“What are you doing here!? I remember your way with words. I’d never met anyone with such a command and so interesting. If you have time, I would love for you to be a guest on my blog - write up something about a cafe. We could organize a quick photoshoot too! xxxx ”
Vaughan came into my life very much the way coffee did. I’m not certain when or how, exactly— but much like the way I came to recognize the smell of sour hazelnuts as an indication of an evening cup of coffee in childhood, very much the quotidien that imprints so much of these memories we have together— I was probably in the middle of doing my best Matt Damon from Talented Mr. Ripley doing Chet Baker if Chet Baker were a scrawny Asian chanteuse with a dead opera career. It was a cold night. It was a good night. One fact: It was a salon in Berlin.
Many years later we find ourselves in Tokyo, where Vaughan suggests a guest post for his blog. Since I neither speak Japanese nor know a coffee bean from a chocolate coated rice puff, I naturally say yes. May this serve as a warning for editors worldwide. Not that mine aren’t already aware.
waves to editors
Before COFF, we pose for photos outside of Kayaba, a cafe— or kaafe in Japanese— which may also be a kissaten or a tea place just by its nature, though it serves no tea. It’s a lovely word nonetheless, and deserves its place in this paragraph. It’s also relevant as Vaughan and I discuss that this blog may be about cats expertly raking tea leaves and none of us will be the wiser, as we keep posing. We are approached by a stranger who asks about gay marriage in Denmark. Vaughan tries the discouragement by language barrier method; as I actually have no language skills, I communicate by emulating various sticker GIFs from KakaoTalk and Line. I am also wearing a ridiculous fox helmet. We win conclusively by confusion.
Walking into Kayaba (fact according to internet: built in 1938) is a memory kissaten asking to be built. You can smell the heartbreak and the silver lining. It’s a building that’s been through all the thrills, with the little touches of someone’s today— the panda-mouth toothpick holder, the miniature silver milk jugs hanging guilty, empty in a row. Our table is upstairs, shoes off, into the tatami room. We defrost ourselves in front of the bookshelf of art books. Even the table’s lost a few loves— it looks like it could fit 8, but it’s really for 4 or less.
Everyone’s getting lattes, so I don’t disagree. It is hot as it should be, expertly crafted as expected, served two at a time in matching patterns. A pleasing sweet-sour touch. I remain mesmerized by the aggressively-soft brown quarter-blankets, and the number of solitary groupings of men. The word kissaten becomes slightly less romantic. The building will not manage a shakedown, yet here it is with its perfect promised cups. Probably outlive us all. There is not a minute that passes when we are not convulsing with laughter. I hold the table witness; I hold Kabaya witness.
As we leave there is coffee liquor being made in a tidy row of Smirnoff bottles. Fact: 60 grams of sugar, 90 grams of beans. Once upon a time we must have agreed that liquor is delicious. The rest of the night is spent trying to remember the name of a band that may start with A. Or perhaps B. We narrow it down to 22 possible other letters by the end of the night. There are cocktails to be had, and no limit of language and song were going to get in the way.
I can tell you about a lot of yet another incredible memory formed, but memory specifically fails me in bringing up the best coffee I have ever had, or how we start the closest friendships we form. This is all my feeble memory can muster: It’s hazelnuts and Chet Baker. And The Everything We Don’t Remember.