Monday, July 23, 2007

Two lattes and a cappuccino, please

"If we, as citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams."
Yann Martel, Life of Pi

It's my first day as a volunteer at the Peace Cafe, and I must confess to some nerves. I couldn't sleep last night for recurring fears of milk that wasn't frothy enough and seven lattes ordered on the trot.

By midday, I am presiding over an empty cafe. James, the owner, has been brave enough to leave me here alone while he goes to run some chores, and I've already made several herbal teas and two espressos. You can call me Barista Girl, who in my mind is a new sort of superhero, putting the world to rights, one cafe au lait at a time.

The ambience of the cafe is lovely, and when I've quit being so nervous of screwing up, I think I'm going to love it here. There are a lot of things to remember, and a lot of washing up to do, but the potential for zen activity is high and I think it could be the perfect balancer for my other job (the volunteering has brought my job count up to three now) working for the local authority.

A few regulars come in, but the weather is unfriendly and word of Monday openings haven't spread yet. It still manages to be an eventful day, where I am propositioned by a cross-dressing fetishist (that's a story in itself, but I'm saving it for dinner party anecdotes), learn to make espresso with foam and listen to the rapport of a couple who are occupying two separate computers:

Him: "Are you still looking for jobs on there?"

Her: "Yes. Why, are you bored?"

Him: "Yeah."

Her: "Have a look for a dog then. You know, check out different brands."

Him: "I think they're called breeds."

In the quiet moments, I pick up Yann Martel's Life of Pi - James has a whole library of reads out in the back room, specialising in the spiritual - which I have at home but have never read. I'm captivated within the first few pages, which is always a sign of great writing. In the first few pages of the novel, he mentions the beatific smile of the three-toed sloth, who decorates the top of today's post. I can see what he means.

Apparently, it's very hard to disturb a sloth - not that I'm recommending you try.

If you come upon a sleeping three-toed sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should suffice to awaken it; it will look sleepily in every direction but yours. Why it should look about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Mr Magoo-like blur. As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound. (It has been) reported that firing guns next to sleeping or feeding sloths elicited little reaction. And the sloth's slightly better sense of smell should not be overestimated. They are said to be able to sniff and avoid decayed branches, but (it has been) reported that sloths fall to the ground clinging to deacyed branches "often".

Now that's my kind of animal. A sloth would be at home in the Peace Cafe, where the ambience would support their intrinsic sense of peace. He wouldn't be as good a volunteer as me, though. I've got better breasts.

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