OH!  My God!  Woo-hoo!

 
I might have found a place where I belong in Fort Worth, Texas!  
A fantastic find for the rejuvenation of my soul!  

My review of Boulevard Brew
A coffee house in River Oaks, Texas.

Yes, I finally unearthed a wee bit of Fort Worth Nirvana.  It has taken six years, but it is there.  Thanks to a pandemic spawned downsizing necessity that led us to a new Fort Worth neighborhood, wedged between the cusp of a gentrifying area, a blue blood borough, and a hood where rent should include ammunition, our Fort Worth point of view has altered.  This new frame of reference has revealed a few new Fort Worth gems.  I have a feeling I’ll go on and on about Salsa Limón’s tacos that have no equal, but that’s for another rambling post on another day.  Today, this keyboard spews my lengthy sentences to espouse the goodness of a funky coffee house joint called Boulevard Brew at 5406 River Oaks Boulevard, River Oaks, Texas, about a mile from the new apartment.

I’ve always found a little more balance in my life when I had a few regular hangouts around; either a reclusive restaurant (The Parthenon in Greenwood), a peculiar pub (McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove), a cozy café (The Blue Café just off Purdue’s campus), a gritty greasy spoon (Jr’s Cafe of Saginaw), a bizarre bar (The Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Santa Fe), a hidden hole-in-the-wall (Las Delicias in Española), or a freaky fellowship (my Masonic lodges, the Indianapolis Bonsai Club, or any one of several Presbyterian churches).  So, unfortunately, upon arriving in Fort Worth in the spring of 2015, I searched for some venue to find a foothold for my sense of belonging in this strange new cowboy land and didn’t find it right away (The Cup, Howell’s Western Café, nor the Pure Café).  Yet after several years, slowly some places emerged like the above said JR’s and The Eagle’s Nest.  Additionally, lately, Elias and I have been exploring the lakeside establishments on Eagle Mountain Lake, finding a few to frequent (Augie’s Sunset Café).  But, no place has excited me more than Boulevard Brew did tonight, at least in a decade or two.

When I walked into the Boulevard Brew carrying the new rollable DGT chessboard that the Boyz gave me for Christmas (they shouldn’t have – it cost twice as much as I could afford to spend on them), the barista called out to me, “You just missed chess night.”  Sarah, a twenty-something provider of caffeinated liquid goodness, smiled a delightful charm-distributing smile that reminded me that I’m a 53-year-old man. 

“Excuse me,” I squinted.  Sarah explained that another barista had started a chess night to promote the most excellent of board games.  Then, she proceeded to pour me a cup of joe and took the hint that I prefer mine black without any ceremonial formality or inflated descriptive java jargon.  Excessive vocabulary goes into my prose, not my coffee cup.  Then it hit me, joy, “THEY HAVE A CHESS NIGHT!”

I should also note that shortly after the chess night revelation, it also hit me that the coffee cost $3.25.  But then again, like the pretty young girl’s smile, a three-digit price tag on coffee also reminds me I am a 53-year-old man.  So this price shock is not the coffee house’s problem, but mine.  You see, a cup of coffee in 1968, the year I was born, cost $0.40 (The Price of Coffee the Year You Were Born).  So even though that the 1968 .40 ¢, when adjusted for inflation, is equivalent to $3.19 in 2021 dollars and the average price of A Cup of Coffee in Texas right now is $2.52, I’m still psychologically stunned at the concept of that charge.  Nevertheless, it’s a very fair price, considering the ambiance and CHESS NIGHT.

Then, get this, it’s no joke; I struck up a joyful conversation with some dude with a fantastic chest-length beard named Joe.  Oops!  The dude was named Joe, not the beard.  Did I compose a dangling non-participial modifier or something (Jeanne Shafer Apple Bedwell or Kelly Short – some grammatical help here, please)?  Writing was more manageable when I could run a draft by Mom, ugg.  

Anyway, I was having a cup of joe with Joe, AND he was preparing his DM’s notes for his weekly D&D campaign night.  So, setting aside his homework, Joe offered me a monolog on the high quality of baked goods Boulevard Brew offers.  However, I quit listening because I was still soaking in the fact that the most excellent of roleplaying games, D&D, also took place at these tables.  So, chess and D&D (and tasty-baked-goods-whatever), I did call this place “Nirvana” at the top of this longwinded text, remember? 

As for the ambiance mentioned above, the front room looks like a clean café trope should.  You see a barista’s station, a counter with a cash register or rather a new-fangled Apple touchscreen thingy, baked goods in a display case, a collection of 1950’s celebrities’ photographs on the wall, a few high tables with stools, a comfy couch with a coffee table displaying some artsy magazines, USB plugs nearby for charging devices, and chalkboard menus (got to have chalkboard menus even with today’s tech).  Yes, cliché; yes, clean.  Yes, I know. 

