Sunday, January 19, 2014

TROUBLE: Another Toast Story

" THE TROUBLE COFFEE & Coconut Club (its full name) is a tiny storefront next door to a Spanish-immersion preschool, about three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in one of the city’s windiest, foggiest, farthest-flung areas. As places of business go, I would call Trouble impressively odd....Trouble’s specialty is a thick slice of locally made white toast, generously covered with butter, cinnamon, and sugar: a variation on the cinnamon toast that everyone’s mom, including mine, seemed to make when I was a kid in the 1980s. It is, for that nostalgic association, the first toast in San Francisco that really made sense to me. Trouble’s owner, and the apparent originator of San Francisco’s toast craze, is a slight, blue-eyed, 34-year-old woman with freckles tattooed on her cheeks named Giulietta Carrelli. She has a good toast story: She grew up in a rough neighborhood of Cleveland in the ’80s and ’90s in a big immigrant family, her father a tailor from Italy, her mother an ex-nun. The family didn’t eat much standard American food. But cinnamon toast, made in a pinch, was the exception. “We never had pie,” Carrelli says. “Our American comfort food was cinnamon toast.”"
My friend, Jt, the person who inspired the character The Gypsy Woman in Medicine Story #1: The Safety Pin Cafe is always on the prowl for good stories. We have been pals for a long time and that says something for the tsunami and drought experiences,  that is life in general or made specific with illness and trauma, wipe connections and friendships out with little hope. We in many respects are two ends of the pole with her Taurus opposing my Scorpio. Fortunately for me, and perhaps for our friendship, I am a committed student of astrology and turn my obsessions and tight-fitted control-isms over to a power greater than myself and that power includes the stars (and the moon!). With time, quite a lot of it, I feel and open to the quality of Taurus a Scorpio like me needs. Astrologically? My North Node of the Moon is in Taurus and in my daily life that means feeling at home with exactly where I am in my own skin. Taurus loves a cozy home! So, The Gypsy Woman emailed me with a toast story this morning. Another toast story. Another toast story you might ask? If you ask, it might be you have not read, nibbled and swallowed the medicine and speciality on the menu from The Safety Pin Cafe.
"A plate of fine bone china, only slightly chipped but sparkling clean was arranged with cinnamon toast cut into stars and moons and ... ducks."
There is surely a magical and mythic connection with border witches, fringe-dwellers and human beings who find themselves in precarious positions. TROUBLE's owner, Giulietta Carrelli lives a story close to my heart. Her inventiveness and her facility with what I believe are the safety pins of common magic, is what will save us all from the inflated Ideas and entitled rule-makers. TROUBLE is a tiny space with a world of safety pinned in places that include childhood at its best; tastes that last and best of all the belief (that is Carrelli's) "The smallness of her cafés is [a] device to stoke interaction, on the theory that it’s simply hard to avoid talking to people standing nine inches away from you. And cinnamon toast is a kind of all-purpose mollifier: something Carrelli offers her customers whenever Trouble is abrasive, or loud, or crowded, or refuses to give them what they want. “No one can be mad at toast,” she said.

TROUBLE and its owner are small and recognizable in the San Francisco China Beach area. It's vital this recognizability: one of her safety pins. John Gravois puts it this way in the Pacific Standard article, A Toast Story "More than a café, the shop is a carpentered-together, ingenious mechanism—a specialized tool—designed to keep Carrelli tethered to herself."

“I’m wearing the same outfit every day,” Carrelli says. “I take the same routes. I own Trouble Coffee so that people recognize my face—so they can help me. Carrelli also found safety in simply being well-known—in attracting as many acquaintances as possible. “People are taken aback by her, but she reaches out.”” 

The interview and article in Pacific Standard Magazine is an inspiring and connective story that beats the drum for common magic and the vitality available to us all. It's a story about toast and safety pins, facility in the face of impossible odds. Like the border witch with a name often mispronounced, (PALE ... say Pah-Lay not Pale) TROUBLE comes with big, lace-up boots necessary when walking on the wild side.What a world this is and all the more reason to keep being who we are at The Safety Pin Cafe: "We continue to make life as artful as imagination will allow; and turn the rest into myth"


Stay tuned for Medicine Story #2: The Joy Weed Journal coming with the Lunar New Year.

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