John Howell editorial 5/17/2016

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Publisher John Howell

Intimidating coffee shop brings to mind good ole Shorty

The sow’s ear was never going to be remade into a silk purse, but I re-roofed the old garage in our New Orleans backyard anyway.

“The first thing I’d do is get rid of that,” said the real estate lady right after we’d closed the deal on the house in 1998, nodding toward the old tin-sided, tin-roofed structure that had once sheltered a family’s car.

Instead I shortened it to give us more yard room. Then we painted it bright red. I don’t recall why, but afterwards we noticed that the late afternoon winter sun gave it a beautiful glow.
That was long before this invading gentrification that now squeezes us from both sides. On one side the new homeowner built a beautiful cedar pergola with an outdoor kitchen and landscaped surroundings. On the other side, the small backyard (remember, all these backyards are 30 feet wide) has been professionally landscaped.

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In the middle stood the red shed with a rusted roof that leaked profusely, and that’s what I attacked during a recent extended weekend.

Old tin off, new tin on. Simple as that, except that nothing is ever that simple and I spent an extra day and a half coping with the unexpected.

Meanwhile, the new coffee shop in the old firehouse building on the corner appears to be thriving. A steady parade of pedestrians passes our house, often stopping to admire Rosemary’s damncats and flowers, en route for their favorite coffee bean concoction.

My own coffee preference is best satisfied with the simple brew we have perfected with minimalist trappings in our kitchen. During my trip to visit the new coffee shop, the barista spent so much time with small implements mixing a coffee beverage for the patron in line before me that I got intimated.

When my turn came, I sheepishly ordered a plain cup of coffee and exited quickly, embarrassed by my lack of vocabulary that would have allowed the order of something that would have sounded more sophisticated. I took it home, drunk it and decided that I liked my own brew better.

Which serves as another reminder that my life nowadays more and more often resembles that of Shorty the dog. He once belonged to a Batesville next door neighbor many years ago.
Shorty spent most of his time leashed to his doghouse by a short chain and perfected raring up on his hind legs for a better view of his surroundings. Pulling against the chain attached to his collar for balance, Shorty could stand there and even pace around on two legs for many minutes at a time, gazing at the wide world that he could explore but for that chain.

Then occasionally Shorty would pull the chain loose and off he’d go to explore that wide world, chain dragging along behind him. But never for very long. Usually within a couple of hours, we’d notice Shorty back in his place, sitting next to his doghouse and waiting for his owner to reattach the chain.