Friday, January 22, 2010

Navigating by the Starbucks

(reprinted from the NorCal Voices Blog at
Yesterday, responding to my blog at Snicholsblog I received questions as to why Starbucks is my "second favorite corporation." I'm afraid the reasons are oftly banal: I love their coffee and their feel and I need them to navigate.

I first became aware of Starbucks back in 1984 when I worked in downtown Portland, Oregon. Starbucks, being a Seattle corporation opened a Portland store early on. It wasn't a giant chain, then, just a little one. It made really really really strong good coffee, unlike anything I had ever tasted. I was totally hooked. And it was okay to be out about my love.

Later, they were everywhere and it was "corporate coffee." They were putting little independent coffee shops (most of which, truth be told were Starbucks copycats, as the kind of strong coffee/espresso shop didn't really emerge until after SBs) out of business. And I was supposed to hate them, so I did. I boycotted them for a long time.

Then I discovered their lattes and started secretly patronizing them. I stayed true to my convictions by refusing to speak Starbucks. I'd say "medium" rather than "grande" and I wouldn't put my request in the right order so that they'd have to bring in a UN translator to turn "decaf medium latte with soy milk" into "Grande decaf soy latte for Sara."

And then I fell in love with the place again, this time I just really became enamored with the corporation. I like their logo. I like their decor. I like their snacks and foods and promotions and games and music. I like their causes. I just like it. And I started to make it my business to know where every Starbucks in town is and to navigate by them.

In Buffalo, New York where I used to live, they navigate by the bars. Say this is a nasal midwestern twang, "if you're coming from the Anchor bar, head straight up towards McNulty's, then hang a left at No Name's and you're there."

In New York City, in the 80's, it was sadly Gap jeans that helped me around. "It's up Broadway about 3 Gaps from here." Okay, no one ever said that, but they could have, there was a Gap every 5 blocks (providing little or no gap in the Gaps).

Me, in Sacramento, I navigate by the Starbucks. To get to stop one on the carpool, I head east towards the SB at 15th and Broadway, then north east towards the Alhambra and N, due north past the one in the Safeway at Alhambra and J. Then I head northeast up business 80 to the Marconi to pass the Starbucks at Fulton and Marconi, drop off my second load of kids nearby. Then its further east to Watt, south to pass by the near empty SB in the recession mall at Watt and El Camino--no lines in the morning rush hour but you have to make a left (why can't they place them all on the right side of the street? poor corporate planning!) If I head all the way to Fair Oaks, I pass a busy SB on the left (again!) at Watt and Fair Oaks. Way too hard to stop.

Now I have some difficulties navigating because its a large SB free zone (meaning at least 2 miles). Usually I turn right on Hurley, take it to Fulton, take a left, stay left as it becomes Munroe and head down to Sacramento Country Day to drop off my son.

Back to Starbucks civilization as I drive north on Munroe to Fair Oaks, head west towards the Pavillion starbucks, then southwest to the University and Howe Starbucks and down Howe to the freeway. On the freeway, I'm sure I pass countless SBs but somehow I stay focussed on getting home where I can get online and blog...about Starbucks.

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