But, keep looking, and you’ll find local artwork on the walls, more seating in a room behind the barista’s station arranged in little nooks of more comfy couches, and space for a band.  A closer study of Boulevard Brew will show the comfortable sofas, coffee tables, lamps, and other furniture accessories are 50’s/60’s retro. 

Wait!  Wow!  Did I gloss over “space for a band?”  Whoa!  I checked out their website, and I found live music dates!  Weekly live music!  Kwin Smith, “we’ll put the band back together, do a few gigs, we get some bread.  Bang!  Five thousand bucks.”

Sarah added that Kris Franks, the owner, has applied for a beer and wine license.  They are planning to set up a bar and keep later hours.  Right now, they remain open till 6:00 PM.  Am I dreaming?  Does this place exist?

By the way, I’m not too fond of text with more than one exclamation point.  It makes me dyspeptic.  It’s cheap and silly.  I’m sorry; I humbly ask for forgiveness. 

But, do you blame me?  

 

Coffee!  Caffeinated liquid goodness!  Chess Night!  D&D! Baristas!  Delightful, charming smiles!  Local artwork!  Joe’s fantastic chest-length manly-man beard!  USB outlets!  50’s/60’s retro interior design!  Chalkboard menus!  Weekly live music!  Future booze flow!

All for $3.25!

OMG!

I am mostly sure I haven’t hallucinated the place.  I could have slipped into Oz or something.  I’m going to go back tomorrow after a session with a client.  I need to prove to myself the place is real.  I’ll offer an excuse that I need to take some photos for this review; I need some images other than the stock one I’m using now.  I couldn’t just gank some images from their website; that would be a copyright infringement.  The last thing I need is a cease and desist letter from their lawyer, especially after giving the place such a scathing review.  $3.25, indeed!

Please, note: I have some additions, improved formatting, additions images, and a wee bit of editing I want to do to this post. but, I had so much fun writing it, I just wanted to get it published.  Like, what the hell is “FUNCTIONAL TEA FLAVORS?” I need to know.  So… More to come. – Michael

 

You may know, my online chess rating hovered around 1300 for decades, “Hopelessly Mediocre Chess.” No matter which website or app I used, I was about a 1300 player, give or take. Then, a few months back, Emmons won a very long streak of games, beating me soundly time after time.

I discovered he was watching International Master Eric Rosen stream live on Twitch and watching his videos on YouTube. He was learning volumes about winning chess play, which explained why he was kicking my ass time and time again.

So, I had to start watching, too, just to keep up with Emmons’s gameplay. I quickly found Eric’s favorite opening to be solid and enjoyable, the Stafford Gambit. So, I’ve been studying it on YouTube (jump to links). These videos show some incredible chess traps and tactics.  As a result of this and some other studies, my rating has shot up, and I’m able to keep up with Emmons, at least for now. 

I got one of the most fantastic traps to work, and here it is.

 

 

Opponent Takes the Bait and Falls for the 
Evil Queen Sacrifice, Die in Eight Moves Thingy!!

I ruthlessly made the Evil Queen Sacrifice, Die in Eight Moves thingy!

 

 

However, it’s tough and rare to get the positions YouTubers show. Good chess players usually don’t fall for such traps. Yet, this 1576 rated player took the bait, hook, line, and sinker the other night.  This study is my actual game. 

Evil Queen Sacrifice, Die in Eight Moves thingy!
A crazy trap in the Stafford Gambit

Click on the arrows or click on the board and use the mouse scroll wheel to see each move.  I played black.

 

 

 

Eric Rosen’s Stafford Gambit Videos:

 

Grand Master Hikaru Nakamura showing International Master Eric Rosen what’s what.

Fun Game on Lichess.org

 

Just had an entertaining game against the Pirc Defense, admittedly sloppy opening for me. Yet, my pawn push on move 16  for the discovered check, queen capture, and pawn promotion felt genius.  

 

Showing A Captian Gyros where the Blue Café used to be.
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2022

This Purdue reminiscence may be way too obscure. Yet, every alumni remembers a walk down Northwestern Ave to Chauncey Hill mall or Harry’s. And I imagine a few Purdue alumni from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s will remember the Exponent’s comic strip Art Gallery. Even so, you probably never noticed one of my favorite hangouts.

 

I would love to read about your favorite Purdue hang out? Others would like to read about your hangouts also. Please describe that place in the comments.

 

*** I imagine Harry’s will deserve a post all its own.

 

Harry's Chocolate Shop
Harry’s Chocolate Shop

 

Do y’all remember Mark O’Hare?

 

The Old Delta Chi house on 351 Northwestern Ave, West Lafaette, Indiana
Click for full size – The Old Delta Chi house on 351 Northwestern Ave.

