Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Yeah, right. Appearances matter. People make all sorts of judgements, conjectures and conclusions based on looks. At times they can be slightly misleading. But normally they reflect some sort of quality or attribute in the object observed. The key is to not get too caught up in the superficial. One must take other stimuli into account. In the age of the Kindle, I’m not so caught up in book covers; however, I do judge jazz cafés based on the quality of their lattes (among other menu options).
A few months back, not long after arriving for my current assignment in Seoul, I met up with a friend, some of his friends, and some of their friends. It sounds mob-esque, but was actually quite intimate. Having been appointed the de-facto local, I suggested we patronize a particular dumpling establishment. After staving off our hunger for a few more hours, coffee seemed like the best way to spend our idle time. We could sit, sip, talk shit.
While perusing the surrounding streets and alleys, we lucked upon an inviting café. White brick facade. Side patio. Caged felines. Speckless windows. Well lit, but not too bright. It had some clientele, but wasn’t overrun. We made our move. After going over the menu, which seemed quite ambitious, I decided on one of the coffee derived beverages. I was rather impressed with my drink. Not just the taste but also the presentation. As was my party. One svelte young lady in my company opted for a salad with chicken. Maybe caesar. The details fail me, but this was one of the most impressive salads I’ve come across-- especially in Korea. By this time I had made note of the the vinyl records lining some of the shelves, as well as the keyboard and drum set. An associate informed me that this establishment offered jazz nights on Fridays and Saturdays, gratuit.
I finally returned. I had a crew, but I hadn’t planned on it. The two I'd invited inadvertently ballooned to six. I guess I’m the neighborhood Rick Steves. After spending time at a competing venue I took my extended squad over to the café. We were well pleased to find the venue at occupancy, though we did secure seats on the outside patio. All the better. Some of those in my company preferred speaking over listening. Better to be removed from the center of the action. I would hate to have tormented them with their own silence.
Due to our tardiness and seating we couldn’t see the band. We could hear them,however, and they were killing! Keyboard, percussions, stand up bass and the occasional vocalist. Transcendental. I felt as if I'd been touched by the spirit... or maybe it was just the bottle of Chardonnay. I was prepared, if further provoked, to break out in lyric. These guys and gal were a step beyond amateur. They could hold their own on a much bigger stage beyond the three dozen or so who enjoyed their orchestration. Or so I'd hope. Though my head was convulsing, others seemed stiff and tight bodied. Maybe their high was more cerebral.
The bassist suggested that they could go longer and longer. The crowd remained somewhat meek. A bit timid. Perhaps no one wanted to seem too bold or direct. Once the lights were restored, the age of the crowd was revealed. Maybe they had to make curfew?