Anyone who has lived in Europe as I have,especially in any one of the three “Latin” countries,France,Italy, or Spain has definitely spent time in bistros,cafes and bars. Sometimes it’s just a neighbourhood joint that you frequent. Other times it may be a new place where you meet with some friends. Coffee and possibly a side of Calva is an integral part of life in Paris. I can’t begin to count the number of cafes,bars etc. that I frequented during my 9 years in Paris and in a few small towns in Burgundy.
The one thing that impressed me was the quality of the coffee,espressos,and the crèmes. You could order what is called a Café Americain which in essence is a watered down version of the “normal” café coffee. The hundreds of cups I swallowed where served in hundreds of unpretentious bars and bistros. No fancy names. No “Baristas”. No Ventis. No Grandes. No Soy Mocha Lattes. No NoCal, LoCal anything. Just plain normal great coffee, usually of the 100% Arabica-Italian roast variety. Pretty well any and all of these “Mom and Pop” cafes were great places to meet friends,hang out alone to think and observe,or just grab a quick drink and run .
Then I returned to California where something called Starbuck’s and their mysterious green circled logos began popping up all over the pastel coloured face of Los Angeles like some out of control case of acute acne. What was this place with some strange woman as it’s figurehead? One morning arriving early for an appointment,I decided to kill time in some diner.I noticed the green circle across the street.My curiosity got the better of me. Like a cat ready to be killed, I ventured into this mysterious place in Beverly Hills. Two mistakes,right from the onset. So I wander in,I’m in need of coffee. Just a coffee. The laptop to human ratio is impressive here! Steve Jobs’ progeny was well represented in the trendoid décor. There were people in plushy club chairs in some corners. They looked like they had no intention of leaving for a long time. Were they homeless? Others,cradled their cell phones lovingly.They stared at their iPhones,Blackberries etc. waiting for the self validation and acknowledgement that would come the instant they heard the chime,bleep,blip or snippet of some Autotuned piece of shit called music! Don’t these people have pockets, messenger bags, or purses for chrisse-sakes?? Does the phrase,”get a life” mean anything here? Two people,a man and woman,sat face to face at a small table. Both heads down. They where transfixed and hypnotized by their Blackberries. Not a word uttered, not a stare shared between the two of them. The beginnings of a wonderful well deserved and deep relationship I’m sure. Does the phrase “human connection” mean anything to the two of you?? Minutes passed and then I realized that I might be a tad impolite staring at these humanoids Nah,,everyone was too “busy” to even notice what I’m sure was my astonished gape.. A woman nearby boldly approached a male and his MacBook Pro. He feigned surprise as she stood before his club chair. Surprised?? Bullshit!! I could almost hear him screaming “Somebody notice me,please . Someone , Anyone!!”. Well there she was! First words out of her mouth. “Is that the new MacBook Pro?”. Wow! A match made in heaven! A great and profound love story in the making!Lucky guy! Blessed woman! I silently wished both of them,their cell phones,their Blackberries,and especially their new Macs much happiness and enlightenment! I felt all warm and fuzzy bearing witness to this moving and momentous union. Imagine the memories they’ll share! Wow! E-Harmony-Lite, caffeine and technology all in one fell swoop. Doesn’t get any better than this! Shit! I forgot! I need a coffee! I approached one of those mysterious masters called “barista”, Another customer was ahead of me.My eyes wandered during the interim. Huddled in the corner, I noticed a familiar face. His head was down..
He was in the company of a woman who looked like someone of the agent or manager ilk. What astonished me,was that nobody noticed him! Preoccupation with texting,celling and laptopping will do that.No wonder there’s so many goddammed car accidents!
Anyways, I certainly did notice him! Man! Does Tom Cruise have a huge head or what, I thought? Seriously it’s enormous in relation to his body mass. I could tell even though he was sitting hunched over.
