For Susie Atkinson, July 8th had gotten off to an auspicious start. That morning, her Nike + told her she had run her fastest mile yet around Prospect Park, her Rogan jeans didn’t feel tight, and the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion was really working wonders on her complexion. In other words: all was in place for her big meeting. Atkinson, a 25-year-old Park Slope resident, had a meeting with a Neiman Marcus jewelry buyer who was interested in her line of jewelry, which is described on her website as “bracelets and lockets engraved with passages from such noted poets as W.H. Auden and K. Cobain featuring conflict-free raw diamonds and available in both 18-karat gold and platinum.”
Kitty Ingram, the jewelry buyer, had requested to meet with Atkinson in person. “With such young, edgy designers, we really like to get a feel for where they come from—the streets they walk on, the people who inspire them,” she said, while lighting a Merit menthol cigarette. But for Atkinson, her apartment was out of the question. “I don’t really have a living room and to get to the kitchen to sit down, Kitty’d have to walk through my roommate’s room and she has black sheets, so that’s out.” So Atkinson asked Ingram to meet her at her local coffee shop, Gorilla Coffee.
There was only one problem. The new album, Nude With Boots, by Seattle band The Melvins had come out that same day and Matt Irwin, a Gorilla employee, had downloaded it that morning via a particularly well seeded torrent found on Mininova. Atkinson walked into the 5th Avenue coffee shop just as a song called “Suicide in Progress” was playing. “It was loud and, like, really weird,” she says. “It would not do for 10 in the morning. It would definitely not do for Neiman Marcus.”
To be sure, coffee shops in Brooklyn and beyond have long been known for the lively and unpredictable music played—an idiosyncratic soundtrack that may run contrary to the time of day or personal tastes of many of its clientele. But Atkinson decided the day was too important to her and she needed to take measures into her own hands. “I wasn’t even thinking about it. I just walked over to the guy behind the counter with the plaid shirt and discs in his ears,” she says, referring to Irwin. “And I asked him if I could give him $20 to turn it off.”
“Yeah, I took it. I didn’t want to listen to Donna Martin harshing me out and whining about the music all morning,” says Irwin, comparing Atkinson to a virginal character played by Tori Spelling on the popular 1990s drama Beverly Hills, 90210. “She offered me another 20 bucks if I’d put on MGMT, but I was all, ‘No way, Lady, you can buy me, but you can’t buy my musical standards.’ So I put on Architecture in Helsinki and called it a day.”
In the end, everyone was victorious: Atkinson was pleased with the upbeat music, Ingram was pleased with the line, and Irwin was pleased when they both left, so he could resume listening to his favorite band.