Coffee in Worcester–continued

Another interview with Bruce about Worcester’s upscale coffee joints, heavy metal, and watching The Ghost and Mr. Chicken two hundred times.

Pie and Coffee: The last time we talked about coffee, we talked about all sorts of places downtown, from St. John’s Free Meal, to Java Joe’s, to Dunkin Donuts, to the gas stations. Since then we’ve gone to three of the “classy” coffee shops in Worcester: Java Hut, the Bean Counter, and now, the Belfry. [The Belfry Cafe is in the same space that used to house the late Billy Goat Beanery.]

Bruce at the Belfry, Worcester, MassachusettsBruce: Let me tell you about the Belfry. The Belfry was a belly-freeze. There’s a lot of different varieties of Green Mountain Coffee. And the thing that caught my eye is that they’re organic. If you’re looking for something better for you, that’s got a different type of taste and quality that you don’t get from regular Green Mountain Coffee, I urge you to try organic coffee before you make a preference.

The Belfry is an old church.

I wouldn’t say I felt weird being inside a coffee shop that’s inside a church. Because downtown they have a coffee shop inside a church called the Green Rooster. But this one’s a little out of the downtown area. Somewhat of a less-travelled area.

But there’s a variety of things besides the coffee there. There’s soda, and soup, and there’s a bookstore downstairs. So you get the whole package deal in the one setting, really.

I like that the kid’s bookstore is downstairs. They have those books around, but I feel like they’re for sale, like I shouldn’t read them while drinking coffee because I don’t want to mess them up.

The couch was nice, though. I had the same feeling about the couch, like I didn’t want to mess it up because it was too new and shiny. But it was a good couch, very comfortable.

I wish they had their espresso machine hooked up. I guess they’re still taking care of those odds and ends. But the coffee was not bad.

The refridgerator cases are a little too loud. You hear them whining the whole time you’re sitting there.

Yeah. Kinda distractive. I mean, you’re outside and you hear all the traffic go by, and you go inside, and you kinda want to escape away from the noise for awhile, mellow out and have a cup of coffee or something to eat. You go in there to collect your thoughts, and the last thing you want to hear is noise.

What’s it like at the Java Hut?

The Java Hut’s a place to relax, you know, have a coffee or sit and mingle with people or friends. Or to take a date, if you’re not looking to spend a lot of money, just a place to meet someone for a first date.

And it’s for people looking for a quiet, exclusive place for a coffee. They don’t want to go to Dunkin Donuts or down Main Street because they don’t want to feel like they’re being rushed. They can take their time to think about what they want.

They’ve got a great couch there, in my opinion. And they’ve got good china. Not like “fine china,” but solid. You get your espresso in a demitasse cup.

They got the espresso machine, and the big cup with the handle on it that looks like a scorpion bowl.

What do you mean, a scorpion bowl?

That’s when you get all the different kind of liquors in a big salad bowl.

Where do you get that?

Different pubs.

What kind of crowd is at the Java Hut?

Working stiffs, or the younger generation. Mostly people in their early 20s or 30s. People who don’t like the hustle and bustle of downtown.

There’s a lot of high school students who go there.


I know you like those goth women down at the Java Hut.

I like the goth women. Kinda young for me, but, oh well, y’know.

They have music at the Java Hut.

Mostly jazz, though.

Some folk stuff.

Really no metal or anything like that.

Speaking of metal, I wanted to ask you about that “Supreme Metal Council” article. [The Onion: Metal Council Convenes to Discuss “Metal Hand Sign” Abuse.] What’s your take on the controversy over whether people are abusing the “metal hand sign”?

I think people are abusing the metal hand sign! Because if you’re not really thrashing, or metalling, or in a band, then you shouldn’t greet somebody that way. You’re going against something that you’re not a part of.

At the end of that article they talked about how people had problems with C.C. deVille being connected with the Supreme Metal Council, because Poison wasn’t really metal.

To me, Poison’s not even a metal band. It’s more of a glam-type, party-type band. Like a lot of those bands in the era of the 80s. That’s the reason why that music went away in the early 90s. I think people in that time really lost sight of what it was supposed to be about. It’s not about going out and getting drunk and acting stupid and trying to get lucky. It’s about sticking it to the Man. And I don’t really see them sticking it to the Man. They just tried to stick it to anything that had two legs.

