Saturday, October 14, 2006


I was sitting at Starbucks a few weeks ago, on a lunchbreak. Sitting there thinking and observing (as I often do) led to some writing (as often happens) about the comparison between corporate and private business. I'm not anti-corporation, I'm just against the exploitation, greed and harm most big businesses cause. Oh, and the lack of personality, character and uniqueness that should be part of a business...ok, I'm anti-corporation.

My Grandfather used to talk about the lack of uniqueness that was becoming prevalent back in the 70's. He said "If you stuck me in any city in the country, I could have told you which city it is by the different buildings and businesses. I couldn't do that today,they all look the same". He bemoaned the influx of sameness, brought on by big corporations and chains.

This man is an icon in my world. He left home at 15 to make it on his own. He's seen more countries than most, worked in Saudi Arabia, moved to Alaska as a young father to create a life on his own terms. He became wealthy, but always stayed humble, connected and modest. I don't doubt that his views have influenced many of my own.

So here's the discourse I wrote, while sitting at Starbucks enjoying my lunchbreak:


Starbucks; slick, clean, oh-so-symetrical and glossy. It's the vogue of coffeeshops. Graphic artist paradise.
Acoustic coffeehouse; busy, swirling activity, sounds clash, colors jump out, people don't match but they laugh oh-so-loudly. Artist paradise.

I like my mountain-high pile of gooey, salsified nachos and a dark beer to wash down the live music and conversation at Acoustic. We leave chalk messagess in the bathroom and chat with pirates and a beautiful man from Kenya.

I sit sipping on dark roast with cream and raw sugar, with a tidy cut of coffee cake today. Politically correct music plays over loudspeakers as people come and go. I write messages to myself and talk to no one, though a smile or two may pass among strangers. Strangers that look like students and professionals--I wonder where the pirates are on days like these. Pirates or dark-skinned men from Kenya or strong women that sing passionately and aren't afraid to cuss or admit how they really feel. A guy sitting out front with his guitar and dog is sounding really good right now.

But I'll politely sip my coffee, glance up occasionally to see strangers come and go and think about how sterile this world is becoming thanks to places like Starbucks, where I drink my afternoon coffee and dream of raw edginess and colorful people.
Verone blend anyone?


Danielle said...

Oooh, I love the sketch--it's pastels, right?

I always admire people who can do that kind of abstract sketching that looks so real--just squinty real.

While I totally agree with the whole problematic commercialization of the local niche scene, I have to admit to a certain comfort in finding a store in a totally foreign part of the country that's familiarly the same.

Ren said...

The artwork isn't mine..I swiped it from the AC website actually!:) I think it's pastels though.

I also like some familiarity when in a strange city. When you're traveling it's nice to know what to expect in a coffee cup.:) That's what keeps me supporting these places, occasionally. But I still moan about the loss of diversity we suffer for it.

Schuyler said...

Hey, Sandra has a couple of pictures from a McDonalds in New Mexico with green tile and Bueno Green Chile on offer. Also, on the radio last night there was mention of a Chicago McDonalds that has a regular Gospel night.

I guess even with clean sterility comes individuality.


Ren said...

I feel a bit hypocritical posting this anyway....I work for one of the largest corporations out there, Estee Lauder!!
Yep, MAC was bought out by the giant cosmetic corporation some years ago. So am I ignoring my values by earning a paycheck from them? I prefer to see it as a marriage of convenience.:)
They get a good worker and I get training and free products and the ability to connect with others in my field (oh, and there's that decent pay thing too).