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...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, September 30, 2006


It all started with Wish You Could Be Here, my first real, personalised travellogue for Sundries readers.

It was my way of showing you South Florida as if you were by my side:

Just you and me, in our red Alpha Romeo convertible, looking at the palm-happy vistas, as I whispered this or that tidbit about the sights.

And, oh how we did laugh!

But it's been a while since my last travellogue, in fact, since the Castro Death Watch outside Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, not to mention perhaps my favourite cinemahouse travellogue, The Premier Way.

Instead of a full-blown travellogue, today I offer you a little look into one of my favourite local haunts.


Erm, I mean, Fourbucks as an internet pal of mine calls it.

'Cause, you know, you never leave without them having relieved you of at least four bucks. Duh.


Anything which caters to the masses, as Eastern seaboard elitist snobs would have it, is supposed to incur nose-crinkling distaste.

Starbucks WOULD normally fall into that category, but for the simple fact that without Starbucks, most Americans would still be thinking Maxwell House is the best cuppa joe they could have.

Ugh. Thank God I wasn't around back then. Well, not much.

This is the entrance to one of my local Starbucks.

I have so many, that it's hard to keep count because of their ubiquitousness. But this is definitely one of my favourites because in the town where people-watching is our birthright, one gets to fills one's boots here.

This photo captures the best of what Starbucks represents, not only for my area, with its palm trees giving you that lazy tropical feel, but for yours too.

The "characters" you see, are archetypes to be found at any Starbucks around the United States.

From the Beckham-haircutted, intellectual lesbian reading Gertie Stein to the left (I checked as I passed by), to the Gold's Gym rat checking out the latest issue of "Gods of Muscle" magazine.

A pair of young lovebirds to the back, and an older lady, sitting quite alone, completes this universal scene.

They are cleverly flanked by someone's spiffy white Beemer, which I don't know how they do this, but a brand-new BMW or Mercedes always seems to be parked in front of every Starbucks I have ever been to.

Maybe they're rented, like the '57 Chevies on Ocean Drive?

I wouldn't put it past the image-conscious Fourbucks.

Never mind, let's go inside!

When entering a Starbucks branch, you should heave your shoulders back, and stride briskly into the joint, as if you owned it.

Prada bag and Cazal sunglasses are optional, but take it from me, it's indispensable to that Rich Bitch image.

And before you ask, no that is not me sallying into Starbucks, doing exactly what I describe above.

But it COULD be me, if I suddenly lost all concept of good taste wearing that atrocious Vera Wang floral pantsuit.

And neither am I located in the group of lounging South American lizardesses, to the far right. How do I know they're South American?

Well, not only are they cultivating that on-holiday, crossed legs pose of pampered ennui, but who else would be wearing tip-to-toe denim in 90F heat?

Anyway, I could hear their Argentinian accent a mile away.

And like all good denizens of the Republic of Starbucks, they expect to be entertained for free.

Similar to highly taxed Swedes, we are damned if we're forking out one red cent more for extras like jazz, or in this case, the suicidal college music of an one-man band.

Check out the girl sitting to the left, hanging on his every note. Must've been the girlfriend. Or wants to be.

Ooh, but what's this? Does my little eye spy the New Zealand Peaberry blend, just arrived? I gotta gets me some of these!

All Starbucks have a strict no-disturb policy.

Basically, if you are in, no one is going to ask you to leave or even ask you to purchase anything to sit down. Sometimes for hours.

This is the major difference between them, and say, a Viennese café, where you can stay all day, BUT you at least have to get a Kaffe mit Schaum to cover your cheapskateness.

On the other hand, they don't provide you with reading material like newspapers, or even (at Demels in Vienna), embossed notepaper to write letters.

If you want to read, or write, you have to supply your own.

This is when you assume the "Starbucks pose", illustrated by this green-t-shirted man above.

This consists of:

(1) hunching over
(2) lowering your chin the better to ward off intruders
(3) fingering a tome of your choice, lost in your own world of Tolkien or Jackie Collins

Or, in my case...

