All right! Got wheels. Our neighbors Bill and Linda have gone on vacation to Virginia. Left me their cats and their car to look after. This should give Carla a kick when she gets out of rehab about a week from now.
So this morning I drop them off at the airport and start looking for a breakfast joint. End up on Cañon in Point Loma. Just before Scott Street I notice this yellow hole-in-the-wall with a cluster of people buzzing around the entrance.
Hmm. My kind of place, looks like. I park. They have some yellow stools and seats out on the sidewalk and a tiny space inside filled with folks chatting, sucking smoothies, chowing into bagels, sandwiches, fruits, croissants. But most of all, talking.
"Did you know Point Loma used to be an island?" a guy says. He's eating a big pile of fruit. "Then the San Diego River brought silt down and joined it up with the mainland."
I go up to the counter. Purple, with a green top. It's curved and has an oval porthole in it...at knee level. It makes you think of...a hull. A boat hull! Somebody's put some crazy imagination into this shoebox. Whole place is decked out like a yacht. Plus, there are little clear-plastic bags of water hanging from the green-and-white ceiling. What's that all about?
"Hey, young man," says an ultra-glam, Vietnamese-looking gal. "Let me get you a stool."
Takes a moment. "You mean me?"
"But of course." She hauls one up to the counter. "You hungry?"
Cindi -- that's her name -- segues between talking to me and making smoothies, putting her arms around people and calling out names. Her sister Kelly, who's just as glam, comes down from the little step-up kitchen to help.
"So?" Cindi asks me.
"Coffee, I guess." It's $1.50 for the 12-ounce ($1.00 refills). I pump myself a French Roast. Then, oh God. I get a sweet, sticky muffin ($1.85). I start scanning the wall menu. Half is smoothies and specialty drinks, like the "Nutty Irishman," a mix of hazelnut and Irish cream syrup, steamed chocolate milk, and whipped cream ($3.25 single, $3.75 double). The rest are wraps and sandwiches, such as the spicy chicken wrap ($5.50), tuna sandwich ($5.00), or chicken or tuna salads ($5.50).
The breakfast section tends to health. Nonfat everything. The fruit parfait has fruit with nonfat granola and nonfat yogurt ($4.50), a "gourmet oatmeal" has fruits and nuts added ($4.00). There are bagels and cream cheese, or with peanut butter ($1.75), with hummus ($2.75), or fresh veggies ($4.50). Lord. Hank'd be in hog's...uh, make that health-nut...heaven here.
Then -- saved! You can get eggs, ham, cheese, and tomato on a bagel, bread, or croissant ($5.00). I go for that. Bagel, please.
It comes freshly toasted, packed with scrambled eggs, and gets more interesting when Cindi brings the bottle of Sriracha hot chili sauce. Now we're talking.
And yakking. And telling yarns. Place this size, it's hard not to. Turns out this guy Jim, who's standing glooping coffee and munching a banana next to me, designs yachts. Like, mega-yachts. Like, the Spanish entry to the next America's Cup. Lee, the gal waiting for her "Very Berry" smoothie (apple, blueberries, blackberries, nonfat yogurt, $3.75), has just sailed around the entire world in a 36-foot boat with her husband and her daughter Kate, who's 12. She was five when they started out. Carl, who's 18, says he's just in from helping sail a 50-footer back from Hawaii. Robert Mulligan -- Bob -- old guy in a wheelchair, is a vet of World War II. Corsair pilot. Wow. Those were the fighter planes with bent seagull wings and huge props. Then this guy Denny hauls up outside on a scarlet chopper. Fat back wheel, lo-ong front forks. "Iron Horse," he says. He orders a tuna salad. Kelly insists on getting a Polaroid of her and Denny sitting on the chopper.
"That's what we discovered when we decided to try and take over this place, four months ago," says Kelly. "We realized this was not our shop. It was the customers'. They're very possessive. You've got to recognize this is a very small community, or it's game over."
But, everyone says, no way is the game over here. They love the sisters. Turns out the two of them arrived in Seattle as babies from Saigon when their parents escaped in 1975. Cindi says they can make, say, those raw Vietnamese spring rolls, if you ask.
Even the cook's interesting. He comes down from his perch at the back. Grabs a coffee. Says his name is Balarama. He's Anglo. "It's from the Bhaghavad Gita. Indian," he says. "My parents were hippies. They traveled a lot."
I'm so busy talking, I hardly remember to get through my breakfast eggs. Then Cindi comes over with a plate of fruit chunks. She forks one and holds it up for me. Mmm. Grab it with my teeth. Cantaloupe with a hot-pepper dusting. She gives me another. Perfect mouth-freshener.
"I've just got one question," I say. "What's with the bags of water?"
"Oh, that," Cindi says. "They're to get rid of the flies. Flies have complex eyes. The water in the moving bags distorts their lenses. Freaks them out."
I look around for freaked-out flies. Only see a couple, unfreaked. Buzzing my muffin.
Can't say I blame them. I could easily become a barfly here myself.