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I am in a basement in the heart of money and fashion.
Well, OK, I’m in a walk-down espresso bar called Goldstruck on Cumberland Avenue. When I look up from my little round table (one of seven along the long wall opposite the service bar), I can see fashionable feet strolling past the top of the steps on the other side of the glass door. It’s six steps down to the door, then another three inside where concrete has given way to dark fake wood flooring and textured off-white walls. I don’t know how much of the yellowness of the walls is the paint and how much is the numerous clear lightbulbs with their artsy incandescent filaments. Everything – including the unframed paintings (yours for $250 each) – conduces to a general aged dimness.
Everything, that is, but the sound. People sit here and talk. Yes, some people sit here and work on their computers – I’m not the only one – but there is a wall of sound from the wall of conversations (seven smallish wooden tables, remember – two talkers to each – and a couple bigger ones at the back). It’s enough that you can generally ignore what any particular person is saying, but not so much that you can’t overhear if you want. Sometimes it takes a while to realize you’re hearing the two talkers at two different tables, not one peculiarly competitive and disjunctive convo.
And on top of that, of course, is the music, which is generally from whatever genre you want to call Drake and The Weeknd.
And on top of that is the cheese. They are quite constantly making some kind of sandwich that involves grilling cheese. I think croissants are also involved. So that is the smell in here: an overriding cooked-cheese-and-butter-toastedness that further yellows the everything. If you are prone to reflux you may get heartburn just from sitting here.
I mean, obviously, you’re also drinking coffee. And there’s nothing wrong with the coffee. Today I’m having a drip cup of Yirgacheffe, one of my old favourite origins. Last time I was here I had a flat white, and it was rich and matched the atmosphere.
If you have any mobility issues you probably won’t be in here – nine steps down, remember – but if you are here you will find the washrooms accommodating. They’re right there, past the counter and condiments, behind big hanging sliding wooden doors, no dingy back hallways or stygian steps to transit.
And when you’re done here, you emerge onto a street lined with fashion shops, with more of the same to the north and south, plus a nice parklet with a huge rock, bigger even than the rocks on the fingers of the ladies shopping in the boutiques. This is a neighbourhood where money is easy-come-easy-go. First time I came to Goldstruck I lined up a good photography gig. This time I’m invoicing for that gig – and I just got an email that another (even bigger) writing gig I was about to start had been cancelled. So yeah. Money just passes before your eyes around here. It may be the glamourhood by reputation, but never mind starstruck; you’re goldstruck. Sometimes you’ve struck gold and sometimes the gold is struck off the spreadsheet.
But the coffee costs no more here than anywhere else, and you can get paying work done while drinking it.