Entry: The Coffee Conspiracy Saturday, June 23, 2007

According to their website, there are no less than ten Starbuck stores within a two mile radius of my house. Six in fact are within one mile and two are so close I could crabwalk there and arrive in less than ten minutes. Of the ten in my area, five of them have parking lots, four have drive-up windows; three are open until 11pm, and one is managed by a guy who looks an awful lot like that curly-haired kid from "That 70's Show." Clearly it is safe to aver that Chicago's 39th ward runs no imminent risk of becoming decaffeinated anytime soon.


I think you all know where this is going.


Don't get me wrong. As I've mentioned in at least one previous post, I am not anti-Starbucks. Ya' know, "free people, free markets" and all that schmutz. Nor do I think there's anything particularly wrong with the snob-effect endemic to the no-fat, half-caramel, blah, blah, blah, latte. Hell, if it helps someone feel a little better about themselves, why not? And I don't plan of regurgitating any of Lewis Black's now famous anti-Starbucks material. There's a place for that stuff: free magazines in designated-hip areas where people born in 1986 gather to go thrifting. Personally, I find it all a little boring at this stage. You want to go to an indepdendent cafe, fine. Just do it to hit on the lesbian that works there like me, not becuase of some sociological sense of duty imbued in you by editorial board at "In These Times."  


But I did want to comment on something. Wednesday evening at about 11:30, I stopped by the new Starbucks going up LITERALLY ACROSS THE STREET from me to check progress and asses how soon it would be until I began ignoring my lesbian barrista friend in favor of coffee burns and two-day old chocolate chip scones. Since it was a weeknight, I figured the usual phalanx of ooglers would have retired and I'd have leeway to peruse the half-spackled walls and exposed ductwork without having to make requisite chit-chat.


I think you all know where this is going.


No less than half a dozen people stood ritual-like around the front of the store assessing everything from its aesthetics to its chances of success. At first I decided to keep walking so as prove that I was beyond pretending to be a Chrysler-driving yuppie with vainglorious albeit not-entirely-inaccurate beliefs that holding a Starbucks cup elevated an undefined ingredient of urban self worth. This idea was, however, quickly punctuated when a man with a goatee and a Wilco t-shirt called out and asked me "if this wasn't the smallest Starbucks I'd ever seen?"


I replied that it wasn't, and guessed that the Starbucks they built into Great Wall of China may in fact be smaller. He felt it was have been bigger. Eventually, we just decided to agree to disagree. At this point it was close to midnight and I had be awake in five hours. Behind me cars braving the gulch between the Kennedy Expressway and Lake Shore Drive, drove slower and less determinately as if the cooling evening air had stripped them of direction. They had apparently been standing together for a while, my new companions, and their conversation moved so fluently I could hardly get my thoughts into it and when I did they sounded simple with air of the feigned cynicism most try candidly to ignore.


Standing at midnight in front of a half-completed Starbucks, is always a humbling experiencing. I shifted, silent, aching to leave yet compelled to stay. What does it say about our society that a group of seven seemingly normal, well-composed professionals were willing to gawk at commercial property until after midnight and dream openly of empty calories they'd consume a few weeks hence? What does it say about me that I was filled with an unspeakable desire to both impress and push off my nameless friends and neighbors? Conflicting ideas tumbled through my mind at breakneck speeds. I glanced at my accomplices trying measure them up but came away with little more than cursory sketches. I wondered how long I'd stay, lost and unraveling, a half a mile from home in the cool summer night.      


June 28, 2007   01:40 AM PDT
ohhh...there are things i could tell you about Starbucks. oh, so many, many things. *laughing maniacally*
June 23, 2007   08:15 PM PDT
I say stay with your current caffeine watering hole. Who knows, maybe one day soon you will wear the crown, carry the award and T-Shirt what proudly announces.., "I Turned A Lesbian Straight in 180 days" or something.

Isn't that the real prize most men yearn for? :-)

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