Slowdown Cafe

Hightstown, New Jersey

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Running late for a sketchy bike deal in central New Jersey, having been led by crooked directions along 20 miles of surface streets to the ‘Highway 30 U-Haul’ storage facility, which, when google-mapped, is neither in the town named by the seller, Amadeus, nor in the town mentioned in the name of the storage facility, I glare across the median to my left as I speed past the entrance to the facility. Four miles down the road, I come to an intersection where I can make a left turn — a rarity in New Jersey — from the highway into a neighborhood where an illegal u turn is simpler to negotiate before flooring it along the previously covered miles.

Slowdown Cafe

Standing in a light drizzle outside the storage unit, I peer into the puzzle of steel and aluminum tubes with torn rubber tires and seats, hoping to discover a black Schwinn Impact with yellow decals; I converse with Amadeus a bit about police auctions and the Trexlertown flea market, mildly dreading the moment I must hand him $1.50 for a Diamondback Topanga mountain bike ‘won’ on eBay in the wee hours of a weekday morning. He makes a joke about his profit from the sale; I sheepishly offer him $3, as handing over six quarters for a 20″ mountain bike seems ridiculous to me. He says the extra payment is not necessary as he places it in his pocket.


I slow upon entering Hightstown, adamant on extracting more from this journey than four hours of frayed nerves and poor circulation from driving at high velocity through unfamiliar, congested landscapes. Seeking a holiday from the city, I imagine strolling down the sidewalks of a small township, taking a coffee in a straw-backed chair on a corner in the shadow of the town hall’s cupola whilst watching the townsfolk stride past their monument to the township’s citizens killed in lands across the seas in some war long ago.

Slowdown Cafe is run by the sort of cultural fascists who, even as independent cafe owners, would welcome Starbuck’s into their town if there was a way to profit from it; their motivation comes from the possibility of exploiting the late coffee furore for lucre and power, not from any love for the drink or its attached ceremonies. The employees wear uniforms, signs specify how long you can sit and who can use the restroom; they have a newsletter, and there is an expository notice over the patio explaining how ‘you can help’ the cafe be part of the community by not loitering.

The camera crew who has commandeered most of the space in order to direct a number of spotlights upon either the woman in the suit eating a grinder, the woman in a suit hunched over a laptop, or the woman in a suit spreading a binder of real estate listings, is unlikely to be a permanent fixture of the cafe, but their presence is nevertheless discomfiting. Before reaching the counter, I’ve already decided to forgo any attempt at leisurely repose and to instead take the coffee on the road.

I walk through the rain to the wagon, sipping the top inch of brew from the lidless paper cup; as I approach the bike in the back becomes more purple than it seemed in the photos posted online.


Upon arriving in Philadelphia, I open the trunk and lift the Diamondback by grabbing the seat post and the down tube; the frame flexes oddly in my hands. Bending down to inspect the frame, I discover that the seat post has cracked completely through the tube just above the joint with the bottom bracket spindle.

Standing on the road with a completely useless frame, I wonder how Amadeus felt whilst I was standing there making vacuous conversation? How nervous was he about the idea of me glancing down to see that the frame he was selling me was busted? Was he mulling the irony of my offers to inform him of venues and events where he find the trade more lucrative than ebay? Was he thinking, ‘Now this is rich,’ as I guiltily offered him twice the selling price — ostensibly, from his point of view, all the cash in my wallet? Was he laughing inside as I mused on the possibility of converting the bike to fixed gear? Did he feel like an asshole listening to me say, ‘I’ve wanted a Diamondback since I was a kid’, suggesting a higher degree of disappointment for me than he may have imagined previously? Had he reasoned it out that I would somehow be more upset to hear from him that he was planning to sell a broken bike than I would finding out on my own after driving 60 miles? Did he wonder what I would think upon seeing him speeding out of the parking lot less than 2 minutes after telling me that he was going to stay around the shed out and take photos of bikes?

After ignoring numerous emails, Amadeus pleaded ignorance to the condition of the frame. His claim that he doesn’t know anything about bikes and that he only ‘cleans them up’, seems suspect when weighed against his previous claim that the Topanga was his personal ride before he acquired a new one; one does not have to be expert in bike mechanics to realize that the bike you are riding has split in two. As a result of his failure to accept responsibility, I must wait until the final day of the 90-day limit for feedback and leave Amadeus a blisteringly negative comment.

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Slowdown Cafe

110 Mercer Street
Hightstown, New Jersey 08520

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