<NYC> Evolve Cafe - Lower East Side
Spacious and open, this coffeeshop has a somewhat industrial feel to it, grey resin floors below and exposed-beam ceilings that have been painted up in a dancing swirl of abstract whorls and starbursts, a riot of colour splashed against a white background. The walls alternate between brick and cheerfully lime-green painted wood that extends to the paneling beneath the brushed-steel countertops. There's an abundance of light, though rather than windows (which are scarce) it comes from plentiful hanging steel lamps. The walls here are home to plentiful artwork available for sale; though the roster of prints and paintings and drawings and photographs changes on a regular basis it has one thing in common -- all the artists displayed are mutants.
The seating spaced around the room is spread out enough to keep the room from feeling cluttered. Black chairs, square black tables that mostly seat two or four though they're frequently pushed around and rearranged to make space for larger parties. In the back corner of the room is more comfortable seating, a few large black-corduroy sofas and armchairs with wide tables between them. There's a shelf of card and board games back here available for customers to sit and play.
The chalkboard menus hanging behind the counter change frequently, always home to a wide variety of drinks (with an impressive roster of fair-trade coffees and teas largely featured) though their sandwiches and wraps and soups and snacks of the day change often. An often-changing variety of baked goods sit behind the display case at the counter halfway back in the room, and the opposite side of the counter holds a small selection of homemade ice creams. A pair of single-user bathrooms flanks the stairway in back of the cafe; at night, the thump of music can be heard from above, coming from the adjoining nightclub of the same name that sits up the stairs above the coffeehouse.
It's actually not too bad in New York City tonight. The recent rains have left behind cooler than average temperatures, even if they are a bit on the humid side. As a result, the streets are busier than usual for a Wednesday night. Even the businesses are enjoying a small uptick in customers.
Take Evolve. Usually a decent crowd on an average night, tonight the place is nearly at capacity. Around the coffee shop, there's hardly a chair to be found empty. Most of the customers look more or less human, but there are plenty of mutants here, too.
In one corner, a pair of twins sit mutely at a chess board, the pieces moving seemingly by themselves in a heated game of masters. At another, a trio of girls sits -- one with pink hair and pupiless green eyes working diligently on her computer (mostly social media, for those noticing such things), one with hair dyed teal who idly spins a spoon in the air in front of her, and one with black hair and golden eyes who seems human until you notice the silky feline tail curled around the leg of a chair. They are engaged in bright conversation with the young man leaning over from his table.
"Seriously, Rosalie," Doug says, leaning towards the girls a bit more. "You guys should let me do your website, if you're serious. I can make it 20% cooler." The blonde is dressed for the weather in black shorts and a baggy green tank-top. In front of him is his laptop, also open with lines of code speeding across the screen.
"I'll think about it," the pink-haired girl promises. "You /did/ fix my laptop last month."
"That's all I ask," Doug says, shifting back into his chair. "I'll send you some mock-ups." That being settled, the girls begin talking amongst themselves in lowered voices, and Doug goes back to his own laptop, his fingers skimming over the keys.
These are the kinds of nights Rictor tries to avoid. The excessive crowds and the nightlife upstairs taint an atmosphere that could otherwise be conducive to getting some work done. And really, that's what coffee shops are about to him. Getting work done in a stress-free environment.
Not tonight, though. Tonight, the most work he's likely to get done is finding a seat that doesn't leave him completely surrounded. The table in the back, taken. A few chairs closer to the door, taken. Most of the corner seats, you get the idea.
The reality of New York City settles into Rictor as, with coffee in one hand and laptop case in the other, he finds himself near Doug's table, probably looking a little lost. "Do you mind?" he asks the blond at the table, eyeing it's free seat. "Not much in the way of choice tonight."
Doug looks up at the voice, blinking a moment as he comes out of his computer-induced haze. "I'm sorry?" he says, furrowing his brow and looking around at the crowded restaurant. "Oh!" he says, realization flooding into his features, and he offers a wide smile. "Sure, have a seat. It /is/ pretty crowded. I guess everyone got cabin fever during the storms." He slides his laptop a bit in his direction, making room for the older man's, if he chooses. "Or they're here for some of Jax's kick-ass cupcakes."
Rictor says his thanks and sets a latte on the table before sliding into the seat. "Is it not usually like this then? That's comforting." He opens his bag and unpacks its contents: A small, powerful-looking ultrabook, a black fountain pen, and an unused leather-bound notebook. They're systematically arranged in front of him and the laptop is powered up. He glances across from him to Doug and offers the thin smile of a stranger.
Doug shrugs. "It's usually busy, but tonight is a bit busier than usual." He grins, reaching for his strawberry-banana smoothie, and sucks at the straw as he looks over the older man, then his accoutrements. "I'm Doug," he offers, then, setting down his glass and putting his hands on his own keyboard. "Welcome to the table."
And there it goes, the small talk. Not exactly what Rictor was looking for tonight, but inevitable in his situation. Something about small talk in New York City doesn't sit as well with him as it does in, say, Barcelona. Maybe it's just all the travel and settling in talking tonight, though. "I'm Julio, and it's a fine table. Happy to be here." See? He can be friendly, too.
Part of the problem of understanding languages is that it includes body language, and while the other man seems pleasant enough, Doug catches enough of his irritation, and offers a bright smile before dropping his eyes to his monitor. "Aces," he says, tapping at his keyboard. "Shout if you need anything." His ears are the tiniest bit red, maybe because of the muted snickers coming from the next table. But now he's focused on his work. So focused.