“Can I help you sir?” I turned to make eye contact with the perky counter girl. “Yeah sure,I’d like a black,medium sized coffee please”. Blank momentary stare. “No latte sir?”. Umm,no thank you. “No flavoured syrup?” Not really,thanks. “Sir,did you say venti or grande?” Umm, I said neither of those two, I said a medium. Is that a problem? “Ofcourse not sir. Would you like a breakfast blend,a Nigerian or a Seattle reserve cellars limited edition golden portfolio blend?” Ummmmmm, none of the above. Just give me the strongest,blackest coffee you have.From behind me I suddenly heard the entire room rise to an audible whisper.. As I turned, Tom Cruise,his enormous head and his agent were leaving the building.
“Here you go sir. Would you like a scone or sandwich?” No thank you. I paid my two dollars. The tip jar like some Cyclops contact lens stared at me. Okay,I get it. Your fabulous customer service warrants the additional dollar.
I rammed a crumpled dollar into the eye of the beast. A crystal tongue slurped across glass lips. Cyber love surrounded me as I headed for the door. The cool late morning air of Beverly Hills sent a slight chill through me. I needed a hot caffeine hit to warm me up.
WTF!! This tastes like shit!! Much ado about nothing!
I returned to the counter with my cup full of the false promise of coffee. “There’s something wrong with your coffee”, With wide eyed astonishment, the perky counter gidget responded “What seems to be the problem sir?” Well for starters it tastes a little weak and to be honest,it’s rather poor. Is it a new batch? “Yes sir,freshly brewed”. Yeah,if you like cat piss,I muttered under my breath. “Would you like another cup sir/?” I think so, I rattled back!. “Here you go sir”, she chirped.
Disappointment and frustration soaked my palate once again! “Is that better/”,she asked,bubbling with perkiness. Oh yeah,that’s just fabulous,I smiled back at her. I calmly walked past the surrounding cyber somnambulant towards the closest garbage receptacle. I poured the cup of letdown into the twisted mosaic of cups,uneaten leftovers,paper plates,napkins and condiments. I slid back out into the cool Gucci,Cartier tainted air. I reflected for a nano second on the truism that one man’s garbage is another man’s feast. Or something like that. I reflected on my years in Paris. My experiences with wine and coffee. I know that I’m not one of those snobs who speak of bouquets and finishes and all that other crap I never understood. I just know that for me,if a wine or coffee is delicious, that’s all that matters. This first Starbuck’s experience wasn’t even close to delicious. Not much better than typical diner coffee. This crap would be put to shame by any of those hundreds of unassuming cafes or bistros that served coffee in Paris, Without all the fucking syrups,venti,grande,barista bullshit thank you!
The arrogance of the owner of Starbuck’s is breathtaking,
I think Shultz is his name.He has the audacity to spread his caffeine mediocrity to Paris and Rome! I don’t begrudge his success. He’s the epitome of the American Entrepreneurial Spirit! It’s what the real America was once all about. So was the Pet Rock! Here’s a man who spent more money on his goddammed walk in closet than I make in four years!Do I want to support that lifestyle? Not me! Especially for this crap! I’m sure his venture in Paris and Rome will do alright . Café Americain might be a novelty in those cities. Poor taste permeates the entire planet
He’s already proven he can profit from the public’s poor taste. The overall bar of society has been lowered, I guess there’s room for more mediocrity!
American Idol, Starbuck’s, Bad Government, The Bailout of the Banksters! We are willing to accept second best,or even worse! We live in a room full of shit and don’t even notice it anymore!
WTF?? I’ll tell you WTF! Wake up and smell the coffee!
And BTW,The Emperor is NAKED!!…..peace? for 2010 and beyond
I just had an epiphany,maybe it’s The Muse,I don’t know. So I guess I’m fated to continue atleast ‘til the end of this little story.
I’m a true “dyed in the T-shirt” hippy way back when during the Yorkville days in Toronto. Living the life of music,free love,lots of stimulants,crash pads,communal living and all the other appendages of peace.love,tuning in,grooving,dropping out and just plain dropping anything that’s put in your hand or mouth or both.
I’m sharing a house with I don’t remember how many other hippies and their “old ladies”. Typical night. No gig,so stay home at the pad and wait for the drop ins that are sure to arrive during the evening.. The usual joint is passed around the table. Hendrix or the Doors or CSNY or anyone that played at Woodstock is screaming from the turntable.
