A new café is opening at the end of our street. The space is what I call a “doomed location” because every business that goes in there doesn’t last long. In the ten years we’ve been on the street, it has been vacant half the time, and in the other half the location has seen the speedy demise of at least four previous enterprises.
Most recently it was a “formaggeria”, a cheese-centric café which billed itself as a “cheese laboratory”. It took them forever to complete their build out before opening — presumably cheese-makers have some unusual needs. In anticipation I developed fanciful expectations of the joys of having a cheese maker right down the street. When they finally opened, I was disappointed to find they offered a narrow range of unfamiliar products at exorbitant prices. It also dawned on me that I was not entirely comfortable eating laboratory outputs. Test cheese? I am no lab rat.
It took them about a year to go bust. On their way out, they briefly became a hybrid cheese factory / fashion boutique, purveying bespoke cheeses and cocktail dresses. Points for trying.
Prior to the formaggeria, they had ripped down the entire building to build about twenty new apartments. The new building was a monstrosity named Face which the real estate marketers described as “Dali-inspired”.
It bears a sculpted bronze-ish façade that, when looked at from a particular angle, resembles the silhouette of a person sneezing. This façade protrudes halfway across the footpath beneath, so when it rains, pedestrians below are welcomed by a steady stream of Face’s spit. Dali might have been pleased: Architecture imitates Art.
Given the history of the locale, I was surprised they not only left the ground floor as retail space, but re-created the doomed location on the corner. Maybe zoning requirements demanded it. Whatever the reason, the Dali-inspired spittle contributed to the indigestion, if not insolvency, of the hapless cheese merchant that took the lease.
Empty storefronts aren’t good for the neighbourhood, and there’s a growing number of them in this world as more of us buy our stuff on line. So I was pleased to see Face managed to secure a new tenant quickly. As the new tenant neared completion of their build-out, they erected a meter-high green neon sign depicting “The Finger” in their front window.
I was appalled, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on why I was appalled. I mean, I flip the bird reasonably often, indeed I was once detained by a cop for doing so. At times my vocabulary befits a seaman. The “adult” shop across the street doesn’t bother me in the least (well, except for their prices). So it isn’t like I am squeamish about such things. Yet, it struck me as gratuitously rude that a business would use a giant “Fuck you!” symbol as its logo. As a neighbour, I guess I took it kind of personally.
I was up and out early on Saturday morning, surprised to find the café open at eight. The place had two customers, which is two more customers than I had ever seen at the location in its previous incarnations. I marched in, finding four young servers behind a massive, sparkly coffee machine, with another two older workers in the miniscule kitchen behind. As I approached I thought “These idiots are going to be out of business in no time.”
“Can you tell me” I began “why you have a large neon sign depicting this in your window?”” I held my hand in their faces with my middle finger extended. They were suitably astonished, silent. “Because,” I continued, “where I come from, this means ‘Fuck You!’”
The three young ladies turned away, making that snarly face young ladies make whenever a middle-aged man speaks. The fourth server, though, responded. “Oh!” The lanky teenage lad with a crewcut came out from behind the counter and pointed to the symbol in the corner of their menu:
We are advocates for a more balanced, less meat-heavy diet.
Regardless of the role of meat and dairy in nutrition
or the ethics of animal rights,
on the grounds of economic and ecological sustainability
alone, the consumption of animal products is a looming problem for
humankind. Our middle finger salute is aimed towards unethically
treated and unsustainable, mass produced meats.
The last thing I expected was a well-thought, polite response. Suddenly I felt very, very old.
The thing is, I like meat, and eat a lot of it. Few things in life give me more pleasure than a nice steak, and one of those things is a nice, cheap steak. That said, The Finger is absolutely correct. By eating mass-produced meat, I knowingly facilitate and hasten the demise of mankind. Yet, I have no intention of ever giving it up. Talk about a doomed location.
If I was twenty years old, I’d be giving me the finger, too.
I went by the café again at noon, dumbfounded to see a line at the door, mostly teenage honours students correcting each others’ grammar. Same thing on Sunday. And Monday! To take the photos I have posted here, I went down there this rainy morning – a Wednesday morning at nine – and the place was packed, buzzing away with polite, clean cut youngsters.
I’m thinking this one might be a stayer. And I’m thinking this is a good thing.