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Outside the Mecca Cafe – 526 Queen Anne Ave N – Lower Queen Anne – Seattle, WA

On this night from about midnight until 4 AM I was out photographing the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, which is where I live.

On this particular evening I was attempting to get some night shots of the Mecca Cafe. I was hoping there would be no cars parked along that portion of the block. However, things were not going as planned because the Mecca is something of an unruly animal that never has been quite tamed.

First opening in 1929, it consisted of a restaurant side and bar side, that primarily catered to a blue-collar audience with inexpensive meals. Today, its regular patrons have morphed into a crowd, that by my reckoning prefers tattoos, metal body appendages, and clothing in Henry Ford’s favorite color: black. I love this place though the idea of me ever getting a tattoo nearly causes me to pass out.

The immutable character of the Mecca Cafe is best summed by its motto: Alcoholics serving alcoholics since 1929. As a group, they seem rather proud of this statement, and though I have never seen a crisis that would require a call for its defense, I am quite sure that this crowd would be more than willing to defend its honor to the last drop.

An interesting anomaly about this motto is that in 1929, the United States, still had another four years to endure before the repeal of Prohibition, which leaves me a bit confused as to how they were serving alcoholics at that time since it would have been against the law.

As near as I can tell, not a person today seems to give rip whether or not the math supports my curiosity. I think their logic runs something like this: kiss off. And with that, today, the Mecca Cafe, serves up stiff drinks, a good basic meal, and whole lot attitude.

Which brings me to today’s photograph.

About the time the bar was closing up for the night I was still unable to get a clear shot of the outside of the bar mostly because of the taxis out front, a beat up pickup truck, and cloud of blue haze from the cigarette smokers hanging around outside the entrance to the place.

I had basically given up for the night when these two young women came out of the bar, obviously quite drunk, and just as obvious, hot for each other. They couldn’t keep their hands off each other while they embraced in a major lip lock or two. Ahhh, royalty.

Of course they almost immediately spied my camera and came boldly towards me, slurring question after question, about why I was out there in the middle of the night. Mostly their questions centered around whether or not I was insane. I didn’t have a good answer for them.

They soon bored of me and went back to laughing, loving, and lip locking when one, I think the woman in the green sweatshirt, got the brilliant idea that a picture was required to immortalize their love. They were not shy about asking me.

“We want a picture of us.”

“Why?”

“Why not?”

I begged off with lame excuses of no tripod, wrong lens, to late, to dark all to no avail.

“We want of picture us and we want you to take it.”

“It’s too late.”

“No it’s not, if was, you wouldn’t be out here.”

“Well, I don’t have my tripod ready.”

“Huh, say what?”

I think my case was severely undermined when they noticed that my tripod was all setup directly behind me and that I was trying to obscure this detail by standing in front of it.

Soon I had one on each side of me chattering away directly into my ears, and inadvertently sharing their fragrant, alcohol scented breath. I quickly gave in and got them lined up next to a telephone pole with strict instructions to stand still and look like they were in love.

Of course nothing like that happened as the weaved and bobbed, the smell of cigarettes and booze filling the air. Bracing myself as best I could I fired off about a half-dozen hand-held images without using a flash as I wanted to capture a sense of how the building and street lights illuminated everything.

Satisfied with their handy work they loudly and lovingly went arm in arm down the street. I love this shot as it captures a moment of their youth, their passion for life, and yes, their love for each other, drunk in the middle of the night on the streets of Lower Queen Anne.

Copyright 2012 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved.

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