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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Changing Cafés

Changing Cafés

I used to go to the Uptown Espresso in Seattle’s Uptown/Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. I lived a couple of blocks away so I logged a lot of hours there. I liked the fact that the employees played whatever music they wanted. Even if I didn’t really care for the music, I liked the fact that it reflected the tastes of a real human being. Sometimes I will actually like an individual song in some canned music play lists, but in the aggregate you can almost hear the people sitting around a board room trying to come up with songs that will make people consume faster. I wrote about corporate music in an essay called “The Huey Lewis Factor.” I think the title says it all so there’s no need to actually read the essay.

I thought a lot about background music while sitting in Uptown Espresso. Certainly no one could accuse them of trying to exploit music for profit, or use it as some sort of marketing strategy, not when you are listening to an hour and a half set, commercial free, of Black Sabbath at 7 a.m., thanks to the whims of the 18 year old barista/rock drummer. I wish that every retail business didn’t feel the need to pipe in muzac during business hours. Silence is definitely preferable to canned/corporate play lists.

This particular Uptown also had a good bike rack right out in front that doubled as a seating area when there was fine weather and a big crowd. It also made a great hitching post for those local Seattleites lucky enough to own a dog or two.

My new café doesn’t have wireless access or any sort of music, unless you count the bells of the 15th century church a few steps across the plaza. For weddings and other special occasions they ring every bell in the tower. It’s almost enough racket to shake your café con leche right off the table.

I think that cafes fill a very fundamental human need to share space. Just being in the same place with others, even if you aren’t talking, is a very necessary form of human communication.

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