It just so happens

Keeping in touch, and bagels at Java Supreme

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CHEAP EATS Dear Earl Butter,

Like a cat always lands on its feet, your chicken farmer lands on a chicken farm. Weirdo the Cat would be proud of me, according to the Mountain.

Hard to believe, but life sometimes does that to you. Just when you need them, voilà: chickens. I had no idea! I just had to get somewhere friendly, and by sheer chance on the same day the anvil fell on my head I got a mass e-mail from Fabienne Gagagaga, telling my whole family, among other things, to keep in touch.

I last saw Fabienne 10 years ago, at my dad's wedding. She was working at that time in marketing. A couple days after my anviling, when I still hadn't regained my shape and it looked like I wasn't going to, I decided it would be best for me to have my nervous breakdowns in another language — one I didn't know at all, give or take voilà. And so I did, I kept in touch.

Fabienne's reply was almost immediate, full of warmth, and just dripping with butter, but didn't mention chickens. I arrived in the dark, by train, and very much in need of food, sleep, and kindness.

There was a lamb stew waiting for me. The lamb was from her farm. That night while I slept for the first time all year, two baby lambs were born. I watched the sunrise over some sailboat masts, then went with her to help Fabienne buy about 100 new chicks.

Over the next few days I helped fork, shovel, and broom out two chicken coops, I helped feed the chickens, closed the chicken doors at night, helped haul and stack sacks of feed, handled livers, and cleaned, cut, and cooked up 80 chicken hearts into a cherry beer stew with carrots and onions.

There aren't a lot of lady farmers in France, and riding around on tractors and pickup trucks with this 'un made me about as proud as I've ever been. Here was somebody doing for real what I make a living, in a way, pretending to do.

The Chicken Farmer, farming chickens. Not just four or five but hundreds. Imagine! It was as if John Wayne or Clint Eastwood ever actually found themselves roping steer, or something.

We even went to the dump once. Everyone loved us there!

I ate fresh scallops, many many oysters, and butter butter butter — the best butter ever, with some pretty good bread under it sometimes.

In Farmer Fabienne's sisterly keeping, I not only found food, sleep, and kindness, but meaningful work. And Earl, in case you ever need to know this, there is no better balm for a broken heart than scraping chicken shit and cooking chicken hearts. The cherry beer was an accident, but a good one.

Dear Nice Lady,

That is great. The best thing about Java Supreme is that if you know when to go, you can get to talk to Joel almost every day of the week. He's not always there, and those days are always hard. But most days he is. Me too. For the last 18 years, I have spent my mornings, almost all of them, at Java Supreme. It is also one of the few holdouts to the old Mission values that are no longer on Mission Street. Old Mission values are this: you can afford to eat.

I get a double espresso every morning, and it is $1.75. And when I make coffee at home, guess where I bought it?

Today I went back for lunch, too. I had the Italian roasted eggplant sandwich with pesto, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, and tomatoes, $3.95, with salad, $5.50, because the salads are great. I love this particular sandwich.

Someone suggested I get it with turkey instead of eggplant, and for years I did that. Ed makes it for you without blinking an eye. It is Ed's place. He tries to keep things simple. I heard him say that on the phone, once.

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