As I sit here this morning sipping my cup of coffee, I remember one of the first times I went to a coffee shop in Greenwich Village.
It was the early 1980s, and I was at a coffee house on Bleecker Street. This was way before anyone ever heard of the overpriced Starbucks. It was a weekend afternoon in the summer, and the streets were filled with tourists. Inside, I sat, talking to a FFanzeen writer, though I can't remember after all this time if it was resident poet Carolyn "Tarantula" Bottum, or Lisle McKentey.
The room was L-shaped, and we sat in the axis, where the 90-degree sides met. From where I sat, I could easily see both wings of the room, though they could not see each other. Customers sat on the right side, the kitchen and staff were on the left.
In the far corner sat two couples at a table, obviously tourists, though from not too far away, guessing from their accents. The place was small, and the acoustics fine, so I could hear their conversation with the server.
The waitress came over and asked what they would like. One of the women says, "I'd like a cup-of-chino please."
Totally non-plussed, the waitress asked, "Would anyone else like a cup-of-chino?" The guy from the other couple said, "I would." The waitress then asked, totally free from sarcasm, "Anyone want an EX-spresso?" The other two went for it.
As the server left, the conversation between the couples continued. She went around the bend to where the couples could not see her, sat down, and laughed for about five minutes. Hysterically, though quietly. When she finally came back to the real world, she placed the order and went on with her day.
* * *
For a while there in the early 2000s, my pal from Boston, promoter/musician extraordinaire Joe Viglione, managed the career of '70s Bay Area musician Andy Pratt. Yeah, I know, I didn't know who he was either, but seems he had a big hit or two in New England. And Bernie Kugel knew who he was, so he definitely registered some kind of blip outside the Boston area. Just didn't reach me.
[Andy Pratt and Joe Viglione in the foreground; ffoto (c) Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen]
Anyhoo, it was 2004, and Andy played a show in New York, at a small place call the Triad. Thanks to Joe Vig, I was on the guest list, and got to meet up with another musician who I think is a totally cool guy, Jeff Mastroberti (his Jeffland CD series is quite interesting poetry/jazz/rock).
Anyway, this story so far is actually just exposition, and concerns what happened afterwards.
When the show was over, the four of us (Andy, Joe, Jeff and myself) headed over to the local Starbucks (not my choice, I may add). I'd never been in one of their chains before because I am totally offended by their prices. Four bucks for a cup of coffee? Naw, I don't need to fill that corporate greed.
And you can't go far without finding one in NYC. Where I used to work, you could literally walk in any direction and find one within a block. It was said best in the film "Best in Show," when Parker Posey's character explains how she met her husband when see was sitting at the window of a Starbucks and looked across the street and he was sitting in the window of another Starbucks.
So the four of us are sitting there post-show and the other three are eating and/or drinking, and I was nursing a bottle of water I brought with me. I wanted to capture the moment, as I do, and I took a picture of Andy, Joe and Jeff sitting at a table, and then sat down.
Next thing I know, I'm flanked by two employees, who tell me that I have to erase the picture from my card. I tell them I'm using film (which I was). They then inform me that I have to leave the premises. Seems it is against store policy to take photos inside a Starbucks. They tell me if I don't go, they will call the police and charge me with trespassing. I ask if they are joking, and sternly tell me they are obviously not. So I left.
So, I continue my seemly one-person boycott of the overpriced place, and meanwhile get the equivalent of a $4 coffee at either Dunkin' Donuts or Tim Horton's for $2, and they are, in the words of ex-coworker Carrie, "Just yummy."