It's appropriate that Carmen shares a name with the fiery, strong-willed title character of Bizet's immensely popular opera. Just buying a cup of coffee from her leaves you with the sense that she is every bit as dramatic as Bizet's heroine. Her manner, her style, her gait and her brilliant, piercing eyes give her an almost intimidating presence.
And she sings -- not operatically -- but Mary's has karaoke, and every now and then Carmen steps out from behind the bar and grabs the mic. Her vulgar rendition of the "12 Days of Christmas" (performed only in December) is a gem.
Carmen's one of those beverage slingers who welcomes regular customers by remembering their usual orders -- a rare and appreciated trait. Perhaps her childhood spent traveling the world, following her father, a hotel industry worker, put service in her blood.
When she's not tending to the drinking needs of two-legged East Atlantans, she tends to the housing needs of the four-legged ones. Tired of seeing homeless animals, she began taking them in and finding good homes for the ones she couldn't keep.
Carmen's household brood includes four dogs, seven cats and a ferret named Stinky. She admits to aggressive use of scented candles, incense and Febreze to keep her place clean smelling.
For years, Carmen has used her East ATL connections to raise money for animal rescue. Her next big to-do is a benefit concert at Echo Lounge on May 21.
Carmen is a founding member of a semi-secret sorority in East Atlanta called "Pussy In Tow," or P.I.T. for short. Their motto: "Drink as much Jägermeister as possible and lose your gag reflex."
At the age of 4, Carmen was taught to climb trees to get coconuts.