Sunday, March 02, 2003
posted 8:03 AM
That's espresso with a tot of crystal meth, said to have been the bevvie of choice among the local equivalent of rickshaw boys in 'Nam-era Saigon. Now that would've made for a different sort of Third Place...
"Third Place" comes from THE THIRD PLACE, a book I'm too lazy to google for you this morning. It was published, I seem to recall, slightly pre-Starbuck's, and may even have provided inspiration.
In any case, as several people have now remarked, it's really not about the coffee. And it's evidently a generational issue, largely, as to how much Starbuck's sucks or doesn't. Those old enough to remember the world of North American coffee (or, God help us, UK coffee) prior to Starbuck's are inclined to forgive a great many faux-Murano lampshades.
Number me among them. Aside from making it possible to readily ingest really pretty damn good coffee just about anywhere, Starbuck's also deserves some credit for having inadvertently birthed a back-market of Anti-Starbuck's, everything from hole-in-wall-with-thrift-shop-sofa operations to the indie-coffee equivalents of The Tattered Cover. If Starbuck's wasn't there, these guys wouldn't be either. (And a lot of them don't make as good drinks as Starbuck's, if you get right down to it.)
Starbuck's culture note: On the east side of Vancouver, where fewer rich folks traditionally live, and freak flags are traditionally flown a bit higher, I know of two Starbuck's where the dress code for staff has either been abandoned entirely or so willfully subverted that the home office might be thought to wish it had been. I'm curious: Does this happen elsewhere? When did you last see a Starbuck's barista wearing neither black, khaki, nor green, and where? "Alternative" neighborhood? Could this actually be *policy*?
Saturday, March 01, 2003
posted 12:19 PM
CONTENTS OF MONSOON CARTRIDGE, 3.1.03
THE BEST OF ROKY ERICKSON
Chances are, I was actually listening to some of this stuff while I was writing NEUROMANCER. I'd bought various Roky output as 45's and EP's in '77, when they were being released, enigmatically, by French micro-labels that had their own idea of what constituted punk. Later, visiting Sterling in the heyday of cyperpunk Austin, such as it was, he played me more, and regaled me with tales of seeing the man himself in the local 7-11.
SAINT ETIENNE -- Finisterre
My friends Rodney and Shannon like this band. My friend Johan gave me this CD when I was in New York, and I listened to it in my hotel room, watching the blizzard.
JOHNNY CASH -- American IV: The Man Comes Around
Hard to grow up where I did, when I did, and not think of Johnny Cash as the voice of God. So far, with this one, I just keep listening to the cover of Trent Reznor's "Hurt", as stunning a recording as I've heard in quite a while.
KINO -- Noch (home-burned by my son)
Back in the USSR, when it still was. The late Victor Tsoi was something like a cross between Bob Marley and Bruce Lee, but that scarcely covers it. Astounding, if you can get it into it.
WALTER BECKER -- 11 Tracks of Whack
Hard to find '94 solo album. Brilliant.
NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS -- Nocturama
I love this guy, though I paid no attention whatever until MURDER BALLADS, and have never subsequently found much in the backlist to get as excited about. THE BOATMAN'S CALL is a masterpiece. Just getting into this one.
WHY CAYCE ISN'T ALLERGIC TO STARBUCK'S
I cheated. I cheated when she has the Tommy attack, because I gave her my own reasons for disliking Tommy product, when, on the basis of the rest of the book, her specific logo-phobias seem random.
Brian Eno defines culture as everything we do that we don't absolutely need to do. We don't really need to wear pants, say, when a kilt will do as well, or drink coffee, or have global chains in which to drink coffee...
But Starbuck's first "product", even before coffee, is the "Third Place" (not home, not work) it offers, in environments where a safe, reasonably conversation-friendly, multi-gender Third Place could previously not so easily be found. Then there's the coffee. Younger readers don't remember when most coffee in the US (not to mention the UK) was tragic swill. Pre-Starbuck's, really good coffee in the US was limited to New York, San Francisco, and ethnic or bohemian enclaves in other places, but generally was very thin on the ground.
And Starbuck's coffee is *strong*, relatively speaking. I had the experience, in December, of running on about a dozen Catalan latte-equivalents a day, for three days, and not really *getting there*, then breaking down and going into the only Starbuck's in Barcelona for a tall Coffee Of The Day. An hour later, I was kicking myself for not having bought a thermos.
There's at least one chain in London that has better coffee than Starbuck's, but I'm still deeply grateful, in London, for Starbuck's. You literally cannot imagine how poor most coffee was, in London, twenty years ago.
Cayce's reaction to Starbuck's is pretty much my own: a slightly ambivalent comfort, but comfort nonetheless.
Favorite London Starbuck's: Kensington High Street, morning rush hour; pay a little extra and you can go down a few stairs to a small back room, where you can sit and watch local civilians headed for work. (The ones who order the quintuple lattes are generally Glaswegian.)