My mum usually doesn't like it when she and I appear to have anything substantial in common. This, I know, is something fairly common between family members, but I like to think I've somewhat avoided this complex in myself--for example, I love Gilmore Girls. In spite of the fact that this is my mum's favourite show, and I was introduced to it at my mum's house, thereby beneath her cloud and in the stink of her proverbial territorial urine. I believe little things like that free me from the phenomenon that Morrissey may best describe as "The more you ignore me, the closer I get,"
(speaking of territorial urine, I've been pretty amused lately by the neighbourhood cats' tendency to urinate on my mum's front door. My mum hates cats, y'see)
By the time I got to Robinsons May, though, the trail was already long cold. So I took up my copy of The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac and retired to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, this being a non-Starbucks next to one of the north entrances of Parkway Plaza.
Unlike Starbucks, the Coffee Bean has chocolate beverages that do not taste like cough medicine, but instead very identically like rich wonderful yummy chocolate. So I ordered the hot chocolate.
"You should try the hot vanilla," said the girl behind the register with an exceptionally friendly face, "It's my favourite,"
I mulled over it, "Uh . . . all right, sure,"
After a few minutes of sitting, waiting and reading, I was sipping a hot vanilla. I raised the cup in a little toast to the girl, and I felt it only polite to say, "You're right, this is good,"
"It's really good if you mix it with the hot chocolate,"
"Yeah . . . if you'd like to try it, I'll give you a free cup,"
"Um . . ." this was difficult for me. I had already taken one of the nice comfortable seats at Starbucks a few hours earlier, so that life might treat me to something special TWICE in a day sent my superstitious nerves buzzing. But, telling myself I was being silly, and unhealthily non-mercenary, I said, "Sure,"
"The milk would have just gone bad anyway," she explained as she went to it. In another few moments, I had another beverage. It was very good, and I told her so.
So I sat down with two beverages now and I tried to go back to my book.
I'd been reading Kerouac's The Subterraneans earlier in the day too, and I was just past halfway through it. Essentially an account of his romance with a girl named Mardou, I've already decided it's one of Jack's stronger works. But then, each of his books is a little sparkling diamond in its own way.
"It's all in the details," he says to Mardou at one point about writing. Amen to that, Kerouac.
After awhile, to my delight, one of the songs off Elvis Costello's latest album came on. I looked up from the book to lean back and dig the music, when another customer actually entered the store. I instinctively ducked my head back into my book.
The girl at the register asked the guy if Starbucks is kosher, and he replied that yes, it is. When she went to the back room, and he greeted me by name, it confirmed that the fellow was in fact a Starbucks employee.
"All right, Elvis Costello," he said, almost to himself as he waited for the girl to return.
"Yes!" I said with an enthusiasm that I think took him slightly aback, "I was just digging him!"
"I love Elvis Costello," he put forth.
"Me too! I used to have this album but I gave it away . . ."
Now the girl came back with another Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf employee, who had apparently been in the back room.
"Is Starbucks really kosher, or did you just say that to sound cool?" said the second girl.
"No, we're really kosher," said the guy. He proceeded to order--I didn't hear what--but they asked him if he wanted whipped cream on it.
"Yeah," he said, "I love your guys's whipped cream,"
"A lot of people say that," said the friendly faced girl, who was ringing him up, "That it's a lot better than the Starbucks,"
"It is," he said.
They asked him how the Starbucks whipped cream was made.
"I'm not supposed to tell you guys the recipes--I could actually get fired. So keep this on the downlow . . ."
He explained something about mixing vanilla with the whipped cream and suddenly I felt like a fly on the wall in a secret meeting between US and German leaders shortly before outbreak of World War II or something. It was kind of exciting.
And so it was that yesterday felt like a grand adventure to me.