I’m not sure who recognized a demand for a hipster coffee shop in a town full of geriatric
tourists, but somewhere along the way, someone in Cape Coral, Florida did just that.
The Brew-Haha was established to fill a perceived need to service a demographic that barely existed in “The Cape”. It was located in a retail plaza, sandwiched between Sensei Travis’ High Flying Kicks of Fury Dojo and Sonny’s, a corporate-owned, outlaw biker-themed bar and grill. The resulting communal parking lot hoarded a mix of mini-vans, Harleys, electric cars, and fixed-gear bicycles. With diverse groups of white people living and socializing in harmony, it truly was a marvelous display of the melting pot that is Cape Coral.
One Wednesday evening, I journeyed to The Brew-Haha for their open mic night. I would be performing a spoken word piece I’d written about warlocks and breakfast cereal while my friend, Stella, accompanied me on the bongos. Due to the fact that I was over-caffeinated and Stella had shown up high, we had a hard time syncing up our rhythms. Eventually, about halfway through, we managed to find something resembling a mutual tempo.
Our performance ended, garnering confused and courteous applause from scattered sections of the audience. The rest of the crowd let us know, in no uncertain terms, that they thought we sucked. At best, I considered this a mixed reaction, but Stella convinced me to focus on the positive. We agreed to call it a win and headed outside for a victory smoke.
Stella and I leaned on a police cruiser we found parked in the lot, passing a joint back and forth. She told me my piece was fantastic and I told her that she’d kept perfect time on the drums. We were both lying, and we both knew it, but it was well-intentioned bullshit between friends. We took it for what it was worth.
Stella got a call and told me she’d have to go run down a story lead. Journalists are like that. They’ll happily show up to have a drink, smoke your weed, and play bongos for you, but as soon as they’re done with that, they’re out the door and chasing stories again. She took one last toke and offered it back to me but I told her to keep it for the road. She thanked me, hugged me, and wandered off to find her car.
I went back inside to watch the rest of the evening’s performers. The evening included a hypnotist who couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t put coffee drinkers into a sleepy trance, a mime with Tourette ’s syndrome, and a comedian who failed to recognize that “edgy” was not necessarily the same thing as “funny”.
The roster of performers built to a crescendo that immediately came crashing down with the performance of a haggard-looking Elvis impersonator whose act resembled more of an LSD-inspired nightmare than the ’68 Comeback Special. His jumpsuit was a couple sizes too small and his karate kicks were executed in a way that made one think he was trying to keep from shitting his pants. He waddled across the stage for three songs before leaving the stage due to lack of demand for an encore.
He walked his awkward walk through the maze of tables. When he got next to mine, I told him that I’d seen classier tributes to the King on black velvet.
“What did you say, man?” he said, stopping short. His voice was still trying to channel Presley, but sounded more like Nicolas Cage trying to talk while eating s’mores.
“I said your performance was terrible enough to make the earth open itself and swallow Graceland into the depths of hell to spare it from being on the same plane of existence as you.”
“Elvis” flew into something resembling a fit of rage and struck a karate pose. I couldn’t tell if he was staying in character or if he was an actual disciple of Sensei Travis. Almost immediately, a hand from behind him gently grabbed hold of his shoulder. Elvis was coaxed aside by someone standing behind him who referred to him as “E”. As the false King (kind of a usurper, if you ask me) waddled aside, the man behind him was revealed to be dressed as Colonel Tom, instantly changing my opinion of the entire act. Clearly, this was the most ingenious Elvis impersonation of all time.
I had to tell them. I needed to erase the insult I’d thrown out that still hung heavy in the air, but before I could even open my mouth to deliver the apologetic compliment, Colonel Parker’s right fist crashed into it. I fell to the floor as everything faded to black and the sound of cappuccino machines and shouting baristas drifted away. The last thing to cut through the blackness was the scattered glints of light reflecting off the King’s rhinestone jumpsuit.
I found myself on the sidewalk in front of the coffee house some time later. No one seemed bothered by the fact that I was lying on the pavement, which means I’d been there long enough to become a fixture. I was like a town square statue of a local hero no one remembers. I was a monument to bad judgment.
I rose to my feet, assessing the damage as I went. Everything was sore, but that wasn’t really out of the ordinary. My left eye was swollen shut and the eyeglass lens that had been in front of it was gone, presumably smashed into dust by Colonel Parker.
