The Red [and Black] Scare
August 10, 2011
I met with a new manager the other day, and I was told how my observations as a new employee were valuable since I still had the perspective of an outsider. I can understand that, since once you’ve been
tainted jaded on the job for a while, you can’t shake the burden of expectations. For example, I’d love to meet President G.W. Bush, but I don’t think I could shake the expectation of him being an absolute imbecile just like I’d sit down to dinner with Mike Tyson expecting my ring finger to be bitten off. Some would argue there is evidence to support these expectations, but in reality, I’ve never met either of them personally, so there’s no reason for me to expect G.W. Bush to cut himself with a butter knife or Mike Tyson to mutilate me with one.
This brings me to the Red and Black Cafe.
The Red and Black Cafe, a “worker owned, collectively–managed, IWW-member vegan café,” certainly has some revolutionary undertones (Their PCs run on Linux! ¡Viva la Revolución!). I’m sure I should be saying overtones, but there was something…subdued in their revolutionary attitude, and it’s not just the heart-shaped anarchy symbol on their logo. I admit, I know about as little about anarchy as I do about chemex brewing or ancient anglo-saxon literature. A reading over of their blog convinced me I was dealing with bona fide anarchists, just ones with values like job security, civic-mindedness, and sanity. I must admit, though, they dropped the word “radical” like a Gatorade bottle uses “electrolytes” or Flash comics use “molecules.”
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means.”
Myself and my dinner companion enjoyed some light conversation as we took our merry time ordering from the rather diverse menu. I had misconstrued R&B Cafe as merely a small vegan cafe when apparently it’s a cesspool of radical liberalism that serves espresso and vegan food. I ordered the hummus sliders (which were great, by the way) with an iced coconut latte, and after having a seat it became apparent that my iced coconut latte had been forgotten. I certainly did not slight them for a minor oversight, since they apologized and promptly made the drink. On the other hand, I did have to wonder, what kind of self-important radical establishment simply forgets to make a drink? This wasn’t a strike against them as a cafe, but rather as revolutionaries. It is possible, however, that they were just cool people who made a minor oversight, but I imagine one of them recognized that I had recently worked for a state institution and was striking back at the man.
In short, it was a pleasant, quirky dining experience. Their portions were generous to the point that my dinner companion mentioned “I always like what I get here, but they give me so much of it!” I don’t claim to be the anarchy auditor, but I guess I just want the “radical left” to be as unhinged and crazy as the right paints them to be (notably, I haven’t been disappointed by the opposite). In fact, one of the goals of the Red and Black Cafe is to show the reasonable, practical side of anarchism. Red & Black definitely had a revolutionary air about it, but in a way that said, “Yeah, whatever, we’ve been doing this for years. Take it or leave it.” It’s almost as if they had something they believed in rather than merely something to prove.
Ugh. That is soooooo un-Portland.
Note: I read a few other reviews mentioning incidents involving a police officer (and other folks deemed “to be causing a worker or patron discomfort or distress for any reason”) being asked to leave. Perhaps they’ve gone soft, or maybe I just came on an off-day. I’ll drop in again and bring an on-duty police officer, Dick Cheney, and an intoxicated Larry the Cable Guy and see if sparks fly.