You’re a metal purist. In the article, they talk about how Geezer Butler is the president of the SMC. But you would say that Sabbath isn’t even metal.

Sabbath’s not metal! A lot of those bands during that time invented metal, but they didn’t play it. Like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple. By a long shot, they’re not metal.

Who would you say would be the first metal band that did “play it,” consistently?

Blakk Death was one of the first who actually did the music. And then there was Judas Priest.

The third coffee shop on our list would be the Bean Counter. I’m kind of biased against the Bean Counter because they don’t have a couch.

The Bean Counter is for people who work and live in that area. It seems like a lot of college kids up there too. It’s small.

They’ve got a great bakery, with lots of vegan stuff.

Cookie, Bean Counter, Worcester, Massachusetts

[Tricked-out vegan cookie at the Bean Counter.

Customer: What’s that?

Mike: It’s a deer. It was shot by a hunter.

Clerk: Or it’s lying in a bed of roses.

Customer: Yeah! A bed of roses!]

If you’re a vegan, that’s the place to be. But if you’re looking for a variety of stuff–

–like coffees?

No, if you’re looking for a variety of people, and you happen to be in the downtown area, I say go to White Hen Pantry.

You’d go to the White Hen before you’d go to the Bean Counter?

Yeah! They have soups, and they have sandwiches, and pasta, and grinders, fruit cups. Plus you can buy your groceries there, odds and ends, soda, and soap, the whole shebang. And it’s at a downtown location.

The Bean Counter’s a little bit out of the way for you.


It’s out of the way for me, too. And they serve their espresso in paper cups. But I do like their baked goods. If I was allowed to give the “metal hand sign” to a bakery, I’d give it to them.

Me, too.

Nice crowd in there, too. Good vibe.

Very good.

What’s your take on White Tower?

That’s a place for if you’re going to have breakfast. If you’re going to get a coffee there, you might as well have breakfast.

Seen any bad incidents in White Tower?

Not in a while. I usually go to [Java] Joe’s, then down to St. John’s for something to eat. Maybe get a pastry down there.

The Mustard Seed coffee is respectable. I get their coffee sometimes.

Their coffee is not really measured. It’s just thrown together. So it’s muddy, and really strong, like it’s been sitting in the pot too long.

The PIP doesn’t even have coffee. I don’t get that. How can they not have coffee?

It’s usually for the workers. They’re not able to afford it for anybody but the workers.

Maybe it’s so people won’t get hyper and go nuts.

There already is a lot of nuts there anyways.

Can you compare the big three–Bean Counter, Java Hut, and the Belfry–as far as pure coffee quality?

I like the White Hen Pantry. The coffee is very medium. It’s not bitter.

Do they have espresso at the White Hen?

I’m not sure. But they have different flavors of coffee. They have the hot chocolate machine. But the coffee is very medium, kinda bold, not too strong, not bitter.

I’ve never been to the White Hen. But the lesson from these interviews with you has been: The White Hen is the place.

Any size cup there is a dollar with four cents. And I think they have nine different flavors there. It’s not organic, but….

You know what I miss? There used to be a trend in the bigger cities of “microcinemas.” You’d have a coffee shop with a little theater in the back, and they’d show movies a couple nights a week. Or someone would bring in a screen and show movies in the main room. But around here, if you want to drink coffee and watch a movie, you have to do it at home.

At Brooks Cinema they have coffee, espresso. It’s a movie place, but it’s not like inside a coffee shop, itself.

What movies have you been watching?

I watched The Ghost and Mr. Chicken last night, and I was thinking of watching Midnight’s Child, but I’ll probably watch it tonight.

How many times a week do you think you watch The Ghost and Mr. Chicken?

Once or twice.

How about Midnight’s Child?

I’ve been losing my ground on that.

But these are movies you’ve watched a couple hundred times?


And that’s like, your thing, to watch movies a couple hundred times. It’s interesting to me. It reminds me of Kierkegaard obsessing over the Abraham and Isaac story and rewriting it over and over. Or Lacan and “The Purloined Letter,” or Sarah Vowell watching The Godfather over and over. You just take this movie and dig, and dig, and dig, and dig.

