Sunday 10 May 2020

Coffeecore: Exercises In Style


The true flâneur loves encyclopaedias-- for how could this not be so, when they traverse, in short strolls, the city of mind so conveniently and alphabetically?

Consider, for today's fodder, the following entry from Wikipedia on Queaneau's Exercices de Style:

'Exercises in Style' (French: 'Exercices de style'), written by Raymond Queneau, is a collection of 99 retellings of the same story, each in a different style. In each, the narrator gets on the "S" bus (now no. 84), witnesses an altercation between a man (a zazou) with a long neck and funny hat and another passenger, and then sees the same person two hours later at the Gare St-Lazare getting advice on adding a button to his overcoat. The literary variations recall the famous 33rd chapter of the 1512 rhetorical guide by Desiderius Erasmus, 'Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style.'

Today, like Queneau, we will take a bus, but not the number 84 bus, for in the Coffeecore Extended Universe the numbering of buses is a very precise and delicate thing. This bus is the not the S-99 but the X-99, since it crosses universes, and is an express which only stops, naturellement, at coffee shops. The passenger finishes a morning doppio espresso in a travel cup, watches a woman with a beautifully knit sweater, and dismounts at the cafe. Later, the woman in the sweater walks into the cafe and sits at a table.



It was painted a lime green, the bus. The espresso had been carefully decanted into the glass travel cup this morning, the one you had engraved with your name. The station was pelted with mid-morning rain, and the stairs near the front door and driver were made slick with it. They were ascended carefully by her, the woman alone holding a just-stubbed-out cigarette in her left hand. In turn, the sweater itself came into view, with all its knit peculiarities. It was handmade, all bobbled, it seemed, and green too, though not in the way the bus was green, but softer, as if it were modulated quietly through a Yamaha DX7 in a carpeted study down the hall.

I was ejected, promptly, if not unkindly by the driver, at Café Jellyfish. A back booth was made open for me as I heard the barista start to prepare my usual. By the time the jingler-device sounded-- for what is a cafe without a door that is made, irrevocably and sometimes annoyingly, to jingle by opening? -- she too had been disembarked, though it must have been at a different stop. Made to wait by the espresso machine, her nails, tipped in silver, were cast against the fast-blushing pink of the counter, as if, in being tapped, it somehow did not object, or even assented to the rhythm of it happily.



You were reading when the bus came (the Pensées of Pascal, which it is said do not so much for theology as they do for doubt) and it was the very bus, the X99 (which you always took then, a series of mornings (or perhaps, deliriums)) in which you found yourself invariably deposited at Café Jellyfish (the only cafe in the metropole, or the best one at least, that served you the perfect iced latte (after, naturally, you had already consumed the last dregs of your doppio en route). Just before the stop at the Jellyfish (which again, had nothing to do with the marine so much as entropy, the speicfic, blobby entropy of weekend days here), she got on (and by she, who else could I mean really but her?). 

What colour was that sweater (an amalgam really of a jumper, and shawl (the kind of shawl with sleeves in it))? Ah, it was lilac (or was that her nail varnish?). The kind of lilac that in right circumstances (which these were) can appear silver, itself a profundity. 

You settled into the plush pink chair in the corner, losing yourself in the classifieds of the free newspaper (WANTED: Experienced Gardener For Tulips, FOR SALE: Roland Jupiter-8, Like New), when you heard her come in (or more accurately, heard the bell on the door and then looked up and saw her, framed by a shell etched into the divider like an approximate and gentle halo).



As if a field, no, a glasshouse in Holland in the spring, full of tulips, closely packed, one cupping something, perhaps a pool of rain that sloshes gently as they move. Then, a single petal, lifted away by what might be the wind, comes to settle eventually, and after a while, a second, more velveteen and perfect than the first, comes to rest alongside it. The petals might, for a moment, brush each other; a gentle sirocco; a Chopin waltz; a duet.



Consider a 14-dimensional manifold as it passes through n-space. No, consider a sphere, or a cow, which is a sphere, which is also a tulip. Wait, start over.

Consider a set X-99, of which a subset <3, consists of both A and B. IFF A descends the stairs at Café Jellyfish, and not, say Hotel Jellyfish or even, Spa & Sauna Jellyfish round the corner,  A will smoke a menthol cigarette as he reads the morning papers. If A smokes a menthol cigarette then he will offer B, part of the subset <3 which neither knows they subsist in together, a cigarette of the same variety.  Each cigarette can be mapped to a prime number, which in compromises part of a proof for the incompleteness of proofs themselves, and also, the absolute supremacy of beverages containing espresso, a certain wistfulness innate to mathematics, and the pure beauty of ice as its hits the side of a cup, a quarter full with mixed whole milk and coffee. 

The proof referenced in the previous paragraph also contains a grainy photograph, in which both A and B lounge comfortably, in an antechamber not within the bounds of, but strictly speaking nearby,  Café Jellyfish, which is a discrete function in that its values are not connected to any other in this universe or yours, but also is the mint-blush curvature plotted on the graph.



How could you possibly describe the moment when, hearing the thrum of rain on the windows, you looked up from your copy of Pascal at her on the X-99 bus? How could you imagine in words the sound her heels made, gently ascending the stairs, not least, without on-hand, a Korg MS-20 synthesizer? Have you ever tried to count all the tulips in all the glasshouses of every florist in the Low Countries? This, it is like this!

How could you convey to another living, breathing soul, that just as your travel mug became empty, you walked by Café Jellyfish, as if some probabilistic god had arrayed it so, the precise dimensions of a doppio in striding space? Is there a divine measurement in boulevards? Is there a word for the odd cleanness of menthol cigarettes in the morning, though they are not toothpaste in any variety? Where does the sound of the door chime derive from, is it the Romans, maybe? Or the Greeks, did they have chimes? Can we define the spectra between ultraviolet and silver, do we dare? What, if not a swirl of cream at an opportune moment, a glance at the counter, a blush, is love? And who, are you, are I, or anyone, really, to ask about it?

Optional Soundtrack:

Other Coffeecore Reading On Indoor Voices:


  1. So so good. Please keep these installments coming...

    1. Thank you Samantha! In the natural course of things, the blog seems to be petering out as people get out or just get accustomed to being locked down-- if you have any suggestions for what to do with Coffeecore in the future, I'm all ears! I'm on twitter @saintsoftness if you prefer to DM :)