Key of C (Again)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Psychocafegraphy, I am realizing, is a kind of hysteria about change. Mix is an embodiment of the absent present because it has white-outed The Fudge Factory before it. The Playwright is untrustworthy because it complicates access to my beloved memory of Lela’s Cafe. For all of the loveliness that has come about in the recent (and ongoing) remodel of Key of C, it leaves me somewhat queasy.

As I said in the first post about it, Key of C was a (small, intimate) music venue in addition to a coffee shop. Years ago my girlfriend sang in the wood-backed corner, her father accompanying her on guitar and our mutual friend drumming them along. Where she once stood singing is now a cream-colored couch. She just called me to ask “are you singing?” No, I said, one does not sing in Key of C.

At first it didn’t occur to me that such drastic changes were taking place. I saw the new furniture, the flowers on the tables, the comfortable couch, the (distinctly not medieval) panforte, the more open space, and thought oh, how nice. In my narcissism it seemed that they were responding to my complaints: The pots of tea now had bags so that it was possible not to over-brew, and the panel that had divided the upstairs counter and the downstairs seating had been removed. It seemed that Key of C wasn’t changing entirely, but perfecting itself.

I didn’t realize that it was that same ugly, obstructing plywood panel that had allowed musicians to perform. It wasn’t until my girlfriend pointed out that the couch we were lounging on reading would make music performances difficult--”where will they play?”--that everything fell into place for me. The white-patterned, indigo walls, the dark-stained tables and chairs, the chic (to someone) baked goods (saffron snickerdoodles?): this is some new vision of cool. Although the accordion is still affixed to the wall, and bagels are still made and sold here, these things have been shifted to the background. They have been replaced by a lubricated, fresh yet generic comfort, and a new regime. Now there’s a notice in the window that they are applying for a liquor license. I prefer to write this now, before the license goes through and alcohol is served, before I know how all this will settle or what this place is to be, exactly. Let us speculate.

Before any of these changes came about I remember seeing at a table there who I now know to be the owner and the managers. Or perhaps it’s a joint venture among the three of them: a perky, curly brown-haired woman with an accent I can’t place, a calm woman who wears a great deal of black, and a tallish man with large, flat lips who wears boat shoes and another accent I can’t place. They were undoubtedly planning their future endeavor, imagining how their cafe would be transposed onto this one.

Later (two days ago), we saw the strange-lipped man flustered at the arrival of a new range from a large delivery truck. He hadn’t been informed that nobody would be provided to help him move the heavy box inside. The perky woman ran out, excited about the delivery, and he said to her yes but how are we to get it into the kitchen? An employee came outside with her cell phone, recruiting the help of her male friends. “Should I offer to help?” I surreptitiously asked my girlfriend. He kept saying he just needed one guy. Of course, between him, the perky woman, the employee, and the owner of the fashion shop next door who stopped to ask him what was going on, they probably could have moved it. If I had pitched in, surely we would’ve been able. But I didn’t offer. He was very apologetic to us about this huge box that had been dropped in the alley next to us, even though we were lingering past closing time. We were customers to be snagged, pampered, and kept coming back.

Today when I came in the perky woman smiled at me, seeming to recognize me from two days before. As I made my way to a spot in the corner opposite her, she beamed at me in an almost disconcerting way. Before my girlfriend came to meet me I moved me and my clutter outside, in part because where once jazz and classical was played inside, which was a nice if often bland reprieve from the hipster pop played in Noble Coffee and Mix, now there is only more pop. Outside, the strange-lipped man’s politeness continues as he closes the doors an hour early. “We’re having a meeting, but feel free to stay,” he urges us. They’re all in there, everyone who works at Key of C in any capacity, around a long table comprised of all the tables put together, discussing who knows what (because obviously it is a conspiracy). At some other time he called it a “training.” I hypothesize it has something to do with the future sale of alcohol. All the employees are filling out forms of some sort. I can’t hear what they’re saying inside. What is Key of C metamorphosing into?