Mornings at Philz, Part 1

En Español.

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George Lipp has been going to Philz since 2006. These pieces were written between 2006 and 2009.

Well, I went in for my 10 a.m. cup of Philz special Tesora blend. I was being extra careful, as yesterday’s cup was tipped over as I tried to put the protective cover back on a tub. Not only had I lost my coffee and the three bucks it cost, but I was going to have to suffer the wild speculation of the “sheetrock” guys as they analyzed the mess. Not even Hugo Chavez’s Spanish would be adequate to explain the big stain around the toilet and the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

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Philz’s place was full of firefighters. Now, either they take their break at 10 a.m., or Philz is the new fire house for Engine 7. I’m betting on the latter.

A guy and his girlfriend strolled in decked out in what I call “shelter chic” … and I ought to know. The guy had a scruffy goatee. You know, the kind where each hair has a mind of its own. His eyewear looked like lab glasses, complete with the side shields. It appeared as if they had withstood a blast or two. The girl was layered in tattered clothes. Now the first rule of shelter chic is clean. Everything has to be just washed but must look as if that laundering was the last the fiber could withstand.

“I’ve moved to San Diego,” says the girl. “So Phil, when are you opening in San Diego?”

Phil, sporting his trademark fedora, made his trademark move of swinging his arms out, bringing his hands together and interlacing the fingers.

“Buy a place and we’ll be partners. We’ll make some new kind of business model.”

Business model, business model, what in god’s name is he talking about? How in god’s name can you franchise the Christmas lights in the unisex bathroom? By the way, ladies, this is a place where everybody stands.
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There is one barista who always greets me with one of those “just between the two of us” winks. The problem is that she winks at everyone that way. One of the firefighters was leaning way over the counter talking to her.

Trying to look like I was reading the news article about Philz taped under the counter glass, I leaned into the “just between the two of us” conversation.

“Yeah, I’m married,” says the barista. “You know I was down in Mexico, got real drunk and married myself. You know it’s forever.”

The shaved-headed firefighter made a 4-alarm lurch back.

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OK, so I broke down and went for coffee at Philz … and you know I had almost forgotten what I liked about the place. For one thing, it sure isn’t the $3.25/cup coffee. It is the people.

As I entered there was a guy with a dog. Not sure which was stranger. Let’s start with the dog. It had stripes almost like they had been painted on. One ear stood straight up and the other folded down. I mean straight up, and it wasn’t like he was listening to anything. I think his right antenna was always in the full open setting. “Whatever,” his face said.

The master was young but well-worn, sporting a leather hat that was a fanciful blend of a WWI aviator’s cap and the headgear of a Mongolian herder. I hope he made it himself, as I can’t imagine more than one person on the planet wearing one. As strange as the two were, they fit together gracefully.

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I ordered my usual, a lager Tesora, no mint, no room for cream, milk, 2%, or non-fat soy or anything. “Here taste it … is it perfect?” the barista asked.

Then a whirlwind of a guy roared in. He shot behind the counter, made a cup of coffee for himself and took a danish out of the display counter and spun out the front door. The girl who was taking my money smiled and said, “What was that?”

The two other girls said, “Yeah, I think he’s a friend of Phil’s.” The other added, “I called Phil just in case.”

“You know, I didn’t know whether to try to stop him or what,” said the cashier.

To which the male barista added, “Man, I wouldn’t have tried to stop that guy even if he was stealing my stuff.”

“Can I help someone?” the barista asked, the place returning to normal.

“What is the strongest stuff you have? What a night,” said a girl wearing a tattered sweatshirt with what appeared to be the Hello Kitty logo, except the fat little face was skeletal.

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One great-looking girl came in wearing the usual shelter chic outfit but it was accessorized with what looked like a gun belt. It was complete with the little loops to hold cartridges. In place of the Smith and Wesson she had an iPhone. This wasn’t an artsy adaptation. The belt was designed to hold the phone.

 

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