Thursday, May 27, 2004

Molto Bueno

I'm kind of nervous. I've never told anyone this before. It's something that if I do tell it, people will know that I am, in fact, not cool. That I could give a shit about Mom and/or Pop. That despite my intellectual and moral commitments--often expressed, and loudly, in any number of social contexts--to the contrary, my interest in the maintenance of a real, authentic urban landscape--not to mention in staunching the proliferation of jobs that require the wearing of cheesy green aprons or the lexicological institutionalization of an irritating, pretentious, utterly arbitrary, and probably fictional "Italian" system of liquid measurement--is, at best, skin-deep. But I'm going to do it. I'm going to say it.

My name is Bobo and I drink Starbucks. Often and alot.

I won't bore you with the details of how it all started--except to mention that it's been going on for longer than I care to admit--and I will most certainly spare you the excuses--like how I got addicted to really strong coffee and could find no other locations near my workplace to purchase it that wouldn't involve trusting a deli cashier to understand that a "little, little bit" of milk doesn't mean a pint. I will only say that the subject has always been a curiously resillient, if minor, source of shame in my life.

We are all compromised consumers in one way or another, right? What's the big? Even the crunchiest, Birkenstock-wearing, armpit-hair braiding, deodorant-abhorring G.O.R.P.-eater has to settle for an evil corporation for some of their daily essentials. (I hear Tom's of Vermont has hideous, union-busting labor practices. Plus that shit cleans your teeth about as good as...well, shit.)

But see I am not only a Starbuck's consumer. At the Starbucks on the corner of 102nd and Broadway--you know, the one just down the street from the Starbucks on 101st--I have become a regular.

The barrista knows me by name. In fact, all three barristas know me by name. The cashiers, too. They know what I do for a living and what kind of music I like. And Beth, dear, sweet, ridiculously charming and engaging Beth, knew me well enough to tease me the day after John Kerry began sweeping the Democratic primaries. (I supported, at various times, all the other candidates).

When I enter the Starbucks in question every morning, I am invariably spotted as soon as I cross the threshold and my order--my very own "the usual"--is shouted out from register to bar before I've even reached the counter. They all know what I want. They know what I like.

A Venti Americano, one extra shot. The only variable, the only thing they need bother asking me is: "Iced or Hot?"

"Feels like an Iced day to me, Beth." (I actually said this, or something to that effect.)

"Sure thing. Hey, Bobo," she asks, leaning forward in a mock whisper. "Howabout an extra shot on the house?"

I begin to blush. "Beth, what are you doing to me?" We smile. What the hell. Yes. Definitely."

"Here you go, Bobo. You look kind of tired today."

"I haven't had my"--I raise the Venti cup she's just handed me--"yet." I take a big, demonstrative swig. And I smile.

Is there a bigger shithead alive?

The worst part is that Beth is cool. I like her. Hey, she's a Democrat and she manages to keep relatively cheery while serving and indulging assholes like me all day, the kind of jerks who are too rich and/or lazy to go elsewhere to buy their lunch and will settle for a crappy pre-made sandwich that costs like six bucks all because the cheese in it is called "Brie." But the limits on our interactions are apparent. Our repartee, though typically livelier than the odious sample I've just selected, is somewhat forced. Because every time we talk, we are talking in a Starbucks, and every time she does me a truly nifty favor like giving me an extra shot for free she is performing that act in a Starbucks.

And though I will concede that this could be nothing more than the product of an overeducated, elitist imagination, I can't help resenting that this atmosphere has become such a regular part of my life. I do this almost every day. I go to Starbucks, get my coffee, chat for a moment, then walk to the office with my steaming double-stacked and recycled-paper besleeved cup, advertising the whole way there a central way in which I've managed to fall short of my adolescent ideals. I suppose the fact of where I'm going--to work--is another sign of the same.

The saddest and most stinging part of it all, the icing on the cake, the proof that I really have changed--oh, and so much for the worse--is that I kind of don't care. I care less every day. And if a Starbucks were to pop up in my until now chain-free neighborhood, I would most likely bitch for a few weeks and then, after a second's hand-wringing, go get myself a nice, hot--or iced!--Venti Americano.


Is there anything duller or more narcissistic than bothering to sit down and write out the things that bug or bother you; to list your peeves and your grievances; to, instead of shrugging off that vague insult or overstressed demand at work, the unforgivably depressing atmosphere in the place you get your coffee, the annoying thing your girlfriend or boyfriend did last night in bed; to actually bother to catalogue all of the slights and disappointments, all of the many new and delightful ways that life has discovered, despite all reasonable expectations, to keep getting suckier and suckier?

Sure there is! You can post them on the internet! You can pretend, even if just for a second, even if the only person you succeed in fooling is you, that others might actually enjoy hearing about it.

So that's what I'm embarking on here: It is my mission to create the dankest, dingiest, dourest, whiningest and whingeiest space currently on the Web. Brace yourself for heaping daily doses of adolescent self-pity, solipsistic smugness, and self-indulgent self-hatred! Topped, of course, with the trademark heavy-handed, tone-deaf, humorless bile you will no doubt come to expect from yours truly.

And if, by chance, someone actually manages to stumble across this meager little hut I call a home...that's fine, that's good...but don't come back! Repeat visitors will not be tolerated. I want an absolute minimum of "unique visitors," "page views", "hits" or whatever-else-the-fuck. Remember: I will settle for nothing less than abject failure.