Rictor turns to focus on his computer. His fingers play across its keyboard with practiced ease and the glow from the monitor brightens slightly. He opens his notebook, uncaps his pen, writes a few notes at the top of a fresh page. Fundamentals of Computer Science, it reads, should anyone peek. And so he readies himself get things done.
Still, he knows he was a bit cold just then, and a closer look over the top of his screen suggests he shouldn't have been. Not to this guy, at least. His posture softens as he says, "You mentioned Jack's cupcakes. Do you know the owner?"
Doug blinks at the sudden shift in tone, and he looks up with a bit of confusion in his features. "Hmm? Jack's...oh, no I said /Jax/," he says, offering a grin. "J-A-X. Short for Jackson. He's dad of one of the owners. And he makes amazing cupcakes." Doug stretches to look at the counter. "Looks like there might still be some lemon-blueberry left. I totally recommend those." Turning back, he lifts a shoulder. "I'm a friend of the family," he says. "We used to be neighbors." He furrows his brow, and nods at the notebook. "You in town on business?"
A sudden shift and somewhat forced, Doug might pick up on. Still, there you have it. "Jax. Of course." He glances over his shoulder to the counter and those aforementioned cupcakes. When he looks back, his eyes brighten as he nods. "Yes, business brings me here and business will keep me here. I'll be teaching for the time being." He taps his pen against his notebook rapidly a few times before adding. "There's an adjustment period, though."
"Summer's kind of a weird time to start a teaching job, isn't it? Unless you're college level." Doug takes another pull from his smoothie, resting his weight on one elbow as he watches Julio's face. He narrows one eye, and glances at the notebook again. "You teach computer science?" he guesses. "That's cool. Totally my thing." He sets the glass back down, and leans on the table. "You kind of look like a professor."
"A little weird, but I prefer it to starting in the fall. It'll be easier to settle in." Rictor reaches for his coffee and takes his first sip. Not too hot, perfect. As he sets the cup down again, he licks some foam from his lips. "You haven't even seen me with my glasses on." These are brandished a moment and set onto his face, adjusted slightly. "So, you like computers then?" This certainly perks him up.
Doug grins. "I bet you look good in glasses," he says, then blushes deeply. "I mean...I bet you look really distinguished," he corrects, looking down at his keyboard. At the question, though, he looks back up, embarrassment fading in light of this new topic. "I /love/ computers," he says emphatically. "They really speak to me." He pivots his own computer so that Julio can see the lines of code scrolling there. "I'm debugging my A.I. program right now," he says apologetically. "Usually there's cooler stuff going on there."
The new turn in this conversation has Rictor hooked. He scoots his chair a bit to better see the code on Doug's screen with obvious interest. "If there's usually cooler stuff than this going on then you're someone I'd love to get to know better." Maybe suffering through a crowd sometimes does have a perk. "I've spent some time studying and working with computers and I really find AI fascinating. What sort of project is this?"
Doug grins. "I'm all kinds of fascinating," he says, lifting his eyebrows. "I've been working on this for a couple of years. It started out as a video game project, and morphed into an A.I. project." He taps a couple of keys, pausing the lines of code. Then he tapes another couple of keys, and a small black-and-yellow robot creature with spiky hair appears.
"Hello, creatorfriend Doug!" it chirps in a tinny voice. "How may self help you today?" The robot stares up at Doug (and seemingly Julio, as well), and blinks. "Self notes that you have not finished with self's analysis, though. Should self resume?"
Doug grins, and shakes his head. "No thanks, Warlock," he says. "We can finish it later. Say hello to my friend Julio."
The robot turns his attention more in Julio's direction. "Hello selfcreatorfriend Julio! It is a pleasure to meet you."
"He still requires a bit of verbal input to do stuff," Doug explains, looking over at Julio. "I haven't quite got the processor power to get him simulating true sentience."
"Hello," Rictor tells the little robot before focusing his attention on Doug. "He reminds me of a project of my own. Only mine was like a little chupacabra kind of monster. I've shelved him for now, but am totally interested in what I see here." By the way his demeanor has changed, and from a certain look in his eye, it may not entirely be Warlock that he's referring to.
"He'll remember you," Doug says, nodding at the screen. "He's really good at vocal and facial recognition." He grins a bit at Julio's story, and wrinkles his nose. "Oh, man. I bet that's cool-looking. Warlock started out as the hero in my video game." The compliment catches him off-guard, and he blinks at the older man for a moment before a small smile creeps its way back onto his face. "I'm always up for talking about computers," he says, shifting his weight the /tiniest/ bit in Julio's direction. "Or whatever."
"I don't know about that. I don't really do 'cool-looking,' though I've tried. However he turned out, though, I was happy with him." Rictor lifts his mug again and takes another sip, sniffing at the coffee as well. It's one of those fair trade specials on the blackboard and he seems to like it. "In that case we should do this again. I really need to work on these course plans tonight, but can always make time for computer talk. Or whatever."
Doug grins. "If you liked it, that's all that matters," he says. "Unless you were hoping to market it, which it doesn't sound like you were." He takes another sip of his smoothie, chewing in the straw as he listens. He nods when Julio determines to return to work, and bends to dig in the pocket of his laptop bag. Eventually, he comes up with a card he hands over that reads "Doug Ramsey, Computer Specialist," followed by two numbers. "The top number is my ground line, and the bottom one is my cell," he says. "You should call me if you get the urge to discuss....algorithms."
"No, that isn't really my interest. Marketing things that is. Talking about algorithms, well, you can expect my call." Rictor pockets the business card and scoots his chair back into place. The coffee gets a little more attention before he declares, "Now it's time to work." And so he does, appearing happier to be where his is this time around, which is never a bad thing.