Monday, July 20, 2009




Emblazon this on your forehead, Mate.

Tattoo it on your butt and your shoulders, Sally.

Record it on every device you own so that your day starts and ends with this directive.

Ask your priest or rabbi to give sermons on such.

Carve it into your skateboard, Skippy.

You are not allowed in modern urban life to walk into a cafe carrying the ubiquitous Starbucks or Blenz or Waves or anybody else's cardboard, taste-destroying cup.

First, the cardinal sin of the carry-out. Bad enough.

Don't you know that coffee, especially espresso and all its de-caf, skim-milk, caramel, choco-sprinkled variants, was meant by the gods of food and drink to be sipped slowly from a porcelain - NEVER GLASS! - cup while sitting at a table? Preferably and weather and city bylaws permitting, an outdoor table, so that, even if you are reading or engaged in actual face-to-face conversation - REMEMBER THAT? - you can observe the passing parade of humanity, or what is posing as humanity these days. (See, SOCIAL STUDIES, TWO - THEY ARE HERE AND THEY ARE AMONGST US.)

Second, and this is the point, isn't it, cafes oddly enough serve...wait for

Do you frequent The Keg? Ever walk into the Keg with your own steak? Or McDonald's with your own patty and frozen potato slices?

Then why would you walk into a shop that depends on its livelihood for selling cups of coffee with someone else's coffee in your hand? Why would you think that's perfectly O.K?

On Saturday morning, I was enjoying a late breakfast al fresco at one of my favorite neighbourhood places (The "David" crepe: bananas and walnuts.), when two otherwise reasonable looking fools - a young man and a young woman - strolled in with their Timmy's take out java in hand.

At least they sat down and ordered something to eat.

Heather, the gracious and always welcoming host, owner and chef, tells the tale of the couple who came in sat down, ordered some lunch and then had the girl leave to walk down the street to get some Starbuck's coffee to bring back. When Heather pointed out that she sold coffee (They were sitting about four feet from the large and unavoidable espresso machine.), the couple got all huffy about their rights and left.

Last week, I became speechless and apoplectic with rage watching three lovely young people come into a cafe where my son and I were having a brunch. They were bright and smart and lovely people. Except that they marched past that espresso machine with their Starbucks paper cups in hand.

There is one first-rate Italian cafe here in town where the owner - from Rome , and successful and old enough to not give a shit about political correctness - will throw out such mindless, selfish trash. I love him for this.


Let's review today's lesson, kids.

When you walk into a cafe, bring your brain and your wallet and your good graces and remember that this is a person running a small local business and he or she serves coffee. That's why it's called a coffee shop.

But, of course, I forgot.

You're the guy who brings your own sliced beef and chopped red peppers, Spanish onion and zucchini into The Mongolian Grill.


There is a new creature afoot.

He is sleek.

She is smooth.

They are magazine, air-brushed perfect.

I see them all the time. Is it just me?

They wear tight, unattractive-by-design clothes. Garish prints and checks, browns and oranges, flared collars and cuffs. That fucking rimless toque in the heat of summer.

One great movie critic said of Matt Damon in the Bourne series of movies that Damon had become "a bullet," all polished and rounded head, a body imitating materiel.

This is what these new creatures bring to mind.

By the way, they live (so far, but I am sure they are spreading ... and fast) in 600 square foot condos near the waters. Their shoes are square-toed, their tote bags and notebook cases are polished leathers and they are always, I mean always, on their cells.

They work in law, advertising, the media (whatever that is..?), government and city planning.

"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was twice made into an excellent movie. In 1956 and 1978. Humans are being replaced by not-quite-humans who are being substituted while they sleep from giant pea pods grown from spores that have drifted into the atmosphere from some galaxy far, far away. "Invaders from Mars," 1953, had a similar plot line, in this case, taken from the viewpoint of a young boy.

The "new" people look like their previous selves, but they seem strangely muted and devoid of emotion or sentiment or "humanness."

In a marvelous, ethnic stereotyping moment in the second version of "Body Snatchers," a Chinese man in a Chinese laundry in Chinatown in San Fransisco, complains hysterically to a puzzled Donald Sutherland, "That not my wife! That not my wife!"

Don't we all know that feeling?


I believe these Hollywood scare stories are now visiting us in the flesh.

Watch for these modern, soul-less, perfect people. They are busy and fast and they run things or strive to run things and they work out and stay perfect or strive to stay perfect.

And they are humorless, except for the Big Laugh that comes with defeating The Other Guy.

And, oh yes...

They bring Starbucks coffee into other people's cafes.


Anonymous said...

Where is this Italian cafe?

Maureen said...

David, good to see you back. I agree with your observations/advice today....guess that means we are BOTH becoming curmudgeonly.

Maureen B.

David Berner said...

The cafe is The Epicurean Deli on the South East corner of First & Cypress, one block west of Burrard. You remember Burrard? It's the one with the bridge and 5 to 10 cyclists at any crowded moment.

DAVE C. said...


How about "Narcissism and the Decline of Values" as a chapter in your memoirs? You forgot to include cell phone use when driving, foul-mouthed behaviour in public, leaving "Express" lane checkouts on hold to retrieve forgotten items, talking loudly in movie theatres, continuing to apply makeup after the traffic light has long since turned green ... to name a few. Add me to the "Curmudgeon Club".

Could it be that a lack of assertiveness on the part of all of us polite folks may have contributed to this selfishness? A result of being told that pointing out someone's bad manners was also bad manners? I'm not familiar with the BC curriculum for Social Studies, but there appears to be a need for a module or two on "Good Citizenship in a Democracy".


Anonymous said...

Love this, David. Welcome back! It's comforting to know that not everyone has succumbed to thoughtless, clone behaviour. (You? Never!) And hurrah for the owner of the Epicurean. I cannot imagine the gall it would take to wander into a cafe with someone else's coffee. It just boggles the mind.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back David. I always suspected you were a volcano waiting to erupt.

Not Your Wife said...

Yay, David! I knew if I checked in long enough...

Burrard Bridge: I went over on the number 2 Bus today at 8:45am. 8 bikes. Came back on the number 16 at 5:35pm; 6 bikes. I hope COV has an abacus keeping score of all this...

The Epicurean makes the best almond/orange cookies, dipped in chocolate. And if you are patient with the breakfast service, 'cause they aren't the swiftest over there, you will sometimes be rewarded with Italian white cannelinni beans sauteed in some kind of fat.

Anonymous said...

Yes, welcome back David -- this is classic Berner in my estimation and gave me a much appreciated, long over due chuckle. Love the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" analogy as I am well acquainted with Sally and Skippy and the like. Too funny! Hope you're enjoying your summer and if you're looking for a new coffee shop, where one wouldn't dare bring in off-site java, try Coco et Olive on West Broadway.


Anonymous said...

"Thursday, May 7, 2009
Attenzione, si prega...

I am retiring the blog.


Sayonara, auf vederzein, shalom, ciao, baby, ciao, kum sumnida, taijaian, au resevoir..."

Careful David! Perhaps the blog should have remained retired so as not to blow a gasket, but then again maybe it servers as a sort of pressure relief valve for you.

Question: Can I walk into Harry Rosen's toting a Mark's Work Warehouse bag?

Anonymous said...

David: I heard that the cyclists going over Burrard Bridge are driving without helmets, they're speeding, etc. Great eh?