Friday, April 17, 2009

My Love-Hate Relationship with Starbucks

Iced Caramel Macchiato and foodie zines.

March 31.

Oh, Starbucks. Don't ask me why I keep coming back to your lair. In all honesty, it's not so much for the drinks (meh) or the cheesecake (decent, but not stellar either). Chalk it up to convenience. After all, you're the ideal place to read and get work done in some peace and quiet. Along with Panera, Barnes and Noble and other local coffee shops.

I would probably enjoy your coffee more if it actually kept me awake. Sadly, by Hour 3, I'm already in need of a pick-me-up. Guess the ice in the iced caramel macchiato diluted some of the espresso's strength.

Macchiato and cheesecake.


After doing some freelance writing course writing exercises and scanning the food and travel magazines for examples of good writing, my stomach told me it was feeding time. I went for an Americano, straight-up, and a thick slice of cheesecake ($2.50 with the purchase of an espresso beverage). I should have gone for a double (triple..) shot because although the Americano left me more perky than the macchiato, it still wasn't up to Espresso Royale/Diesel Cafe standards.

Yes, I'm a coffee-tea snob. I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll probably have high standards for my caffeine fixes as long as I walk this earth.

Artisan breakfast sandwich + latte pairing.

April 2.

Back again, this time in Manhattan on 53rd St. After a job interview, I walk two blocks down and sneak into Starbucks to use the bathroom. I end up staying for the breakfast sandwich and latte pairing. Not a bad deal, for $3.95. I heartily bite into the piping hot Artisan Ham, Egg & Cheese sandwich and try not to wince when my fingers dance the jig. Oh the wondrous powers of the microwave. Egg seems pre-made but it's a notch above McDonald's. An air vent blasts me from on high.

Birds and backpackers pass by. Lots of tourists on the street. Europeans, especially. The city seems subdued today, maybe because half of the people are off (Passover and Easter). I like the more quiet, slowed (can I call it that?) pace. It's like how Manhattan used to be, before the massive crowding (a long, long time ago).

Three little birdies sitting in a row on a street lamp blend into the city machinery. And then there were four...

Louis Armstrong's deep, throaty voice sings "It's a Wonderful World." I am transported to a 1940s speakeasy where the jazz band is gearing up to play, three soulful back-up singer sisters lined up before old-school microphones. Hairnets in place. Sheaths draped just so. Red lipstick a la Bille Holiday. All set.

A straight-haired raven twig in all black (go goths!) clicks her heels into Starbucks, shouting to her friend on the phone, "I'm staaaaaarving." Of course you are, honey. You're anorexic.

Birdies are now at five. No, six.

Fuchsia mink cape, light pink loser hat, black capri leggings and bubblegum pink luggage? WHY. Chloe would be appalled.

I still don't understand the Uggs.

Leap Frog.

On my way back to Queens, I accidentally took the C train instead of the E and ended up going all the way up to the 81st Street stop, which is where the Museum of Natural History is located. Swarms of strollers, small children and their parents flooded the platform. Along the way, I found a little frog...

April 9

No picture here, but on my afternoon stroll around the neighborhood, I stopped by (you guessed it) Starbucks. It was a balmy 60 degrees and the sun was just setting. Looking for something thirst-quenching, I scanned the overhead Starbucks menu and chose something new: Berry Chai Latte ($2.80).

From my journal entry:

I'm sipping on an overly sweet Berry Chai Iced Latte and hoping the ice will cut the bittersweet, syrupy flavor. Sugar rush, come quick.

Berry should not be combined with chai. But since I had to be adventurous, I went for it. The scruffy carrot-haired overalls-clad man behind me asked me how my drink tasted. All I can say is: It looks better than it tastes. Beware, there's a spicy kick in the back of this Berry Chai.

I keep running into people I know from high school. I'm not sure whether they remember me, so I try to avoid eye contact, as that can result in awkward confrontations. The jazzy acoustic guitar-laden background music is laced with soothing female vocals that sedate me like a tranquilizer.

A guy whose face is cloaked by his dark hoodie is buried in his two-inch thick book. He is huddled over in fetal position. I take it he is cold. And studying for finals. Now that I'm no longer an undergrad, I've become increasingly unaware of the academic calendar. The constant rattling of the blenders is distracting. Good thing I'm not studying.

An elderly couple hobbles into the store: The man is wearing a grey newsboy and slate slacks. The lady automatically gravitates to the menu board. Her huge menu dwarfs her tiny, petite frame. The old man walks out before the old lady. Clearly they are not together. A heavy, balding man with a stout belly, slick hair and wearing a navy blue suit sluggers in. He has that air of Italian-ness about him. I hope I am not stereotyping him.

Two Gossip Girls stride in with their Nicole Ricci shades, bags draped on their right arm and keys a jiggle-jigglin' in time with their identical steps. Their accents are so Long Island - I wonder how people develop such thick accents.

This Starbucks is definitely not as scenic as other ones, but I have a good seat from the center table. I notice that everyone who comes here jingles their keys. They all drove here by car. Oh, gas-guzzling, environmentally unsound vehicles. BAH!

I am kind of an eco-fiend elitist. In the house, I shut off unused lights and unplug unused fixtures. I insist on recycling my glass, plastics and Styrofoam. I prefer walking or biking any chance I can get.

Towards the bottom of the chai now - it would definitely be improved by removing the syrup. The music just changed to a fast-paced shoobie-do-be-do swing.

"Everybody start to swing," croons the female vocalist.

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