The pastry counter at Peet’s Coffee and Tea has almost as many shades of brown and beige as the Restoration Hardware in San Francisco’s design district. Golden brown croissants, molasses brown bran muffins, beige low fat cranberry lemon scones with white icing. And while a brown pastry may color coordinate well with a beige latte, there is more to life than beige and brown.
I have nothing against brown or beige. Brown is beautiful. But when it comes to the pleasure of eating, a beige diet is about as exciting as the industrial design of computers in the mid-1990s. You cram the beige thing into its spot and forget about it. That’s how some people fill their stomachs, and worse, their minds.
Starbucks, no longer a coffee company but a lifestyle company, has managed to put a plastic container of fruit on a shelf for the low, low price of $3.75. Considering that the fruit is mostly out of season honeydew melon picked by a predominantly hispanic workforce in the anti-immigration state of Arizona, the bits of green and yellow don’t seem like much of an offering.
A bland beige diet reigns king in America. It’s the ultra-hip low foam, extra vanilla, double shot grande crappuccino that costs $4. That’s where we are. Crappuccinos for $4.
Occasionally fate hands me a gift that raises life out of the flat angles of slate grey, imitation quality of faux antiquing, morning fog, and the beige of bulk produced pastries. I had a strawberry tart at Patisserie Philippe. It was a mound of glistening red. Not perfect, not the most amazing strawberries, but the real thing. In red. Red, red and more red. A color other than beige. This strawberry tart was free. It was a bit of unexpected generosity from the President of the Classy Handwriting User Club. It, and the conversation, elevated life–for a moment–above text messages, Facebook posts, and gmail accounts.
Some of life’s best rewards only cost about $2.
When I was a child, my parents gave me an allowance of $1 every two weeks. I invariably walked down to Mr. Benny’s at the corner of First Avenue and Larkey Lane in Walnut Creek and bought as much candy as I could stuff in my pockets. It made for a magical day–or two if I could patiently ration the root beer barrels and Pixy Stix.
Back in December, I paid $2 and magically downloaded–wirelessly through the air, that is–an app called Penultimate. Some people bitch that this kind of software (and it’s add on paper selection) should only be 99 cents. Or free. If you have found these words milling around in your head while you sip your beige latte and pound on the virtual keys of your iPhone, go ask your mom to increase your allowance to more than $2 every two weeks. My mom did. Years ago.
Penultimate for the iPad is anything but beige. Penultimate is the kind of magical brain candy that lets you take handwritten notes during a meeting, doodle a diagram of your latest idea, and then email them to everyone and anyone. If you are an architect, Penultimate is the must have digital Moleskine for forming your ideas on the iPad.
It’s worth far more than $2. But there it is. Only $1.99. Penultimate for the iPad is a mound of red strawberries that makes me ask, “Is there anymore?” after scraping the paper doily with my fork. Invariably, there is always more when I sit down with Penultimate. Not only because the functionality of the tools fade into the background while I’m using it, but also because I’m learning about shadow, light, and negative space when I draw with it. Suddenly, instead of the iPad merely being a glowing box where I am just the consumer, I am the creator. I become an observer of form and shape. I actually have an opportunity to express a little bit of that divine spark in all of us, that makes us creators, and that makes life anything but beige.
Drawn With Penultimate