The Garden City Refugee

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Jacob and Two Mole Guy

March 7, 2023

This morning, I made my inaugural visit to the Mahtay Café. If for no other reason than to say I’ve been there. It’s something of an iconic destination in downtown St. Catharines and one of the few businesses in the core that’s still around. Not that the downtown been a real happening place ever since my arrival in this part of the world more than eight and a half years ago, but the number of shuttered businesses is sharply rising. There are so many boarded-up storefronts along St. Paul Street that it should be renamed Plywood Alley. Thank you government. But again, I digress.

Inside the Mahtay Café.

Right after walking in, I was immediately struck by the monitor behind the counter showing the elaborate surveillance system they have inside the restaurant. I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the seedy clientele they must get, including the street urchins who come in to use the washroom. I’m told they have a “no questions asked” policy and let them freely use the facilities without actually buying anything. As a “thank you,” they got one of their windows busted last year. And when I used the washroom before leaving, I noticed graffiti all over the walls. Compassion™ apparently isn’t a two-way street.

After getting my order and deciding upon which one of many empty seats to occupy, a guy at the counter got up to go to use the washroom, leaving an expensive tablet unattended right next to the side door. Amazingly, it was still there when he got back and he was able to continue preparing for his online meeting. Once again, this is not the Old Country. Something I remain very grateful for.

Jacob and Two Mole Guy.

I took a seat opposite one of those street urchins who had preceded me inside and ordered a coffee and a croissant. He was soon joined by a friend of his with two big moles on the side of his face. Two Mole Guy called the street urchin Jacob. As Two Mole Guy, a guy who appeared somewhat normal, spoke, it was readily apparent that Jacob didn’t quite fit that description. Jacob’s legs were constantly shaking as he was muttering something to himself while staring blankly straight ahead. Only after a few minutes did he look down and take a bite of the croissant. Not long after Two Mole Guy sat down, he offered Jacob two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which Jacob declined. Fussy bums these days. So Two Mole Guy decided to eat one of them as he asked Jacob if he’s got any smokes. Two Mole Guy went on to say that he smoked something new recently. He didn’t know what it was, but it went right through his body. It’s also not good for your brain, he said. He should know since he later explained that he smokes weed and crack.

Jacob laughed as Two Mole Guy began talking about Star Trek. Two Mole Guy likes Star Trek. He thinks it’s a great thing to watch on Sundays.

I admit to being a little disappointed when the two got up to leave. On his way out, Two Mole Guy waved to me. “Interesting conversation, eh?” he said.


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