The music is our constant backdrop. I go to my usual safe spot at the end of the table and withdraw as I do almost every night,unless I’m out playing at a club. I grab my ink pens,my pencils,my paper and start scetching. In those days it was all about Celtic designs,psychedelic imagery,dharma,karma and anything “trippy”. I would fly around my universe while the music carried me from one frame of consciousness to another. After time, I would snap out of my “trance”,realizing that I had an audience to the left,right and behind me. Sitting in silence,they would be transfixed on whatever image I created. Sometimes they would come out of me in minutes,sometimes hours. All the while I was aware of other presences but never dared to look up for fear of losing “the groove”. I only acknowledged them when the graphic trip was over.
This was a frequent activity in the pad or many other places I crashed during the hippy days. I usurped Hendrix,The Jefferson Starship,The Doors. They all became my back up band as I sketched away freestyle.
Many of the regulars at the many tables or corners I free form sketched at,would also follow me at my gigs. There were many clubs that I played in during those fertile years in Toronto.
All sounds great to me. What’s the point of the story? Nice as it is getting all nostalgic I do have a point don’t I?
Well I’m guessing that I’m writing about denial and then acceptance. See, as I warned you and myself in the first post, I will only write if The Muse is here. It is,and I can’t stop to ask questions. So, I’m not sure where this going. I just have to follow. I’m sure there will be clarification at the end. I hope so!
Denial and acceptance? Think about what’s just been thrown at you Kanarek. Don’t think to hard,or you’re gonna lose you know who,and then it just becomes bullshit. Okay. So something’s bothering me about those days and those tables and those clubs. Yeah, I think I get it. I was getting freaked out by being the source of entertainment. Like some trained animal ready to perform on demand! Is that’s what’s so bothersome? Yeah,that and the fact that I was feeling like freak. I wanted to be like everybody else. I already sttod out because of my height. Now I’ve got this “skething,playing” that sticks out like a huge wart! I’m not saying that I didn’t love the attention. It’s just that I wished someone else could have taken over the helm for a little breathing time. So I get it. I wore my talent like a huge coil of chains. Maybe someone elese could of dealt with it more intelligently or with more grace. I didn’t. I wanted to speak,act and be like everyone else/ I’m realizing that I still hadn’t accepted who I was back then. It was a great ride,but it would be years until I realized that I could have saved myself much agony if I was just a little brighter back then. Wow,the memory of me constantly dumbing myself down just hit me really hard. There’s a ton of gifted people out there who are,or are not dealing with who they are. I am not embarrassed,nor do I feel arrogant admitting to myself that I am talented. That was an important step for me. You wear it with grace and thankfulness. If you keep it to yourself that’s fine. It’s one way to protect yourself from close contact. As soon as you put it out there, you are performing. At that point you will be judged,admired,hated,misunderstood,abused,heralded,despised, idolized and all other emotions and acts that happen when put under close scrutiny by the audience. It happens in galleries,book signings,concerts,photo shoots,recitals and any other venue that an iron willed artist puts himself or herself in. So I wasted so many years not having the balls or nerve to admit I am talented! Multi-talented actually. There I said it! I felt different. I sunk into the miasma of compensating for my inability to accept who I was. Sometimes I’d counter by lack of self-confidence with obnoxious displays of over the top arrogance. Very bad! I’m not a psychologist,but I’m sure there was a whole lot of much deeper demons lurking behind a lot of cerebral real estate! I know most of them intimately now. I even have names for each of them. So,what am I learning on this trip that the Muse has been so kind to take me on? I swear, I probably won’t know til this particular stream is spent and I finally read it. I know that I tried to downplay my talents so that I didn’t stand out. That’s more than denial. It’s even worse. I’d call it self inflicted repression! As I got older,I seemed to get more of a handle on this possible psychosis. I always enjoyed the performing. The galleries,the concert stages,unrolling a design for a client. It’s all performance.I still felt awkward. The cliché is,I felt that I didn’t deserve the attention. Isn’t that interesting Kanarek? So,it was part repression and part denial. Denial of what? Talent? The fact that I was repressing the talent? Denial that I was an artist?So besides denial and acceptance,there is now repression? Complicated path. The Muse just left. Seriously. I’m stopping.