Friday, March 30, 2012
Punks Against Cancer at the Liberty Cafe
After spending $300 today at the vet for the annual wellness check and rabies shots to make sure Rusty the Pupperoo is still fine at the ripe old age of 11,(that's a little under $30 per year of his life) I headed off to downtown Renton to spend an afternoon window shopping and ducking the rain. I noodled around the antique stores and clothes boutiques until a droopy feeling just behind the eyes signaled a lack of caffeine. I thought it best to find a good strong latte, for medicinal purposes.
Walking into the Liberty Cafe in downtown Renton, I ordered a hazelnut latte and a roast beef sandwich for the princely sum of six dollars. The young woman behind the counter was a redhead with tattoos on her forearms, ear posts which allowed one to slip a quarter through the holes in her ear lobes, and the warmest brown eyes I had seen in quite some time. We chatted; we sang snippets of "Unchained Melody" along with the piped in music, she told me about her two years in choir when she got to sing Adoramus Te and she never did know what it meant, and when she had suitably squashed my roast beef sandwich in her George Foreman grill, I presented her with my debit card.
"Sorry," she said. "Only cash."
Oh dear. I had a debit card, four quarters, and 1/2 a tube of Burt's Bees lipgloss. Peony.
"No worries," she said. "Just catch us next time."
Seriously? Yeah, seriously.
So after effusive thanks, I wrote my name, my phone number, and the date on an index card, to serve as my IOU, gave it to her, and took a seat.
An elderly man with a leathery face and a red, white and blue baseball cap sat at the window seat and spent the next 15 minutes pleasantly staring at me while I thumbed through the Seattle Times and got crumbs all over my tee shirt. I would have been unnerved at this, except that his complete stillness and keen, unchanging smile gave me the distinct impression that he had dementia and likely spent most of his afternoons sitting there, staring at patrons the way most people gaze at flowerbeds, or watch traffic go by. The expression was there because it was always there, not because of any emotion I might raise in his thoughts.
After I finished the coffee and sandwich, I checked out the bulletin board, and found to my pleasure that punks are not just against the establishment, but also against cancer, of which I heartily approve. I eventually worked up the courage to ask the guy with the ski cap and the camo tote bag full of artist books ("How to Draw the Human Figure"; "Portraits in Pastels"; "Landscapes in Oil") where I could find an ATM. He told me of one three blocks away, so off I trotted, hoping the girl at the counter did not think me an eat-n-run kinda gal.
After a brisk walk against and then with the blustery wind, I returned with a crisp $20, and paid the barista. In the fifteen minutes I had been gone, the cafe had become a hotbed of social debate. A 40-something energetic guy named Johnny was expounding at length about the likelihood of the lottery being won by visiting Chinese. Another guy named Mike offered the idea that maybe you should have to show a drivers license in order to collect the winnings. Another patron whose name I didn't catch said he knew someone last year who won 9 million anonymously and blew it all in a year. Johnny said he wanted to win $340 million so he could save 300 of it and blow the 40 in a year and show ya how it's done.
Mike dropped his keys on the table in front of him. "Here's my keys, " he said to his invisible boss. "I just won the flippin lottery. I am outta here."
Then Johnny dropped the bomb. He is going to run for mayor. He is going to run in two years against the heretofore unopposed mayor and he's going to do it by starting right now. He's going to become an inspirational speaker and go to the high schools and get the high school seniors to vote for him. He is going to play hip hop music, and tell them to stay in school and get posters made and stick 'em up all over the city and he's going to kick the door in on the city council, BAM!
We cheered. Mike told Johnny to go for it. Another guy said, "Find out why the library's being moved." The old guy with the red white and blue baseball cap smiled. I told Johnny to get a Facebook account. The same guy said, "I'll bet someone on the council has property where the new library is." The girl at the counter said, "Well I know it isn't me." Johnny started jumping up and down, punching the air.
"I'm gonna do it!" Johnny said. "I know people. And I do stuff. I don't just sit around. I bike. I ski. I can kick it. BAM!" he said again, this time kicking out like a ninja to prove his point.
"Yeah," said the other guy. "Someone's making some money off that library moving around. I just bet. You find out who that is and you are IN." He nodded vigorously.
I smiled. I sat and drank another latte and grinned almost as wide as the old man. An afternoon of window shopping had turned into an afternoon of libery, justice and the American way. For six bucks, I had a front row seat at the pageant of Johnny the Rocky Balboa of mayorial candidates, Amanda, the red haired punk tattoo waitress/artist/dreamer, Mike the high school teacher, Unnamed Library Guy, and Smiling Old Dude. Better than a seat at the pageant, actually.
I was part of the pageant myself. Middle aged chick with a latte and fourteen dollars in my pocket. Hangin out with the 99, friends of the Punks Against Cancer, rallying against boredom and anonymity, living the Dream.
Will I go back to the Liberty Cafe again? Absolutely. After all, I don't want to miss Open Mic Wednesday, or Art Tuesday, or best of all, White Trash Potluck Friday.
I mean, who the heck would?