2: Slipstream, Logan Circle, Washington, DC; 15.2 miles: washed process Reko (espresso)
The last time I was at Slipstream, it was sleeting. “Shinola Detroit: Coming Summer 2015” said the sign on 14th NW. Didn’t believe it for a moment. Oh, they’d be there in June, to be sure; I just didn’t believe in summer. That may have been the worst day of that neverending winter (cracked my helmet later after slipping on an icy expansion joint on 9th NW, which may have been the Single Worst Moment of Freezing Saddles for me), but end it did.
Okay, so I have to be at work at 4. Is that technically against the Holy Rules of Coffeeneuring? I’m saying no; I mean, it’s only for a few hours, and it’s as more of a day off than any other I’m getting this week…well, other than yesterday. Bike Ambassador fun with the Trail Rangers first (can I use Trail Ranger coffee for Coffeeneuring if I’m helping to hand it out?), then ditch the bike at the Morg, CaBi to Slipstream…yeah, this is going to work ou…wait, why isn’t there anybody at the Trail Ranger park?
What was that, Jon? The schebang that was scheduled for this week but got moved to last week, but got rained out, got rescheduled for next week when the Bosslady’s back from biketouring? Um, that’s when I’m out biketouring. Next week. No…no Met Branch Friday coffee? I think I’m actually sad about that.
Change out of BA superhero costume. Ditch bike. Hi Gayla! No, I’m not working until later tod…are you sure you don’t need me? Like, really sure? Um, okay. Call me if you do. Okay, CaBi time. Hey, National City does lunchtime organ concerts! Forgot about that, but not their organ! Have to do that.
Ditch Phaedrus at the nearest dock. Yes, every CaBi I ride is named Phaedrus. After I gave away Phaed the XO-4, it seemed only right to name the Devincis in his honor. Walk in the door.
“Hi Phill! How are things? It’s been a while.”
Whoa. Not only has it been a while, but I’ve only stopped in a couple times before…and oh yeah, by the way, got my ponytail cut off. You know, that big, unique identifying feature that people used to recognize me? These guys, they’re good.
I mean, I knew that already; Amanda’s tied with the crew at Baked Joint for “Favorite Barista in the District I Don’t Know From Bike Work,” which is actually a really competitive category. If I disqualify the Baked crew (come to think of it, the fact that they’re next door to work might be a factor in why I’m there so often), she wins outright. The rest of the staff, though? Like I said. They’re good.
Which is, um…good; Slipstream’s a bit off-putting at first to slightly out-of-kilter and mildly disheveled cyclists. A bit slick, a bit too Sunday New DC Yuppiebrunch, a bit “too complicated” as our esteemed challenge mistress put it—well, other than the fact that they totally pull it all off. That redeems it all.
Not that I would know anything about that at all, working somewhere that I’ve heard called “The Bike Museum” and “cycling’s Apple Store.” White walls, slate countertops, wood accents, and a floor that cost more than three years of undergrad tuition at my alma mater…I get why people are intimidated by Bikeyspace, even before they see the price tag on the Bromptons! Lucky for us, we’ve got the most disarming and charming crew ever (well, okay, Marko), but still. I pretty publicly hate on Momentum for its classism and capitalist prejudices claiming to be revolutionary and “for normal people like you”—RIP, Urban Velo—but aren’t I abetting these same excesses and abuses of neoliberalism? As a (sadly former) coworker put it, it kinda sucks following up impassioned advocacy of cycling as a way to transform your life like it did for us with “and that’ll be $2,000, please.”
While I may find Slipstream a bit slick and feel out-of-place as a mere retail minion bellying up to the bar, I know my coffee pretty well for someone outside the industry. I can prove my right to belong at the bar not by appearance, but by seeming to have been initiated. Not everyone can do one of those things—yes, third wave coffee culture can be complicated, with its emphasis on provenance, brew techniques, and explicit borrowing of wine tasting tropes. Yes, good staff can disarm and explain, just as I do with people who are scared of Bikeshopdude and feel the need to qualify that they’re “not looking to do anything extreme,” but it’s still a bit nerve-wracking, being in a place where you can’t prove your right to belong either by appearance or initiation.
Some people, like the folks behind the stick, have a knack for disarming people and putting them at ease. All I can hope for is that my ridiculous striped socks, smilingkittencaps, and random cardboard squirrels perched on the Proofide do the same thing.
I mean, they have their showerheads that keep the water for your pourover at exactly the perfect temperature; we have a five-figure robotic bike that looks like a mechanical bull and magically moves to fit you perfectly. They have cards with tasting notes and describe the exact provenance of your espresso; we have Brünø Moore explaining that your Brompton will be hand-braised and assembled just for you a mile or two from Kew Gardens. They’re next to Acme Novelty and probably what used to be a strip club; we’re across the street from Museum Square and next to what is a strip club (well, with a collapsed roof).
“Hey, the Reko sounds good. Would you recommend that as pourover or espresso?”
Amanda looks at her colleague at the counter.
“Espresso,” they both answer.
“Okay, I guess that settles that!”
Yup. Right choice. Concentrated, thick, distinctly citrusy and fruity…um, can I say “with distinct overtones of candied lime peel, bergamot, and white tea aromatics” without sounding Beyond Pretentious? Like, is there a way for mere bikeshopretailminions to pull off describing these things? There’s something like creamy Earl Grey tea going on just above the usual slightly earthy and darkly fruity grounding typical of Ethiopian coffees. It’s pretty cool.
Coffee over. Time to kill before the organ concert. Hey, speaking of Acme Novelty, should probably get around to checking the place out. I’ve heard it’s a relic of Old 14th NW, from back before the strip was burned out in the riots, back before the strip joints (or “erotic clubs,” Mr. Mayor), back before the crack wars, back before gentrification, back before the memory of anyone else but the owner whose father bought the shop over 50 years ago.
The owner buzzes me in, and turns on the lights.
Whoa. What is this place?
“Excuse me, sir, this is actually from Nixon’s campaign?”
“Yes it is. $2.”
I put it back on the pile it came from. You know, I have a coworker whose last day is today—should probably get him something…
I put the LBJ button on the counter.
“You know he used to go to church around here.”
“National City Christian. I used to go there when I was visiting my aunt here when I was younger.”
“And President Roosevelt used to attend St. Lukes, over by Grace; laid the cornerstone himself.”
Okay, this I have to find.
Naturally, I misheard things, which I figured out when I couldn’t find any cornerstone at St. Luke’s, laid by a president or anyone else. Hm. I’ll figure it out later. Organ concert.
To quote the aforementioned aunt, the organ at National City can “blast you out of your skin.” When I mentioned that line to the lady at the front desk of the church, she knew exactly which organist I was talking about, and assured me that he had retired.
I found a seat in President Johnson’s pew near the front. Buxtehude and Hindemith! I mean, the former’s an organ warhorse, but Hindemith! We’re in for some chromatic 20th century Nazi-condemned goodness, courtesy of CUA’s organ prof!
Didn’t disappoint. Hindemith rarely does.
Walking back towards the CaBi dock, I noticed another Gothic Revival church. What they hey, I’ll have a look. “THEODORE ROOSEVELT worshiped here regularly,” read the plaque on the front of Grace Reformed, giving the date he laid the cornerstone.
So much has changed here, even in my relatively short time visiting and living in Washington, and yet, some things happily remain.