 

Campus Map show the location of the Blue Cafe on the south east edge of campus. 132 Northerwestern Ave
Click for Full size – Purdue and Blue Cafe’s location.

It was about 3 blocks from my Fraternity.

 

Unless you had a closet full of tie-dye t-shirts, Birkenstock sandals, and skipped a few showers, I might tax your Purdue reminiscing ability with this memory. A button-down collared, hippiephobe type dude in my fraternity refused to walk on the same side of the street as the off-campus landmark, one I hope to help you to recall. On the other hand, I could walk in both worlds, hippie and frat-dude, and demonstrated it daily by walking to my favorite hangout at 132 Northwestern Ave. That address now houses a Greek Restaurant. But in the late ’80s, the brick facade had a white paint coat trimmed in sky blue and a sign out front reading, Blue Café.  

The owner, Iris, an immigrant from somewhere in South America, would give us a hello with nothing more than a heavily accented grunt as she sat gazing out the windows of her café. I remember her always looking tired as if making the daily special pasta salad thoroughly exhausted her. Thinking back on it, I might now attribute her thousand-yard stare to a harrowing escape from the rath of a South American dictatorship. But, as an undergrad, I was too self-absorbed to inquire. So, we will never know.  

Darren, the waitstaff/dishwasher, which I imagine received little more pay than a full meal, would serve us our $3 usual, a bottomless cup of coffee, and a loaf of sourdough bread. We’d sit there, get jacked up on caffeine, and chat for much of the first hour. Each of us would note the time we needed to head back to campus for our next class. 

Photo of Art Galley Tshirt showing O'Hare art style and the charactors in a lamborghini.
Click for full size.

Most days, Mark O’Hare sat on the edges of our group drawing the following week’s Art Gallery entry for The Exponent. Having that little bit of lead time over the rest of the campus to read his comic strip gave us a smug insider feeling, like a spy knowing some remarkable “TOP SECRET” intel. A feeling later vindicated when Mark became a big-time animator for such shows as Ren and Stimpy and SpongeBob SquarePants.

If you were lucky, you’d head off to class before the chess boards came out. Because once the Staunton pattern pieces met the vinyl green and white checked mats, folks would be trapped, only looking at their watches with a cursory, “Damn, I missed that class. I’ll make the next one.” Suddenly, Iris came alive with the games underway, her accent vanished, and her attention honed in on the boards while declaring, “I’ve got winner.” She wasn’t a terrific player. Yet, she won most of her games, most likely because she did provide the all-you-can-eat sourdough bread and coffee for $3. Heck, we knew that was an unbelievable deal, even in the late ’80s.

Iris would try to supplement the profitless weekday bread and coffee sales with live music and candlelight dinners on weekend evenings. She would cram a two or three-piece ensemble into one of the front window nooks. The preppie/hippie dichotomy of my fraternity, ΔΧ, even produce a poet songwriter named Corry Rope, who scored several of the Blue Café gigs. I became very impressed with this upperclassman for his grand accomplishment.

I found this wonderful footage of Grand Prix Weekend 1991.
Paul Burch and Marc Tobalski are playing a gig at the Blue Café.
I don’t know these guys, I just ganked the video off of YouTube.

 

Yet, I regretted his appearance at my hangout because of one incredibly embarrassing candlelight serenade. In the middle of his guitar set, accompanied by a guy beating rhythms on a five-gallon pickle pale, Corry catches me, Andrew Jerman, and John Tarman sneaking our way to the back of the dining area. Corry then starts inserting my name into bawdy, improvised lyrics. The crowd roared with laughter at my expense. That was probably the only time I ever had the desire to exit the Blue Café.

This bizarre café with a cartoonish Beatnikesque ethos on the edges of Purdue’s campus has become the measuring stick for all other coffee houses I have ever discovered in my life. Noplace has ever measured up, probably because I have mythicized the place a wee bit. Yet, I still seek it. It must have a starving artist archetype sitting in the back. We didn’t have Jack Kerouac, but we did have Mark O’Hare. Gaudy music and poetry must ooze through the walls, staff must have mysterious backstories, and diverse people should meld into a heterogeneous group of patrons. The new café should boast pseudo-intellectual conversation that diverts one from any meaningful action.

If you can find any place with all that for three bucks, I’m there, baby!


Like my post? Here is a post with similar themes of nostalgic Purdue hangouts, Bangert: More tales of the long, lost haunts near Purdue. His joints are not as obscure as mine. Dave Bangert with the Journal & Courier, Published August 18, 2018.  

Highly unlikely, but are there any photos of the Blue Café?

P.S. I took a little poetic license describing Iris.  She was incredibly kind to all of us students and inspire the strong memories of her magical place. She was always pleasant, bright, and social.