17 June 2010

Quad Latte, on ice, please…

The joys of caffeine, a wonderful and legal stimulant that allows your humble typist to be with you at this strange hour of 03:30 Mountain Daylight Time. I have an open window and can listen to the sound of the breeze through the pines. There are things to be said about living at altitude in the serenity of the mountains. But back to the matter at hand. Iced quad lattes. I remember when I was working (for the man!) back in good old Long Beach, California, in the latter part of the last century that along my way to work, there was a sign saying “Coming soon, Starbucks Coffee!” Holy teethgrinding, batman. I had to hurry to work (this was about 5:15am) to see if this place was indeed the one I remembered that was across from Pikes Market in Seattle. It was. Oh I will never forget that great Starbucks aroma and taste from those cold rainy afternoons in Seattle. How cool was it that a store was coming to Long Beach? Yehey! Soon my joy would turn, as usual, to a cynical pile of overrated coffee grounds…

There may have been a time in my life ~ well “times” maybe ~ where I could have been considered one type of snob or another. Beer snob? Never. I did like my Henry Weinhard’s, and I sometimes fancied a big blue can of brew, but I was mostly a drinker of Busch Light in a can with the occasional weekenders of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Hardly the swill of snobs. I am by no means a movie snob. I do love watching movies, but I’ll watch a zombie or vampire flick just as fast as I’d watch Driving Miss Daisy. I’m clearly not a fashion snob…I dress like the bum that I am, and even when someone tried to buy me new clothes so I would look better with her at my side, they still sit in the drawer with tags lovingly attached (it isn’t my fault she didn’t put the receipt in the bag too). And never ever was I a coffee snob. A can of “Chock Full o’Nuts” or “MJB” was as good as any. Coffee, then much as now, was a legal means to and end. Give me the rush. I’d rather had done a line or taken a couple of black beauties maybe, but hey, laws are laws. So here comes Starbucks to Long Beach and I’m telling you, I thought that shit was good.

Unfortunately, that shit was also expensive, and as it turns out, it really wasn’t that good. It was good compared to the Maxwell House stuff, and damn good compared to that brown water people at work liked to drink. What I will say for Starbucks was they opened my eyes to a world of coffee. Espresso was no longer just some little cup of something that Don Fanucci slurped gheyley in The Godfather, Part II shortly before DeNiro killed his ass. Oh no. This was a wonderful invention. Good taste and good speed effect. So I sampled coffee houses in my travels throughout the west, finding that my favorite drink was a nice cup of ice with 3 shots of espresso poured over the top. Wonderful stuff~! The little coffee houses were wonderful places…each town had their own, sometimes a sit down, sometimes just a little drive thru. Aww Americana with a Euro-flavor. What could be better?

You had to ask. Well you didn’t, I guess. I did. 2002ish. Another western states road trip and as I looked forward to more and more coffee houses, what did I find? Starbucks. Everywhere! Not so many little mom and pop coffee houses anymore. Nope. Starbucks had littered the countryside with their yuppie shit and overpriced yet mediocre beans. I woke up one morning in a Holiday Inn Express in a nameless city in Western Montana and what I saw finally registered. Out the window I could see a McDonalds, a Subway, a Starbucks, a Burger King, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, an Applebees, and a TGIFridays. I thought to myself, “What city am I in?” and sadly I realized it no longer mattered. Go into any city of a big enough size, and they were all the same.

I took the train once again from Chicago back to New Mexico. The cities and towns that connect the rails all have that same look. Smaller towns have a Wal-Mart on the outskirts, and that Wal-Mart brings in a Payless Shoes, a Subway, a McDonalds, and depending on the town size, a Chili’s or Applebees. A bigger town will have a KMart on the other side. Bigger still, you get a Target. They all have either a Home Depot or Lowes, a Bed Bath and Beyond or a Linens and Things. Petsmart or Petco. The beauty of small town Americana has been usurped by the megachains. The mom and pop diners, the greasy spoons, as it were, the little ice cream shops and burger stands, all gone by the wayside. Want a good burger? Red Robins makes a good one. They’re everywhere. Want a good Pizza? The Pizza Hut in Scottsbluff, Nebraska tastes just like the Pizza Hut down the road in Santa Fe. Sigh. Corporate America…killing the small business with tax incentives for chains to infiltrate Everytown USA, and yet, the propaganda wing of Corporate America tells us that small businesses are what makes America great. LOL.

So now, my friends, I watched Starbucks ingest my other favorite, Seattle’s Best, and now I will do everything I can to avoid Starbucks. I do like to leech their Wifi from my car while I am drinking an Iced Quad Latte from whatever mom and pop shop I can find.

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 4:00 am
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