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, August 13, 2013

Stinky Joe, part one

Sunday morning’s yawn was a wider yawn than most mornings. But this morning the barista nearly cramped his jaw his yawn was so deep. His commute to open the doors of le Harbor Bungalow Café morphed from a brisk 90-second walk into a 90-minute highway drive. Departing at 6 a.m. from his folk’s Old Creek Home, he navigated his newly acquired set of wheels. A 36-foot Holiday Mansion it was not—though he was dangerously close to acquiring a 30-year old houseboat. So close, in fact, he was forced to scrap a previous story:

“Greetings Landlubbers!”

The barista had been waiting months to utter those words as he walked into his sunny Friday afternoon shift.

“Well if it isn’t Popeye himself!” Steve yelped.

“I can’t sail yet,” the barista spoke. “Gimme a year.”

“You actually bought a boat!” Buck exclaimed.

“Livin’ the dream, baby,” the barista said, matter-of-factly. “Housewarming party next weekend. You’re all invited.”


The barista was docked at a wharf on the east end of the neighborhood—a serene spot relative to the bustling square. A cast of characters trickled over throughout the humid day: Hound, Abby, Buck, Jawbone, Shelly, Leon, Skip, Angie.  Most of the usual suspects were mingling about the deck, cabin and dock. An old-timer named Blu who is a staple at Leadbelly’s sparked a joint. The barista squinted. It’s actually a pocket vaporizer. Angie strummed a guitar while Buck mixed the drinks and Jawbone told jokes. After sundown a couple of the guys lowered themselves in kayaks and paddled beyond the dock while the others at the party indulged in cocktails and cigarettes on the deck of The Walrus.

The skies glowed with a gray haze from the city lights. The moon challenged the red, neon Natty Boh face for the brightest reflection in the harbor. The harbor was a mildly chunky, mossy green. (Think the color of the Incredible Hulk.) Blu paddled his vessel around Hound and attempted to pass the pipe from his canoe to the barista’s kayak, but lost his balance in the transfer and tipped both vessels over—with Hound nearly joining them. The barista got a full swallow of yacht-disposed gray-water as he submerged. This dumping is not only legal, it’s encouraged by city slip managers. Attempting to re-enter the kayaks was as fruitless as a sunbather attempting to unscrew a fresh jar of garlic-stuffed olives, so Blu and the barista swam through the indecipherable muck while Hound and Steve towed the kayaks.

The barista was sick for months. He broke out in a horrible rash and his tongue turned green. No more making out. Unable to work, he was late paying his health insurance and his policy was canceled. Unable to secure a loan due to poor credit from mistrusting a friend in a San Diego real estate investment, the barista was forced into bankruptcy. Depressed, he intentionally jumped overboard with The Walrus’ anchor tied to his leg. His body decomposed—coincidently over the remnants of Fister Mishy, whose limp body Leon tossed into the harbor a month earlier after he died from a fungus infection acquired from the barista’s previous apartment in Fells.

Thank the patron saint of coffee the barista never bought that boat. Now he sports a ’97 Astro Van. Cruising the United States’ route numbered 83 that morning, his excitement bubbled like the contents of a keg transported on its side in the back of a large station wagon. For his new lifestyle was intended to broaden the 90-percent of his life he spent within a six-block radius. This excitement was short-lived, though. As he concluded his 90-minute drive into the city, an impatient woman trying to get around the turning Astro rear-ended him. Unable to wait for two cars to pass, this woman desperately needed to get to the red stoplight 20-yards ahead of the barista’s van. Sunday morning. Seven-thirty a.m.

 “Any word yet?”

Philip Cole limped into le Harbor Bungalow Cafe with the help of his cane.  Phil is a kind old fellow, but his once-happening life has been reduced to a morning blueberry bagel, an afternoon routine of feeding cats, with evenings wishing he never agreed to have back surgery. He and the barista have a few things in common. They both spent substantial time residing in Philadelphia and Harrisburg; they each are performing musicians and they share a disdain for climbing steep staircases to get to their rooms—which, for two-and-half years were 50-yards apart from each other on the same block of Fells. Phil’s question refers to their second commonality, as listed.

“Our next meeting is a week from tomorrow. I should have an update then,” the barista explains.

“It’d be neat if we made it, huh?”

“I have a good feeling—but I hope it’s not too risqué. We’ll see.”

Phil is a classically trained pianist. He plays two or three restaurants or clubs a year. In his heyday, Phil warmed up for Frank Sinatra and scored movies for Andy Warhol. (“He’s an asshole,” Phil once said about Sinatra.) Phil’s been playing piano for as long as Frankie Avalon has been singing—they grew up together in the same South Philly neighborhood.

The barista had been sharing his songs with Phil—copying compact discs for Phil to listen at home—when an idea floated across his mind. Maybe Phil will collaborate on a song for the Baltimore Songwriters competition.

Last spring, Phil agreed.

“So which songs did you like?”

“The first one on the second disc caught my attention.”

Stinky Joe! Folks request that ditty in all three of my acts.”

“It’s clever. Reminds me of early Tom Waits and Jonathan Richman.”

“When are you free this week?”

“How about noon Wednesday at Big Bertha’s?”

“I’ll bring my bass and recording gear.”

So the duo met at the back door of Big Bertha’s—an oyster house in the neighborhood square where Phil often gigs. The barista carried his acoustic bass, microphone stand and cable bag. Phil carried his black cane. He knocked and the door opened. Phil greeted the chef as they walked by the kitchen.

“Hey, Cole! What’re you doin’ here?”

“Oh, just helping Reg with a project. We’ll be upstairs for a bit.”

On the second floor they entered a room with a 25-foot ceiling. One of the walls was mirrored giving the space more natural light from the windows on the street side—and giving the barista a deceptive feeling there was more than met his eyes. Cafeteria-style folding tables and chairs congregated in the center of the room. A large serendipitous angel hung opposite the windows with white Christmas lights strung from her wings. Underneath, Phil bellied up against the house piano. The barista set up his gear to the right of Phil, tuned his bass to the piano and sipped Chai. Phil nodded at the barista who engaged the recorder.

To be continued…