Yogurt on the Rox

Friday, September 23, 2011

I really enjoy writing in impossible present tense. It wouldn't be that strange, I guess, if it weren't nonfiction. (Among other pointless things I enjoy: unnecessary double negatives.) But yes, really, it all happens at once. For instance, there's a pain in my second-from-farthest-back molar as I make my way to Yogurt on the Rox. (It's hard for me not to laugh at the end of that sentence, and not because I laugh at my own jokes. No, it's just that saying "yogurt" next to "rox" is an instant joke that whoever named the place appears to have been unaware of. Or maybe I am mistaken about the nature of this establishment, and I am heartlessly making fun of a tween bar.) Maybe the blackberry seeds from the jam I had on my pancakes this morning exacerbated things in my teeth, which, in general, are a little loose these days.

On my way in a boy is slinging free yogurt samples. He hands out the last one just before I walk up, so I think at first I have been spared. But inside the owner offers to give me a sample of anything. So while the Teflon-encrusted boy politely makes my cappuccino (there is no regular coffee, only espresso), I have pomegranate-strawberry sorbet. It's good. I mean, it's something, I guess. They sell frozen yogurt, sorbet, and espresso. Is the nasty green of their logo supposed to signal healthiness?

On an unrelated note, you know what dentists do to fix cavities in your teeth? They drill holes in your teeth and put things in them. They make the holes bigger and put fancy glue inside.

To be honest, I don't remember what used to be in here (Yogurt on the Rox is very new), but gentrification is essentially dentistry: the rot is torn out and shiny plastic is squirted in its place, off-gassing noxious fumes.

Yes, you've guessed it, this aimless drawing of connections to dentistry will continue. The color of their logo is like the branding of the glue they stuck in my teeth: an acid green, with sky blue for the "on the." Perhaps, like the default Windows XP background, it's trying to be verdant, pastoral, and lush, but ends up eye-searing. In this case I don't know what the green is all about. (What does bright green have to do, for instance, with psychedelia? Whoever is putting on the music at the moment is awfully fond of Jimi Hendrix and The White Stripes.) It's bright, all right. Nobody else seems to understand either. Everyone leaves promptly; nobody wants to stay.

There's a little nook in the front with a leather couch and two easy chairs, partitioned off from the rest of the room (which, not requiring any kitchen space, is rather spacious). You may sit in front of the partition or behind it, choose whether to be visible to the street or not. Do you want to see the inside and be seen by the inside, or do you want to watch the outside and be watched by the outside? I seclude myself from the room, wanting to look out the window and be shielded from the counter's gaze. Frankly the vast expanse of empty tables and the staff's strained chattiness scares me. It appears I'm not the only one. As I sit here a large group comes in and gets yogurt to go, a woman comes in and sits in the chairs next to me (as far as she can get from the counter), and leaves as soon as she finishes her yogurt. Only two people sit at the regular tables, two women very self-consciously dressed, one of whom remarks to the other how cool this place is. Still they sit at the table right next to the partition.

I wonder if it speeds up at night. It's open until ten at night, after all. As it is, at one in the afternoon, I'm not even comfortable talking about it as a cafe, even though it obviously would like to be.

The white walls are painted with god knows what. Dripping turquoise and salmon paint cut off into rectangles, an abstract cityscape. It looks like straight barriers were taped over while the rest was painted. On one wall there is a big white tree.

They get their flavors of frozen yogurt from the same company as The Yogurt Hut. Which sort of makes me wonder: What is the point of this place? For a more adult atmosphere, where you can get caffeinated while you eat your fro yo? It seems somehow dishonest. Not that I've ever liked The Yogurt Hut. In fact, this place is pretty much for people like me. It panders to my pride. Frozen yogurt isn't infantile and Tiki, it's super chic. It's going to have to be if this place is going to survive in the shadow of The Yogurt Hut's already established popularity.

I think I know why I'm so cold to this place. You see, I want to be deluded that a business is not a business, and this one is only that. They want to make a profit, nothing more. The way to make a profit is to convince us that you're not. That you don't need it.

Another thing that makes a cafe nice is being surrounded by people, not in an incredibly loud way like a bar at night, but comfortably. One feels like one can blend in. One feeds off of or grumpily contrasts against everyone else's liveliness. Everyone does, or at least those not imbued with the bravado that would allow them to be talkative and lively with only a person or two around. Which means that a cafe has to develop regulars before it can develop regulars. It needs to have enough people for enough people to feel comfortable being there.

But this chicken-and-egg problem doesn't always apply. For instance Adelante! is not precisely a cafe (it's a gallery and a tea house) and works on a whole different principle. I go there because it's quiet. But it's not uncomfortably quiet. The woman who runs it is welcoming, and not in that strained I-hate-you-but-I'm-smiling kind of way. One doesn't feel overly visible. She has things to do. If there aren't customers she's just working on her computer anyway. There's music that doesn't feel like it's being played only for you. It feels like its own little world. The problem with Yogurt on the Rox is that it doesn't. There's no world here, only a sad semblance. Even the lively-painted walls seem forced. I'm trying to picture this place ten years from now, the paint a little faded, people not shocked by it but at home in it, and I can't. It's not that sort of place. In which case, what is it?

Before I leave I am handed a sample of 'cake batter' frozen yogurt. My god it's sweet. Sort of disgustingly so. If I ate it on a regular basis I'm sure it would lead to more fillings, and fillings aren't a done deal. After all, to put them in is a complete mess. Inside a wet mouth full of nooks and crannies the dentist has to drill out the right nook. Then he has to find the right size and shape of plastic gizmo to insert into it, which he has to do with what amount to pliers. When I got mine in there was a great deal of pushing and prodding to get this odd-shaped piece to go into the odd-shaped hole in my tooth. This strange piece is then covered with some sort of goo, which is activated by a heat probe (or an ultraviolet probe, I'm not sure which). Finally whatever blob this has all resulted in has to be filed down to something manageable, vaguely aesthetic, and possible to floss. It's no surprise, then, that my filling came loose immediately. I can feel it when I floss, a sharp pain as it wiggles around in the hole in my tooth. The glues and other substances they use to fill cavities are of course designed to adhere to teeth. But they don't always stick.