...Bernard-Henri Lévy's "American Vertigo".

You know you're in trouble when fellow progressives pan your book, like Garrison Keillor's dictum on American Vertigo in the New York Times:

"Thanks, pal. I don't imagine France collapsing anytime soon either. Thanks for coming. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. For your next book, tell us about those riots in France, the cars burning in the suburbs of Paris. What was that all about? Were fat people involved?"

I let out a snort of hilarity so loud, the Argentinian women looked up momentarily in shock.

Evita wouldn't have snorted. She would've sniffed.

Hours and hours, I am at Starbucks, but I confess even I have to relinquish my beloved books for more stimulating company -- like the numbing amounts of entertainment to be had online in the internets.

Unfortunately, Starbucks is tethered at the T-Mobile teat, so if you want to have connectivity, you're going to have to shell out U$9.99 for an 24-hour pass, although your first time connecting is technically free.

(When I was signing up, I didn't click on "Free Day Pass", so I got charged the 10 bucks, darn it all)

To sustain oneself, there are espresso brownies, Pepperjack cheese and turkey sandwiches.

And note to cheapskates -- like me:

If you're in near closing time, you could get freebies since they throw them away before closing. Same goes for the New York Times -- you think I'd pay for a rag which features Garrison Keillor??

Lastly, of course, there is the reason why Starbucks exists; their overburnt, overpriced coffee, shown here atop my laptop.

That's right, because I just don't care if my keyboard gets fried with spilt Mocha Frap Venti.

Yes, Fourbucks is not cheap, in either its comestibles or its wi-fi, but it does have one thing going for it.

It's not Panera. Ick.

I'm such an Eastern seaboard elitist snob.


  • Living in a college town, coffee snobbery knows no bounds! At the peak of the coffeehouse boom, Ann Arbor had no fewer than 26 coffeehouses, and my own personal clique of boors decided that we could only go to the most recent one! All of this madness occurred before the first Starbucks came here!

    Needless to say, the Gatsby era of coffee consumption crashed and burned, but we hardly live in a Dust Bowl of 'fine! I still have several favorites I go to... Maybe I shall do a parallel post!

    Thanks for the crema, Victoria!

    By Blogger Ron, at Sat Sep 30, 06:17:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Oh, I give you some linkage back, Vic!


    By Blogger Ron, at Sat Sep 30, 06:20:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Bernard-Henri Lévy

    Did I mention that I saw him at his wife's cabaret engagement here?

    Not that he knows me from Adam, for which I'm glad.

    By Blogger JSU, at Sat Sep 30, 08:18:00 pm GMT-4  

  • I'm beginning to think lots of folks call it Fourbucks.

    (For instance, check this post, also from this week: http://ivorytowerz.blogspot.com/2006/09/fourbucks.html)

    Thanks for the tour. It has been more than a year since I sampled any of the Fourbucks locations in Miami.

    By Anonymous Rockwell, at Sat Sep 30, 08:19:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Damnit who cares! Show us a picture of the Alpha!

    By Blogger half, at Sun Oct 01, 06:49:00 am GMT-4  

  • Yes, you are a snob, Vicks. S'okay, we getcha. ;)

    Me, I like Maxwell House. I used to buy from Gevalia and from CoffeeAM.com, but as my fortunes nosedived, my tastes had to calm down. So I returned to Maxwell House. I like it!

    I can enjoy a Mocha Latte as a treat, but I want MH in the morning! Gimme that heart-start!

    By Blogger benning, at Sun Oct 01, 08:56:00 pm GMT-4  

  • You ain't right, kid but I'd follow you anywhere!

    By Anonymous Paul, at Sun Oct 01, 09:58:00 pm GMT-4  

  • You're such a spiffy girl that I will give you a ride in a real car--an Alfa Romeo...Red, of course!

    Thanks for great writing-- as only you can manage!

    By Anonymous Darrell, at Sat Oct 14, 12:41:00 pm GMT-4  

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