Monday, August 23, 2010

Is That A Trenta, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?


The Mayans predicted this. They were thinking asteroid, melting of the polar ice caps, earthquake...something along those lines. But nope. The earth will just spin off it's axis because we're all buzzing too hard, or maybe the earth will just sink out of orbit under our combined weight.

Good to know Starbucks is doing its part to usher in 2012.

I'm with J on the revolting antics of the fast food industry these days. Fast food took quite a licking from Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation, and quickly adjusted their practices to provide "healthy" alternatives - salads, wraps, and the like. To counterbalance this, within the last few years they've also started marketing in the other direction: as if individual unhealthy foods are not enough, they now seem determined to take two or more foods that are unhealthy enough on their own and combine them for no good reason. What's better than cheesecake? What's better than a baked potato? A cheesecake baked potato!

Meanwhile, McDonald's has been striving to compete with Starbucks by offering thinly-veiled copies of their signature coffee beverages. Now Starbucks is trying desperately to keep up with McDonald's. That's a little bit tragic. Maybe Starbucks was never the Meryl Streep of coffee shops, but it was no Megan Fox, either. It was nice that they didn't advertise. It was nice that they offered basically only espresso-based drinks. It was nice that they didn't aim for the lowest common denominator. In my eyes, Starbucks was always about comfort - a place where you could drink a delicious coffee beverage and read, meet with friends, or just take a nice relaxing break.

Now, it might be best known as the place homeless people go to take a shit.

Let me preface this by putting it right out in the open: I am a shameless Starbucks junkie. Well, that's not entirely true - I do have some shame. When I go out to eat, I will almost always pick a one-off hole in the wall type place, or at least something you wouldn't find in your average suburban shopping mall. No Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden for me. And I eat fast food only in the event of an emergency, such as being very hungry, it being very late, and finding myself in a location that gives me few other options. I live in New York City, after all. If I want to eat something unhealthy, I can do much better than Burger King! This city is crawling with great burger places, some of them aspiring to be healthy, and many of them I believe use actual beef. How novel.

However, when it comes to coffee, I generally choose Starbucks. I love a cute local cafe as much as the next cute local cafe-loving guy, but considering my needs, Starbucks just works. You can find me sitting at a Starbucks for five or more hours at a time, writing my latest masterpiece (or this blog). I do this because if I write in a coffee shop, there are fewer distractions. Sure, there are kids running around screaming, wannabe actresses squawking about their newfound veganism, portly middle-aged men in suits barking into cell phones, pervy old men looking at pornography, and schizophrenics shouting about how doomsday is hidden inside the reduced fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake, but I find all of this strangely comforting. It's home to me, and it allows me to concentrate. Short of renting a short bus full of special needs children and buying them each a drum kit and a very young chimpanzee, there is simply no way to recreate this soothing Starbucks environment at home.

Now, keep in mind I am not one of those people who sit there for hours and don't buy anything. Au contraire! I spend a pretty penny. If I'm there for more than a couple hours, I usually get two beverages and often a snack as well. (I have a weird tic: I can't work unless I have a beverage on hand. Damn you, mermaid bitch!) It's safe to say I'm an aficionado (that's Spanish for "addict").

Yes, I love my coffee. If I could, I would be drinking coffee at all times, no joke. If I have just finished a coffee and you offer me more coffee, I will always say, "Yes, more coffee, please." I enjoy coffee-flavored treats such as ice cream and tiramisu; if they ever made a coffee burrito, I'd certainly give it the old college try. In fact, there are certain foods I would only try if I was told they were dusted with coffee.

Sometimes I leave one coffee shop only to meet someone at another coffee shop. Do I get tea this time? No. I get more coffee. I am drinking coffee right now. The great thing about coffee is you can drink all you want, and you won't get fat - all that'll happen is you'll get an ulcer and your heart will explode. Some people pour a bundle of sugar or cream/milk into their coffee, adding calories and diluting the inherent coffee goodness. Not me. I like my coffee like I like my men: bitter, dark, and not returning my text messages. Which only makes me crave it all the more.

But lest you worry about my health, rest assured: I also consume a lot of alcohol to counterbalance it, so by the end of the night I'm at a nice even keel.

On my average visit to Starbucks, I already consume more than a trenta's worth, so I'm not sure what this new size will mean for me personally. I'll admit, sometimes I go to Dunkin' Donuts specifically for their large iced coffee, which I usually take home in a wheelbarrow. (It's not as strong as Starbucks' iced coffee, though, catering more specifically to the milk-and-sugar demographic. When I tell them I want it black, they look at me as if I've asked them to top it off with wolf semen.) Two ventis is about right for me. Throwing a trenta into the mix is just confusing. Do I get a trenta and a tall? A trenta and a venti? Two trentas and a Valium? I don't know! I suck at math! Especially in Italian. I know there are people out there who will order a trenta, but does anybody really need one? And, more importantly, will we be able to lift the cup without pulling a muscle?

While I was initially excited about the idea of a trenta iced coffee - the same way I'd be excited about, say, a pet rottweiler trained to maul anyone who's prettier than me - I quickly came to my senses. It's a simple case of "be careful what you wish for." Because once you get what you wished for, the only thing left to wish for is more. And more, and more, and more. There's a reason we don't fulfill every one of our fleeting desires, and that's because after trenta, there's always quaranta, then cinquanta, then...centinaio? Pretty soon, Starbucks will eliminate the need for tables: we can just sit on our coffee cups, so long as they are placed near an electrical outlet. Is there where we, as a society, are headed? I mean, seriously, what's next? Free defibrillators if you upgrade to a coffee hot tub? Twelve rottweilers trained to maul anyone who's prettier than me? See, you have to draw the line somewhere.

I do feel as if Starbucks has taken its eye off the ball, and that saddens me. I used to be special; now I'm like a teen prostitute from the Ukraine who might like to leave her abusive pimp if she weren't dependent on him for heroin (or in my case, an iced venti americano - but same difference). They offer free wireless to everyone now, which means even more pervy old men can take up table space and outlets looking at internet porn. As if Starbucks weren't already packed before. And you know what, Starbucks? I don't really want to share you with the people who would otherwise be going to McDonald's. Sure, they buy each of their seventeen children a $6 Frappuccino, and are probably the main reason why you are still in business. But let McDonald's have them. You have me. Remember me? Your loyal Gold Card-carrying customer?

Think of all the thousands of hours we spent together, laughing or crying in front of my computer screen, making other customers wonder why the fuck I'm not on medication. You make my heart race faster. You give my leg the jitters. You provide multiple outlets for me to plug into, often for hours at a time, and you're fine with that. One day, you will probably be the death of me, and I'm perfectly fine with that. Because I'm not living without you. My love for you used to be venti. I didn't think I could possibly love you any more, but it turns out I can. Now I love you trenta.

But darling? You really need to do something about all those strays using the bathroom.

It's just not attractive.

Seven ounces better,


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