Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

Cynicism & Corten Steel Memories

by | Mar 30, 2024 | Travel, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Seattle & Denying the Simple Pleasures of Awe
Seattle, Washington. March, 2023. Photo by author.

When I saw it on the menu, I ordered it.

It is one of the quick rules I have for myself. Whenever I see Salvadorian coffee on a menu, I order it, regardless of what drink I had my mind set on. That’s how rare and delicious it is.

By now, you are probably thinking, “Wow, Carlos, what a snob!”

Let me assure you, it is true. When it comes to coffee, I am a snob.

Photo by author. Seattle, Washington.

When I visited San Salvador, I learned the country’s production output is minimal, and a handful of foreign companies buy it all.

So it is rare to find it.

I love Central American coffee even more than I love Colombian coffee, and I’m Colombian. It is not terribly acidic, and it often has undertones of cocoa.

Photo by author. Seattle, Washington.

That’s what I got when I stopped by Herkimer Coffee in Queen Anne, an area to the west of Lake Union in Seattle.

I walked outside into the snippy cold of the Pacific Northwest, and when I crossed the street, I noticed the corten steel planters embedded with Zen garden-like rocks bordering a building.

I thought to myself, “Wow, those are beautiful!”

Photo by author. Seattle, Washington.

“What is corten steel?” You ask. I’m so glad you are a curious reader.

 It’s a bougie word for rusted-ass steel — the one you would avoid walking around because scraping it might mean certain death.

The steel does not start that way because it takes months or years for steel to rust. It is fabricated through a process of chemistry acceleration that creates a rusted look without compromising its structural integrity.

And these planters made out of it were beautiful. They are stunning against stark architecture that favors sharp angles, gray palettes, and concrete.

How do I know about it?

Photo by author. Seattle, Washington.

When I was a construction manager, I procured and installed corten planters at a condo development at the Dogpatch in San Francisco — a gentrified area next to Potrero Hill.

About a dozen of planters were worth a couple hundred thousand dollars. This was almost a decade ago, before many years of hyperinflation. So they are probably worth about one hundred million dollars now.

Don’t fret!

A condo the size of a medium packing box is worth about a million dollars in San Francisco. So, the investment was recouped.

When we quoted the planters, we couldn’t believe how expensive they were, the time it took to produce them, or that we needed to get them to the Bay area from Utah.

The estimators in the office talked about how stupid they were, how they were only rusted steel, and I went along with it. There were real issues with them; they were sitting right on the concrete, so when it rained, it stained it.

But that didn’t warrant my cynical response to it. I could’ve still appreciated how beautiful they were, even if they weren’t my style or if they were impractical.

Photo by author. Seattle, Washington.

Here I was in Seattle a few years later, and my unsuspecting, honest response was that I liked them; I liked them very much.

Why do we do this? Pretend to be cynical and bitter about everything as if we were hipsters disliking what others like or liking them ironically.

Isn’t it much better to cultivate a sense of wonder and awe at everything in the world? Why can’t we stop being so cynical, especially when it doesn’t represent how we truly feel about things?

Photo by author. Seattle, Washington.

“But, goddamn it, Carlos, how was the coffee?” You ask.

Delicious! Light on the tongue with subtle hints of green apple, caramel, and brown sugar.

Make it your rule, too. If you ever see Salvadorian coffee on the menu, get it. Trust me. I know about these things. I’m a coffee snob.

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