Sun Ra - Column for 12/18

Morning Sweet

Well, it has been almost a month here at my new job. And although I make it a rule not to talk about my work on my blog Ė because thatís what Cant is, sort of, a proto-blog back from the days before they were trendy. Sort of a coelacanth blog, a precursor that nonetheless continues to swim in its own dark, pressurized corner of the Internet.

But as I say, itís been almost a month and I am thus far pleased with the new job. My office sucks, Iíll make no bones about it Ė itís a first floor cubicle near the main entrance with a balcony overlooking it, which means itís a super fishbowl. And I, more than most people, hate people being able to look at me when I cannot look at them. I need to have my back to a wall, so that I can deal with people. Aces and eights are not my style.

However, we are moving offices in April Ė itís a ways off but thatís building leasing in downtown San Francisco Ė and I can survive until then. Furtively reading my web comics in the morning, leaping and spinning with drawn dirk whenever someone walks up behind me and begins to speak. The work is interesting, itís certainly sufficient to keep me busy, and the people seem to be high caliber and are nice to work with.

I am also, as my wont, exploring the new neighborhood I find myself in. Our offices are in the financial district, near the border with North Beach. This means that things are generally a touch pricy, but of high quality. This includes food, clothes, workoutsÖ there are a number of downtown gyms, or rather fitness clubs, in the nearby area. Most of them are full of young stockbrokers or fashion designers with hot bodies, and most of them are ludicrously pricey. We joined 24 hour fitness, which is as far as I can tell the only reasonably priced club anywhere nearby. Plus we can go to any of their clubs, which is nice as we also foresee using the clubs out near our house on the weekend.

I am a compulsive explorer. I love to wander, and I have a fantastic locational memory, so I quickly build up a good mental map of my local area and its contents. So Iím having a good time taking different routes to and from work, going to different places for lunch Ė my coworkers are obviously my best resource here, as there are a metric buttload of restaurants in downtown SF and having a priori information about their quality is wonderful Ė and just wandering around in general.

Aside from lunch, one of the food services I routinely engage is a hot morning beverage. I donít like coffee Ė unless I am in Italy, then Iím a coffee drinker Ė so my beverage of choice is hot chocolate. Thus I have been visiting different hot beverage vendors on various routes to work to determine who serves the best. As it turns out, there is a clear winner.

The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. The hot chocolate they serve is actual hot chocolate, sweet and hot and chocolatey. This is in contrast to the other major coffee shop chains Ė Peetís, Tullyís, and of course Starbucks Ė who donít actually serve hot chocolate. They serve hot cocoa. The difference being that hot cocoa is, basically, hot chocolate without soul. It has less flavor, less sweetness, lessÖ less chocolateness. Itís hot milk with cocoa powder added. Hot chocolate, real hot chocolate, is not powder based. Itís syrup based. And just like curries are better if they are based on curry paste instead of curry powder, hot chocolate is better based on a paste than a powder.

It is also, probably, worse for you. But letís face it, if you want a morning beverage that is good for you, you ought to be drinking tea. And I do, actually, much of the time Ė I have a nice box of Good Earth Original Herb & Tea blend right here in my desk. I used to work for them, you know. First job out of college. And I still have a taste for the product, despite knowing what goes into it.

Also, speaking of StarbucksÖ if you stand at the corner my office building is on, Sansome and Clay, you can see not just one, not just two, but three Starbucks. All within one city block. Thatís right, thereís a Starbucks on the corner of my block, across the street on the next block, and across the street from that on another adjacent block.

Whereas for a good hot chocolate I have to go down to One Embarcadero. Fortunately, that is, or rather can be, on the way to work.

Note that I have yet to investigate the handful of independent hot beverage retailers in the vicinity, so I may discover yet a better cup of hot chocolate. The bar is pretty high, though Ė the Coffee Bean makes a darn fine one. Really top-notch. So if you are looking for a good shot of sugary wake-up, look for a Coffee Bean establishment near you. And get a real hot chocolate.

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra