Category Archives: Starbucks

Sandy, baby, I’m in misery.

I have this complex, whereby I associate every word– particularly pronouns– with Billboard 100 songs. And Hurricane Sandy was no exception. A Grease devotee (I’ve seen the movie a whopping 27 times), I quickly broke into, Sandy can’t you see I’m in misery/We made a start now were apart/There’s nothing left for me. And then Sandy happened, and I no longer sought to romanticize the wet and windy beast in musical form.

Because while my friends and family were spared the worst of it, I still find myself displaced. One of the 750,000 downtown Manhattanites without power, I have been forced to relocate to the land of warm water, heat, and electricity– better known as the Upper West Side. And while it has been an ideal quasi-staycation, replete with home-cooked meals, Starbucks Skinny Peppermint Mochas, and multi-story Barnes and Nobles, I can’t help but feel a little lost.

For the first time in a long time, I am the needy one. I need hot showers and electrical outlets and the return of full subway access. I need the old New York, the pre-Sandy New York, which may never ever fully return. As Chris Christie said today, we will rebuild, but it will never be the same again. And in typical Yaffa fashion, I have trouble accepting that, embracing change, and letting go of the past.

But there is a silver lining: after 48 sans-caffeine, I have reunited with every open coffee establishment. My blood is pumping, and I am ready to take on the challenge of rebuilding. I am prepared to return to my apartment this weekend, empty the contents of my soggy freezer, and spend my next pay check buying bags worth of Whole Foods groceries. And rather than resorting to my signature kvetching, I am vowing to take this natural disaster in stride; to embrace the notion that there are fun filled adventures north of 14th Street; and to be the rough and tough New Yorker I aspire to be.

One latte at a time, anyway.

You’ve offended my sensibilities, and other tales of subway vengeance

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Monday morning rush hour riders do not like to engage in any verbal activity. However, they are willing to take any of the necessary physical steps to secure their coveted spots in overly crowded departing trains. I am no exception to the rule.

And I particularly do not like participating in conversation with an individual whose every word offends me. Case in point: This past Monday, while Aldie and I waited for the A train, a woman paused beside us and asked, rather innocently, when I was due. Now I know I’m not the world’s skinniest minnie, but seriously, do I look seven months pregnant?

Livid, I responded, “Any minute now.” Then the train arrived, and the conversation ceased entirely… until the next morning. While waiting for the very same A train, Aldie and I noticed the woman on the platform. Aldie determined to break his vow of silence in order to address her verbal misstep.

“Excuse, miss, but my babysitter isn’t pregnant. And she’s certainly not ready for the responsibilities that accompany motherhood. Do you know how expensive children are?” Then to illustrate that I, indeed, was without child, he unbuttoned my coat and highlighted my pseudo-flat stomach. “See, no baby. And no flab. My point is simple: You’ve offended my sensibilities, and hers. And you should apologize.”

The woman, rather shocked, responded, “My, you have a large vocabulary.” To which Aldie said, “And?” “And I am sorry for mistaking your babysitter for your pregnant mother.” I gave Aldie a look of approval, and he accepted her verbal articulation of remorse. Then I bought Aldie a croissant and told him that if he ever wanted to adopt a 20something obsessive compulsive coffee drinker, he should give me a call. Immediately. He smiled, and my ovaries whirled.

Wise beyond his years (and mine)

I knew the minute I met Alden that we would be best friends. I mean, what’s not to love about a blue-eyed, curly-haired blonde five year old boy with a heart of gold? And did I mention his wicked intelligence?

As a bit of an intellectual snob myself, I adore his defining characteristic: being wise beyond his years. Consequently, on our conversations uptown we often discuss subjects most twenty five year olds wouldn’t dare broach. For example, yesterday, while recounting my weekend of roommate birthday-related celebrations, Alden stopped and asked, “Have you ever considered in vitro fertilization?”

A bit shocked at his perfect pronunciation of a scientific term that I still struggle to say, I exclaimed, “Um, what?” Maintaining his usual calm, he explained that while I had celebrated my favorite financier’s birthday, he had celebrated his sperm donor’s birthday.

You see Alden is a textbook example of a petri dish baby. He doesn’t have a father and likely never will, but he grasps– at five– that storks don’t just drop children off at unsuspecting adults’ doors. There is a scientific mechanism driving the creation of babies, and he has an intimate insider understanding of this process.

He also is like a dog with a bone, and when I stared in complete silence, he repeated his question. “Yaffa, don’t feel bad if you never get married. My mommy didn’t, and she still had me. And you know what, that donor, he fathered another petri dish baby– a little girl– and she’s like a sister to me.”

“Well, Alden, she is technically your half sister; you share half the same DNA.”

“You mean deoxyribonucleic acid, don’t you?”

I responded that now he was just showing off, and well, he had already more than proven his intelligence. But I also knew he was searching for an answer, and so I told him that I would consider IVF if and when I found myself the proud owner of two furry filenes named Jack and Jill. However, in the interim I was still clinging onto the hope of finding a husband and doing it all natural.

It was at that moment that I realized I was discussing my non-existent sex life with a five year old boy, who though wise beyond his years, probably didn’t need to know about my future romantic liaisons. He apparently shared this sentiment and ended our conversation by stating, “Can we go to Starbucks now?” Seriously, best friend for life.

Give ’em the old razzle coffee-filled dazzle.

If, as Joss Whedon argues in Buffy the Musical, life is a show for which there is no time to rehearse, then I have just concluded my ever-so-brief intermission. Act Two, in which I assume the role of a tax-paying, rent-paying young New York something whoring myself to the coffee gods that be has just begun.

The opening number for this act: “Razzle Dazzle” from Bob Fosse’s Chicago. Each of us has a talent; for the Gentile Giant, it is the gift of laughter; for her mother, the gift of gab; and for me, well, it’s my ability to insert coffee or Jew into almost any possible sentence.

Fortunately, in a city like New York, these are two words that will take you quite far. And so it was with little hesitation that I introduced myself to my fellow legal aid. He was notably sporting a Starbucks grande cup, which he appeared to be clutching for dear life. Clearly he and I would have a lot in common.

I realize that I am a bit of special snowflake– the first thing I notice about anyone new I meet is their caffeinated beverage of choice. Eye color, hair color, body build be damned. When it comes to introductions, I always begin by referencing caffeine (or religion, if I notice an individual with similarly large olfactory proportions).

In this case, my fellow cohort was of the Hindu variety. Coffee would have to suffice. I mentioned to him my magical Starbucks card, the card which automatically reloads every time I near caffeine extinction. He nodded in approbation, and like a Disney princess, I swear I heard the birds beyond the window frame sing out in joy.

I was soon informed by a departing legal aid, though, that my happiness should not be limited to the response of one aspiring lawyer. Most of New York shared my similar proclivity towards caffeine, and if I waved that magical card around long enough, pretty soon I’d have 7 million new facebook friends.

And while I knew his words to be true, the only response I could muster was, “Why do you think I moved back to this city?” It was a New York moment, one of the many I’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks, when I start to envision my future here, when I begin to realize just how well I fit in with the landscape– abandoned Starbucks cups and all.

Caught in the midst of a 1990s love song.

For those of you who remember the hits of 1998, you will undoubtedly know and love the Monica and Brandy R&B collaboration for “The Boy Is Mine.” In the opening of the song, the two have a brief but memorable exchange:

You look kinda familiar 
Yeah, you do too 
But um, I just wanted to know 
Do you know somebody named…. 
You, you know his name 
Oh yeah, definitely, I know his name 

Now if Starbucks were an attractive young male, this song would categorize my Wellesley commuter rail experience. After an excruciating painful, but ultimately successful apartment hunt in New York, my roommate and I were headed back to the Bubble for one final week of college madness.

Tired, confused, and somewhat under caffeinated, we boarded a Boston-bound bus and then a Wellesley-bound train. While on said train, a blonde who looked vaguely familiar approached me and said, “You look kind of familiar.”

And in true 1990s pop culture fashion I responded, “Yea, you do too.” She smiled and then asked, “But um, I just wanted to know–.”

Before she could complete her sentence, I exclaimed, “if I go to Starbucks?” And with a simple nod, I launched into my ode to the Wellesley Square Starbucks. As a loyal supporter of the establishment since 2007 I had seen many baristas come and go, and said blonde was definitely one of the most recent baristas to go.

Having quit her post to move across the state, she was returning to say her final goodbye to the store that began her career in the coffee business. And she admitted that she was happy to serendipitously meet me because she could now bid her favorite grande skinny vanille latte ordering customer adieu.

I must confess that she her admission make me teary-eyed. I had been able to resist the sentimentality that normally accompanies impending undergraduate graduation until that point. But the sudden realization that I was going to be leaving the baristas who’ve made my neurotransmitters fire at lightning speed for the last four years was a bit more than I could take.

I know I will begin building the barista-coffee addict relationship anew once I settle in New York. And yet, I am also fully aware that the small town New England charm that made the Wellesley baristas so agreeable will not be present in the Starbucks Soho counterpart.

Annie– the blonde barista at the epicenter of my teary-eyed experience– reminded me, though, that even when I left New England, I would still carry a piece of it with me. Perhaps, she proffered, I would be a bit kinder than the average New Yorker; perhaps I would smile when I see someone familiar on the street; stop to listen to the music of the traffic in the city; and even linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty.

