Notes from a Coffee Shop: Fish is NOT a Gateway Drug

So I have had this idea for a creative writing project (not sure exactly what form it should ultimately take) involving the local [tag]coffee shop[/tag] I hang out at. It’s pretty much a constant freak show. Yes, I’m sure a few of the yuppie shoppers that show up on the weekends think I’m part of the show, but I’m pretty mild, at least compared to most of Sitwell’s denizens. For you literary nerds who may stumble upon this, [tag]Sitwells[/tag] is named for [tag]Edith Sitwell[/tag], the coffee shop owner’s favorite literary figure.

Anyway, I’ve had this idea for some time, to just sit in a back corner (or in the front, by the big-ass window that looks out on the street – sometimes the best part of the show is outside) and just record my impressions of the clientèle throughout the day and night. Perhaps make up stories about them based on my impressions. Not sure when I’m going to find time to sit in here all day and night (and the weekends don’t count; too many tourists and suburbanites show up after hitting the local shops or the indy-theater next store (they spell it “theatre,” which is so retarded – unless we were in Cornwall, or something, but this is Ohio).

But I think perhaps I should just record my impressions as they happen, here in this blog. Sorta like taking notes, after a fashion, for a larger work to come.

So I came in to Sitwells tonight after my beginning Japanese class, because I had to recopy my notes for my digital imaging and photography classes that I take earlier in the week (no wonder I haven’t been blogging much lately). A primo table was actually available in one of the back corners, so I could sit with my back to the wall and observe, often unheeded by my subjects. Geez, I sound like a Wild Kingdom episode. Marlon Perkins: “I’ll stay here in the chopper while Jeff goes down into the coffee shop and wrestles with the emo-kids.”

Actually, while my eyes and ears are almost always open when I’m in Sitwells, because I so love a freak show, observation was rather low on my priority list, tonight. But I couldn’t help notice the three twenty-something hipster dudes sitting and drinking beer at the table directly in front of me. As I sat down, I heard one dressed like an extra from a Jet video espouse upon Tom Waits. He remarked that he just “couldn’t get into it. … it’s some old man making music or something. I just couldn’t stand it.”

Now, I must profess that I like [tag]Tom Waits[/tag], but I’m a casual Waits fan at best. Ironically, I’ve been lucky enough to see him eating in a Perkins late one night in Santa Rosa, CA. ‘s true. And I wow hardcore Waits fans with that story. But I do like a lot of his music, even some of the stuff that’s not terribly, um … accessible, shall we say (“What’s he doing in there?”). But Sitwells is naturally the kind of place where one would expect to find the harcore Waits fans. The waitress here that I have lust in my heart for is way into him, for example. So I guess that’s why this statement leapt out at my ears. So as I copied my notes about f/stops and apertures, white balance and histograms and so forth (it’s been a long time since I worried about f/stops, and I’m thoroughly enjoying getting reacquainted with this passion from my youth), I kept an ear out for any other interesting utterances from this bearded and sport-jacketed hipsterite. Later, he uttered something I found utterly astonishing:

“Fish can be the bridge to jazz, for me.”

What? What’s that?

It’s a good thing that I wasn’t taking a sip of Glenfiddich at that moment, because it surely would have been jettisoned at a high rate of speed through my sinuses and nasal cavities (I’ve found that sipping a shot of single-malt scotch is necessary to take the edge off my brain after Japanese class sometimes). And snorting Glenfiddich through one’s nose in astonishment (or anything else for that matter), is not pleasant. I know what of I speak.

I digress. I’m still amazed by this statement. [tag]Fish[/tag] will lead you into the realm of Davis and [tag]Coltrane[/tag]? WTF? That’s like saying “Chicago the musical will lead me to Shakespeare” or “Danielle Steele will be the bridge to Dostoevsky and Chekhov.” Um … no.

I don’t mean to denigrate Fish (or Danielle Steele, for that matter – I originally wrote Sydney Sheldon, but I decided to give him a break, since he just died and whatnot). As jam bands go, they are one of the better ones, IMHO, and I’ve even heard some [tag]Trey Anastasio[/tag] solo material that I actually thought was kinda cool. But Fish as the bridge to [tag]jazz[/tag]? I just don’t see jam bands as the gateway drug to jazz, the absinthe of musical highs. My first reaction was rather harsh; I had the urge to shout “Dude! WTF? No wonder you can’t appreciate Tom Waits. Maybe Fish will be the bridge to Spyro Gyra or something, maybe Bela Fleck, if you’re lucky and not totally hopeless … but Jazz? C’mon, that’s like saying cornhole will be my bridge to lacrosse. Don’t think so. And why are you talking about jam bands dressed like that?” Of course, I didn’t blurt out any such thing. I didn’t even look up and make eye contact, although I did jot down the phrase in my notebook.

I should keep an open mind. But still. I’m just sayin’ …

And that’s why I love Sitwells. Cuz stuff like that happens all the time. Well, that and free wireless and the alternachick eye candy. And the espresso and genuine Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. And no, I’m not mature enough to hear the name “Spunkmeyer” and not think of a euphemism for ejaculate, but then I never make any claims to maturity. And on that note …

P.S. Heh, just as I finished posting this in WordPress, a Tom Waits song came on …