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:

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, I think I want to marry you.

What is the first issue you contemplate when waking up in the morning? For me, it is the number of minutes until I am reunited with my favorite beverage: the Starbucks venti latte. And until today I was content living the venti lifestyle.

But then the unthinkable happened. I was skyped by my two exes, currently dating each other. They are in the midst of a long distance relationship, and as most serial daters can attest to, distance creates inevitable tension and anxiety.

However, unlike most situations involving previous liaisons, one usually does not seek relationship advice from a former romantic interest. Unless you are me, in which case exceptions to the rule seem to be abound. As a result of my exceptional status, I am continuously consulted as A and J navigate the somewhat treacherous course of being oceans apart.

And while today is far from the first time the two have consulted me on matters of the heart, I was ill-prepared for their 6:30 AM melodrama. I therefore determined to do what any self-respecting caffeine addict would do– get a cup of coffee first.

As I frolicked down Central Ave towards my local Starbucks, I took comfort in knowing that everything would somehow become slightly more manageable once reunited with my homemade venti. Upon entering Starbucks, this was quickly confirmed as Portia, perhaps my favorite barista of all time, cried, “Have I got a surprise for you, Yaffa!”

Before I had even taken my magical Starbucks card out of my wallet, I was greeted by the trenta– 31 oz of caffeinated goodness. As a loyal frequenter of the fine establishment, I had merited a free experimental drink. And like any girl with two melodramatic gay boys to contend with, I happily accepted the trenta.

Hi, my name is Happiness.

Needless to say I was walking on sunshine. In fact, nearly six hours later I suspect I still am. I found myself singing Frank Sinatra’s 1946 mega-hit “The Coffee Song” the entire walk back to campus. Even the pigeons, my Audubon arch nemeses, seemed to be chirping along.

As the Gentile Giant later described it, it was as if I were a character in Peter Pan, and Portia, my barista, was screaming, “You can fly! You can fly!” And fly I just did. When finally engaging the two boys in question, I was on a high. Nothing, not even their reminder of my failed gaydar, could bring me down.

I advised them to strongly consider the long-term possibility of monogamy. If they were not 100% truly committed, then they needed to be honest with each other. Breaking up– though not ideal for two serial daters such as themselves– was better than mopping about in a never ending melancholic state.

And, I added, there were other cups of coffee in the grind. If A was not J’s ideal blend, it was time he experimented with another. There were plenty of coffees yet to be savored.

An American in a Parisian Starbucks

Have you ever met the person who is always the subject of a random security check? Without fail, upon entering an airport, hoards of security agents swarm around her as if she were the cheese in a New York-style cheese danish. Well, avid readers, I am the aforementioned cheese. And while I navigate my way through Heathrow’s finest terminal, JWu shares a tale of the American Dream within a Parisian context:

Bonjour à tous, this is JWu blogging from Paris. Yes, I have been known to frequent McDonalds in order to take advantage of cheap macaroons (c’mon, a box of 6 for €4.50!). But today, I decided to visit another iconic American institution, Starbucks, in order to write this entry.

They aren’t exactly on every corner, but I’ve already wandered past a dozen or so in the last two months. Also, the Starbucks coffeehouses in Paris don’t really differ from those in the States, aside from a menu written in French and [high] prices denominated in Euros.

Anyways, before this frapaccino induced high wears off, I thought I’d share an anecdote here. Earlier today, I experienced the most interesting class discussion involving twenty French students and one Chinese American (me). It was unnerving to listen to these students articulate the foundations of what it means to be American and debate the “American-ness” of affirmative action policies. They knew everything from the “melting pot” to the Tea Party movement; I can’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem without Google.

The professor even asked me, since I am technically the American ambassador for this class, what the American Dream means in contemporary society. I managed to eek out a couple quasi-sentences about how, from the standpoint of a first-generation American who grew up in a community of immigrants, the American Dream is the belief that hard work leads to economic gain and class mobility. This was first time I had ever articulated the aspirations and mindset at the core of my being …and it wasn’t even in English.

Though currently abroad, I am living the American Dream in terms of exploring new places and rejoicing in new accomplishments (i.e. speaking French coherently enough to order a meal, riding the Métro without falling on somebody, etc.). I’ll conclude with this quote of St. Augustine: “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

So whatever your dreams may be, set time aside to enjoy the freedoms of travel. And take comfort knowing that wherever you go, a friendly neighborhood Starbucks awaits you.

What Spike Lee and I have in common: We Wuz Robbed.

I’ll admit it. I listen to Rod Stewart more than I should. In fact, today, on route to Boston for work-related interviews, I was humming along to “Some Guys Have All the Luck.” And at the point at which Mr. Stewart sings, And it seems so unfair when there’s love everywhere, but there’s none for me, the unthinkable transpired: I was robbed.

My wristlet, containing my two most valuable cards– my debit and my Starbucks cards– was ripped from my arm. In true New York fashion, I began to run the rascal down, ready to introduce him to my little fist, but reason and paranoia soon gave way to rational thinking and I stopped midtracks. If he was armed, I was endangering my life. And I can’t die before I try the Starbucks trenta.

Feeling violated and more than a little annoyed that I would be unable to pick up a latte on my way back to the office, I began reflecting on the only other time I have ever been robbed. I was eight years old, and my mother and I had taken a spontaneous road trip to Washington DC. While in the Air and Space Museum, a bandit broke into our car and stole my CD collection, which included the greatest hits of Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, and Notorious B.I.G. (I’ve always had eclectic taste).

While my mother and I waited patiently for our car to be fixed, we glanced around at the neighborhood– homeless people, overflowing dumpsters, and impoverished faces abounded. As you may have guessed, the car repair shop was not located in Georgetown.

However, in those moments, I gained some perspective. Though I would not be singing along to “Big Poppa” on my departure from DC, I would have a home with a fully stocked refrigerator to return to. And, more importantly, my mother would continue to be a support system for me– regardless of how shaken by the experience she was herself.

In a similar manner, when I returned to campus today, I was greeted by a letter from my first grade penpal– Matthew– who lives in a downtown Boston project. He informed me he was a meat eater, who loves hot dogs and pepperoni pizza. He hoped someday I would leave my vegetarian ways behind me and join him in a carnivorous adventure.

And then he ended his letter by asking, “Do you have fish?” Without recounting my many failed attempts to keep a goldfish alive for more than 24 hours, I will summarize my response as follows, “No, I have something better– your friendship.” And as Matthew signed his card, “Your best friend and I send all my love to you,” I wrote, “With all the hugs and kisses in the universe, Yaffa.”

Matthew was my DC repair shop; he was what put into perspective my latte-less Thursday. And his picture is what will continue to hang above my thesis carrel until graduation.