I looked across the street from the plaza I stood in and saw a structure full of fluorescent lights. I squinted through my remaining lens and realized it was a laundromat, a sad little building full of people whose only common ground is that they wished they’d leased an apartment with washer and dryer hookups. I knew this because it was my laundromat back when I had an apartment without washer and dryer hookups. I thought about what I knew about the laundromat as I reached into my pocket to make sure the Colonel hadn’t cleaned me out of my pocket change. It was still there, so I sighed and started across the street like a moth to a depressing flame. On my way across the street, I popped the remaining lens of my glasses out of its warped and mangled wire frame and placed it over my relatively good eye.
I walked into the laundromat, struggling to count all the loose change in my pocket through the fingerprint-smudged lens of my white trash monocle. I made my way through a maze of washers, dryers, and industrial fans whose monotonous hum drowned out whatever blather came from the wall-mounted TV nobody was watching. Under a flickering fluorescent light in the back of the room, next to a pay phone whose receiver had long since been removed in a presumed fit of anger, I found the most storied vending machine in the state of Florida. I couldn’t believe it was still there, but I was glad it was. I started feeding it coins until a 32-ounce can of malt liquor dropped into the receptacle at the bottom of the machine.
I walked out to the sidewalk and sat on the curb, as is customary when drinking malt liquor on the street. I took a big swig of the lukewarm beer, set the generic-looking can down, and took a look at the plaza. Who would’ve thought there’d be an ass-kicking at a coffee shop? This was a hipster paradise flanked by two places whose very images were built on the premise of violence: A dojo pretending to teach Eastern philosophy through the practice of what Sensei Travis labeled “The Nine Principles of Ass-Whoopery”, and a bar catering to bankers, lawyers, and salesmen who wanted to demonstrate that they had a rugged outlaw individuality by dressing exactly like other bankers, lawyers, and salesmen who wanted to demonstrate that they had a rugged outlaw individuality.
“I didn’t think I’d ever have my ass kicked at a coffee shop,” I said to myself.
I guess that settles it: You can provoke violence anywhere.
I looked around and saw no one… until I reached for my beer and saw that it was looking at me. In an abstract kind of way, the oversized aluminum can had a sort of face on it that was formed out of tiny dents, crinkles, and imperfections in the aluminum that mixed with my swollen and damaged brain.
I asked if it had said anything. It answered me:
I said that violence can come from anywhere, especially if it’s provoked.
“I didn’t provoke anything,” I replied, “I simply expressed an opinion.”
You didn’t express an opinion, you bludgeoned him over the head with it… metaphorically, or course. Literal violence was handled by the Colonel. Opinions have consequences… especially when presented without tact.
“Are you saying I don’t have tact?”
Do I really need to tell you that?
“You weren’t even there, man. Colonel Parker hit me without saying a word. Was that tactful? Not even close. At different times in my life, and by different people, I have been called everything from a monosyllabic simpleton to an elitist douchebag. Taking into account context, tone, and source, it’s tough to say which one I am ultimately more offended by.”
What’s your point?
“My point is that a variety of people find me disagreeable for a variety of reasons. Still, in all of those disagreements, with all of those different kinds of people, being beaten up without a word is an extreme response.”
I’m not saying that Colonel Tom Parker’s response was right. It wasn’t. It was a reaction to negativity. Maybe all the negative reactions, from being beaten up at a coffee house open mic, to being called a monosyllabic douchebag—
“Simpleton… douchebag gets attached to elitist.”
Fine. My point is that your chances of these reactions lessen if you lessen the amount of negativity you put out in the world. Be nicer and maybe you won’t get your ass brutally kicked next time.
“I think the word ‘brutally’ is a bit… brutal.”
Why don’t you tell me that when your eye isn’t swollen shut and you aren’t experiencing concussion-induced visions of talking beer cans?
“Wait… You know you’re a hallucination?”
Of course I do. The fact that you asked that question means that you know it too.
“That means your advice is fake too,” I said, relieved. “Looks like I don’t have to be positive after all.”
Wait, that’s not the point. This conversation means you already know these things. Think about it, I exist in your brain. You know everything I’m telling you!
Please don’t call me fake, I find it offensive. I’m real, I just don’t exist in the phys–
I picked up the sentient container and shot-gunned the rest of the rapidly warming, certainly past the “best by” date, malt liquor before tossing the can into a nearby trashcan as I rose to my feet. I walked away, but could hear the can’s weakening voice echoing off the interior walls of the trash receptacle as it begged me to reconsider its advice. The voice of hallucinatory reason faded as I walked down the street, trying to remember in which direction I needed to travel to get to the hospital.