Friday, November 9, 2007

Window on My World

Friday morning.

Mama Java’s, where the décor is Seattle chic cum Goodwill, overlooks a strip mall parking lot. Across the street is Domino’s, Circle K, and Payday Loans. Big Brown just cruised by. The mall is called Gaslight Square. I kid you not.

Here I am in architectural middle America, ugly with palm trees. It’s Phoenix on Indian School Road, and there’s really no excuse. This part of Indian School is just I-surrender ugly.

Mama Java’s at least makes an effort, I give it that. Its butter yellow stucco walls are interrupted behind the counter by four flat black faux pillars, tall thin boxes, really, topped with flat black flared rectangles. In front of the cranberry-colored bar, a mix of blonde café furniture sits on the dirty-gold stained, cracked concrete floor. The bistro chairs are don't-give-a-damn uncomfortable with black vinyl cushions.

A drab plaid Ikea sofa along one wall sits beneath an unframed acrylic painting thematically reminiscent of Orozco but not anywhere near so iconic. Two middle-aged men with wrenches, bent over, wrestling a pipe valve shut. A ghostly naked woman looms over and behind them, arm raised, fleeing. On either side are streams of something --oil?--outside the formal painting proper but part of it, a variant triptych. If it’s oil, I hope they shut it off soon, and I hope the lady can come back. The colors echo everything in this room. Which came first, I wonder.

A black wrought-iron candelabrum sits on a square black laminate coffee table in front of the sofa. Somebody has jabbed five tall, bright red tapers in it. Three lean, tentative. One is snapped, half-mast. It looks like it’s giving us the finger in mute, insouciant grunge.

Along one wall, skinny black shelves of leftover books, everybody’s orphans, keep company with three tiers of large coffee bean bins and an étagère holding tiny frames for sale. One bright red, modernish microsuede armchair sits on a tubular aluminum frame looking hopeful in a motel hooker kind of way.

I’m the oldest semi-sentient being in the room but for one man with hair grayer than mine. He reads the Republic. I can’t imagine why.

Two other laptops are going, slowly, all of us waiting for the java to hit. It’s a musty, sleepy, looking-for-work, kids-in-school, having-a-biz-meeting, mostly 30-something group of 16 souls, enough to keep the business going, I guess. After all, it’s nearly 10 am. In comes a short, stocky brunette with a black porkpie hat crammed down on her head, large burgundy eyeglasses, a paisley scarf and a long skirt. A walking mushroom from the 80s with a tall, thin gay man in lively conversation. I imagine that she's really funny when you get to know her.

I think it’s the Travelling Wilburys on the CD. Mama’s working this morning. To me she looks exactly like Guy Pearce in his Priscilla, Queen of the Desert incarnation, only she has medium-length hennaed black hair and nice breasts. She’s wearing a chartreuse chenille top. It’s sleeveless but it has a rolled turtle-neck. (I don’t like chartreuse since having once been forced to walk past a casket in that color. At a funeral home. In Texas. Does it get any worse?)

But she makes a very good latte and I keep coming back.

Someone younger than I am just complimented me on my new Sony Vaio laptop. I am pleased. Accustomed as I am to the invisibility of middle-age womanhood, I feel found and reprieved even if was the laptop that sparked interest. I guess I'll go home now.