Till you really absorb it. You let it absorb into your mind, your soul, your heart, your blood. And your bones.

Most people don’t watch a movie like that. They watch a movie once, and they say, “Oh, I’ve seen that movie.” But have they really?

No. Because the more times you watch a movie, you appreciate it more. Nightmare on the 13th Floor came out in 1990. The first time I saw Nightmare on the 13th Floor–it’s very funny, not funny ha-ha, but funny strange–it was on telly, and they showed the fireplace on the top floor, where all the hacking took place. You saw James Brolin sitting in a reclining chair, behind a desk. They showed the fireplace, with the fire going, and then the wallpaper. I recorded the movie, and I watched it again, trying to think, where have I seen this before? I’d stayed in a hotel with a lobby that had the exact same wallpaper in it!

I’m reliving the whole movie, and I haven’t even played it yet. Every time I watch the movie, I feel like I’m replaying the instant when I was in the hotel, where I stayed a couple times. Pretty weird! There’s not so many wallpapers you see that the exact same wallpaper is in a movie.

I think of myself as someone who has seen a lot of movies, and watches a lot of movies, but when I talk to you about these movies, I realize that any movie I’ve seen, I have only a very superficial impression of. Maybe Predator. Predator, I’ve seen a hundred times. But anything else, even the movies I really like, I may not have seen more than a handful of times. But if I don’t even understand the wallpaper of the movie, how can I say I understand the characters of the movie, or the photography of the movie, or the music of the movie?

Right. It’s like I watch the Ninth Gate, I’ve probably watched it close to 200 times. It’s just because I like the movie. You go to Spain and France, that’s what they have there, all the little houses. It’s what the country consists of. But if you’ve never gone to those places, when you watch the movie, you’re mystifying the whole thing, what the movie is about.

We’ve joked that if you watch The Ninth Gate nine times in a single day, that the ending will make sense. What’s the most times you ever watched it in a day?

I remember watching it three times in a single day. When I got a real copy of Nightmare on the 13th Floor, I used to watch it a couple times a night. When we would come home from being on the road, I’d fall asleep watching that movie. It’s like I know that movie in my sleep.

I mean, I’ve probably seen Ghost Story with Fred Astaire at least 50 times.

I feel like I should take a vow like, “I’m not going to watch any new movies until I see all of Eric Rohmer’s movies at least ten times.” Just pick out a director and say, “I’m really going to understand his stuff.”

Roger Ebert will screen movies and talk about them shot by shot, to understand the movie. But I feel this is artificial, like cutting someone open to know what kind of person they were. The way to know a movie, I think, is not to watch it shot by shot, but to watch it hundreds of times. Because then you’re watching the living, breathing movie.

One last thing, before I close.

The reason I watch those movies so much is because I’ve had a lot of experience with that sort of thing. The supernatural. I’ve witnessed and experienced all that. And I’m trying to understand myself more. And I’m trying to understand people more, about what they go through, even if it’s just in a movie.

I feel like we’re connected somehow, from the real world to the movie world. A lot of the stuff in those movies is related to stuff that really happened. And Midnight’s Child is a lot like Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Guardian. All those movies are based on the same thing.

Well, I think that’s it.

Bruce’s list of movies to watch again and again: Midnight’s Child, Ninth Gate, Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Secret Window, Nightmare on the 13th Floor, Black Sabbath, Thriller (old TV series).

3 thoughts on “Coffee in Worcester–continued”

  1. I’m not metal like Bruce is, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around a definition of metal that doesn’t include Black Sabbath. I had always kinda pegged Sabbath as being the first metal band.

  2. I wouldn’t say that Sabbath was metal. They were one of them who fathered it, but they didn’t play it, by all means. Sabbath is a hard rock band, with added doom and gloom. The only thing Tony Iommi did was invent the heavy metal riff. That’s why they get called heavy metal.

    Question: What would people consider the first black metal or death metal or speed or thrash band? And not labelling Metallica as one of them.

    Cheers, mate, from the Snow Ghost—the master of originality!
    (Cause Satan said so.)

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