On a fine September afternoon, I ordered a sublime cafe au lait at Ink! Coffee in Denver. I sipped it on the steps of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church while my girlfriend and I listened to the Spanish mass being conducted inside.
I won’t be patronizing this particular coffee shop anymore because the owners of said establishment, as we all know from our reading, put up a sandwich board joking about gentrifying the neighborhood. That went down as well as a bagel cart in an ISIS controlled city.
Gentrification jokes are a risky proposition, and if you sell upscale coffee, I’d probably avoid them. The same goes for “Black Lives Matter” puns. Those never go well. One notable exception is the National Rifle Association emblem with “No Lives Matter” wrapped around the bottom half. That’s funny. Thank you, Twitter.
I thought it was simply a tasteless joke at first. But my girlfriend, who lives in Denver and is herself a member of a marginalized group, informed me of the sinister implications of making a gentrification joke in this particular neighborhood I now know is called Five Points. Five Points used to be the Black part of Denver, and now it’s becoming the young urban professional (rich whitey) part of Denver.
It was an excellent cafe au lait, but it would be wrong to give any of my money to an establishment so insensitive and tone deaf to the community in which it is located. My girlfriend also threatened to castrate and euthanize me if I did. OK, she didn’t really do that. I have a sufficient enough moral compass that I don’t usually require any threats of violence to keep me honest. Usually.
Some people say there are things you just shouldn’t joke about, and that’s simply not true. Anything can be joked about, but comedy is not for amateurs. While I’m no professional, allow me to offer two better premises for a Five Points joke.
As I saw the photos of the hundreds of protestors outside of the coffee shop on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think of Gangs of New York, a mediocre movie with an amazing performance by Daniel Day Lewis. It opens with rival gangs squaring off in 1840s Five Points Manhattan. Any and all of Lewis’s following speech would have looked better on a sandwich board than a snide gentrification joke:
“At my challenge, by the ancient laws of combat, we are met at this chosen ground, to settle for good and all who holds sway over the Five Points: us natives, born rightwise to this fine land, or the foreign hordes defiling it!”
People would be more willing to forgive that.
Of course, there is always “Kill Bill 2.” Why not a sandwich board that says “Our coffee is like the Five Point(s) Palm Exploding Heart technique — one cup, and you’ll take five steps and die.”
They probably both need a little work. But have at it, ink! Coffee. Anyway, who wants Starbucks? I’m buying.