I interrupted her before she suggested I incorporate color into my wardrobe. I may have a love for everything nautical-themed, but I was not about to become a Lilly Pulitzer model. In the words of a D-list actor in a D-list film, “I have a rep to protect.” And as a true blooded New Yorker, my wardrobe would continue to remain black.

Living on a mermaid and a prayer.

Every little American girl has a favorite Disney film. For  me it was The Little Mermaid. At the time, I believed my affinity towards Ariel was based on a common enemy: the snake. She battled Ursala, a monster with a head of snakes, while I contended with a 4-inch garden snake in my front yard.

At the end of the film Ariel succeeded; Ursala failed; and the little mermaid that could became a part of the land-walking masses… all in the name of love. Now at age six I was unimpressed by this sacrifice. She exchanges a life of underworld exploration for a young man who promises a happily ever after ending.

However, how can it be happily ever after when Ariel must bid adieu to her friends and family beneath the ocean floor? There is no compromising in her romance; just one man dictating the terms of his commitment.

The question, then, becomes why I still adore this film despite its overt patriarchal tendencies. And today, on my way back from Starbucks, I suddenly realized: I have a major thing for mermaids. Of all the coffee establishments in all of New York, I had to choose the one represented by a mermaid.

There is something inexplicably magical about the mermaid– half human, half fish, she struggles to balance two extraordinarily different realities. On the brink of commencement, I have been reflecting upon my Wellesley college essay, and similar to a mermaid, I wrote about my daily dichotomy: my Orthodox Jewish ghetto juxtaposed with my secular intellectual bubble.

Yes, I identify with the mermaid– metaphorically speaking. My daily dose of caffeine reinforces this identification, and perhaps, in the many strolls back to campus I take, gives me time to reflect on the implications of this comparison.

Ariel, however, has to make a choice. She cannot balance both worlds forever, and as one Wellesley friend phrased it, “Eventually you’ll have to decide– to expose your elbows or to keep them concealed.” Before I  make that decision, though, I think I’ll invest in a mermaid-shaped dress for Senior Gala. That will certainly make a splash!

And in case you were wondering what my graduation cake is going to look like, feast your eyes on this:

They tried to kill us; they failed; let’s eat macaroons!

Mrs. Moses jokes aside, Passover has several redeeming qualities. For example, it provides a legitimate excuse for those of us deprived of our daily baked goods to over indulge in the finest Manischewitz macaroons New York has to offer.

And with the increase in global demand, the Manischewitz family has become increasingly more creative in their flavor selection. In place of the standard chocolate, coconut, or almond, we now have Rocky Road, Chocolate Nut Brownie, and my personal favorite– White Chocolate Raspberry.

Inevitably my overindulgence in the Manischewitz establishment is greeted by ominous glares from my grandmother who warns, “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips!” This is Jewish code for “If you have any prayer of finding a husband, you will back away from the macaroons immediately. And then perhaps go for a jog or two.”

My response, which I have provided since I was a seven year old caught red handed with her hand in the macaroon jar, has consistently been, “But this is the holiday of freedom! I am free to eat whatever Kosher for Passover baked goods I so desire.”

This, of course, raises the larger issue– what is freedom? And what freedom are we celebrating during Passover? My high school rabbis would argue that much of secular society is enslaved, and that only by leading an Orthodox lifestyle can we truly bask in the glory of freedom.

It seems like a contradiction: the people with the greatest numbers of restrictions are, in fact, the most liberated. However, in preparing for a seder I’ll never forget (and look forward to eagerly reporting on), I was given the task of bringing an item to which I am enslaved.

My first thought: my Starbucks card. I am a slave to the coffee gods that be. And through rain, sleet, or two foot Boston blizzard, I am willing to make the treacherous trek to Starbucks to be reunited with my favorite morning/afternoon/evening beverage.

There is no other individual, item, inanimate object for which I would risk compromising my health. And my justification for my dedication– I need Starbucks to survive, to carry out the daily tasks necessary in climbing my metaphorical mountains. Without Starbucks, I would be a C student without ambition, preparing to move back into my mom’s basement after graduation.

This, as Rabbi Francis, said to me in 10th grade is “complete and utter nonsense.” The mountain-climbing excuse is nothing but a pretext– a signal of a larger problem: my addiction to a costly (material) beverage.

And since Starbucks lattes are not Kosher for Passover, he added, I would have eight days to consider the depth of my addiction, or enslavement. After a week of “spiritual” detox, I would be relieved of my physical enslavement.

Well, for the last seven years I have engaged in the aforementioned detox, and within an hour of Passover concluding, I am in the corner of a dimly lit Starbucks devouring a venti latte.

My Starbucks freedom is merely temporary, but as I argued at fifteen, at least it’s legal. And it could always be worse; I could be a heroin addict like one of my favorite characters on “The Wire.”

I leave you with one last Jewish parody of what my mother refers to as “that ghetto music.” Yes, even Diddy can be Jewified: