Bouncer Searches for Authentic Caffeination at Philz

You might not have noticed, but the anniversary of the Constitution just passed. Lately I have become absorbed by the idea of “originalists,” those conservatives who claim to take the document at face value. They take great pride in interpreting it exactly the way they think its authors did over 200 years ago. There is logic in this, since it is a set of laws, but they're leaving out one important fact: The Constitution was supposed to be temporary. There was very little agreement on the thing at the time, so the framers made a draft that they intended to change, update, and amend. In fact, they hoped that the same thing would be done every seven years, in perpetuity. If this wasn't true, then they would never have allowed room for amendments at all.

Yet I still find myself seduced by the idea of originalism. Could Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a rabid Federalist, really be the most indie-rock member of the court? Is he merely a slave to authenticity? By that token, is he no different than the gourmet zombies in S.F.? This would require some investigation.

Since I was on a budget, I would have to go to a place that was known for its purity and love of the land, free from the shackles of big business, and which wouldn't ask me to spend more than $5. Coffee it would be!

Next, I needed to find one of the most indie-rock coffee spots that we have. Not so underground that no one had heard of it, but cool enough that you would want to be seen there by people who would get the message you were sending: I'm in the know, you know?

I decided on Philz.

How many of you have passed the fake bulldog in front of Philz on 18th Street and thought it was real for a second? How about every single time you pass it? That's just me?

This place is a set-up, designed to make me feel dumb. The first time I went there I committed the cardinal sin of asking for a latte, only to be told (politely, with zero condescension) that the coffee there is made drip-style, one cup at a time. It was like asking why Franz Ferdinand wasn't filed under “Ferdinand” at a record shop. Major faux pas.

My embarrassment quickly turned to dread, because I am one of those daily coffee drinkers who somehow never likes “good” coffee. I don't like “crap” coffee, like Folgers, but I also don't like “good” coffee, like Blue Bottle or Ritual Roasters. It's too strong and gives me an instant headache. However, not wanting to appear any uncooler than I already did, I went for the African-sounding roast and waited for my capillaries to shrink.

I sat out front, which is pretty much the only option, but it also affords good people-watching along 18th. Adding 50 percent cream to my coffee helped a bit, as did three packets of sweetener.

I don't know if either place realizes it, but there is a coffee war going on here. Corporate Starbucks, down by Castro and packed to the gills with men and dogs, versus Philz, empty and funky but with a slow trickle of loyal customers: Philz percolates, indeed. If Starbucks is the Giants, then Philz is the A's.

At this point you have to be asking yourself, “Yes, Katy, but which one would Scalia like?” Here is a man who has said that the Constitution does not guarantee equal rights for women. This is because the Constitution does not expressly say so — very shrewd for a Supreme Court judge. He is indeed a purist, and though I can see him tucking into a gingerbread double-whip latte quite nicely, I don't think he would appreciate all the gayness that goes down at the Starbucks. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that two men can get married. (It also doesn't say that only a man and a woman can, but let's not get off-topic). Then we have Philz, which looks like the living room of Berkeley anarchist meeting. Fliers are pinned everywhere, and at any moment someone could very easily give their love a chicken that has no bones. What would Scalia do?

When he finds himself in such situations with the Constitution, Scalia has stated that the matter should either be settled by the legislative branch or returned to the states. In short, dude will skip both coffee shops and go to Walgreens for a Snapple.

Which leaves me here at Philz, alone, with no one to debate tort reform with, or even talk about that Radio Birdman B-side.

The headache came on faster than I had anticipated. I once more swore off good coffee forever. As God as my witness, I'll never drink Sumatran again.

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