.”

“Why don’t you?”

“Well, it’s so far from where I grew up. And I should be around for such transitory events: weddings, funerals, parents becoming grandparents, brothers becoming fathers and lawyers…and myself acquiring a sister and a nephew.”

“Of course.”

“Remember, I lived out in California for ten years. Didn't get back much.”

“That’s right.”

“I’m in a different phase now—which is not to say I’m not tempted!”

Andrea laughed.  “Well, it’s about time to put on the rice. You should come by for sushi.”

The barista rates Andrea’s sushi the best in the neighborhood.  He also agrees that scotch is a superior pairing over sake.  And with the warm fireplace in the back…

“You know, tonight might be the night.”

Andrea closed the café door behind her and a burst of cold air invaded the warm café.  The wind smacked the barista in the face. He began to daydream as he tended to the espresso machine.  He thought of the creative nonfiction writing class he aced last fall.  He thought about hiking downtown with his Splaff backpack tight around his shoulders.  He remembered how he would hop the public bus north of the city and finish his assignments on the stop-and-go drive up York Road to Towson.  He remembered how without that class le Harbor Bungalow Café would not exist.  And then he thought of the topic of his first major assignment. The topic in many ways paralleled the Colorado lifestyle his friends were living. What was so important that he needed to write about?  What did he feel the need to record so that he would never forget?  More importantly, can he ever re-create it within a closer proximity to his family? 

Excerpt from The Dolphin & the Mountain:

Many people think of San Francisco as Northern California.  But five-and-a-half automobile-hours beyond the Golden Gate Bridge is a town…a region…an expanse of country in that very same state of the Union that pushes San Francisco further south with each wind along the mountainous interstate pass.
The region is home to the kind of real estate to make a Monopoly game board envious: Lake Shasta, Lake Siskiyou, Castle Lake, Castle Crags, the Pacific Crest Trail, the headwaters of the Sacramento River, the McCloud River (and falls…all three of them), the Eddys, Black Butte, Mt. Lassen, Glass Mountain, the Righteous Hole, Panther Meadows, Thumb Rock, dozens of pristine, isolated, see clear to your toes alpine lakes, five glaciers and enough trees and rivers to make logging and bottled water companies filthy rich.  Skiers and snowboarders breed in the hills and compete in national championships and EuroCups.  Black bear and cougar not only reign at the top of the wildlife food chain, they serve the local, rival high schools as mascots.  In the center of it all, geographically and emotionally, is a revered and worshiped snow-covered mass of volcanic rock visible over 50 miles away in every direction, Mt. Shasta.
Inherently, Mt. Shasta moves. The Mountain’s sheer mass stands heavy and accountable, guilty as an accomplice in shifting the earth’s plates at speeds beyond human perception.  Boiling springs curiously adventure deep within the volcano’s caverns, carving the Mountain from within.  Water bubbles emerge from dark to light, grow and pop.  Evidence.  Steam meets the brisk outdoor air.  More evidence. 
Yet Mt. Shasta has no need to move.  Glaciers meditate in the Mountain’s saddles, ebbing and flowing inordinately slow.  Adorning Ponderosas, pines and firs stretch their green needles in the high wind, tightening their grip into the soil and rock.  Clouds and shadows and snow gravitate—float, creep and fall.  Human perception awakens, as the Mountain offers a different face.  In fact, the Mountain’s face changes as often as the human face changes.  Like the moon to the earth and like many beings before me, I also gravitated toward the Mountain.  I needed to climb it—to the top.  I needed the Mountain to move me.