Final Update November 21, 2004. Log continues here
In a classic case of bad timing, I discovered the listing for the Queens Center Mall store a few days after I had just visited Bayside, Queens, for a Scrabble tournament. So I had decided to put it off until the next Bayside tournament, in January. But on the way back from Stamford, CT, I accidentally got off I-95 and ended up on the Throg's Neck Bridge into Queens. The path to Manhattan took me right past the mall, and I couldn't resist pulling off for a visit even though it was the worst possible time, a weekend. The line wasn't so long, and I would have gotten my sample drip except that they had no water pressure and couldn't make it. So I got a sample latte instead, but I learned it didn't contain a full shot. I didn't want to explain how I needed a minimum of one shot (or four oz drip), so I just got a DoubleShot.
Photography at a busy mall is always a waiting game, but that night it was worst because there was a singing group performing on the ground floor. This resulted in shoppers stopping right in front of the kiosk to watch, and it took me forever to get a somewhat clear shot. Malls--I hate them!
I succumbed to the gravitational pull of a new Starbucks and ended up arriving late for my Scrabble tournament.
She's not looking at me. She's not looking at me. Yes, she smiled, but that was surely just an instinctive reaction on her part.
Well, it turns out she was looking at me, trying to figure out if I was the guy from the Post article. She said she thought it was real cool. And what I thought was really cool was that she turned out to be, not from UMD, but from a local high school! And cute as hell. Sweet!!!
I thought of another title for the documentary that like better--Coming Soon. And I have a perfect final shot for the movie, of me finishing up a large area like California, driving away, and passing a "Coming Soon" sign.
For the duration of our visit with Sue, I was convinced that she shared a name with the wife in the comic strip Foxtrot. I finally looked it up and learned the wife's name is "Andy". What is happening to my memory???
While at Sue's, Bill had suggested Starbucking as a possible title for the documentary. It didn't really do it for me, but I couldn't think of anything better. On Monday after work it occurred to me that a simple title like Everywhere might work better.
I woke up in the middle of the night to find a note outside the door of the den stating that Sue and her daughter Kelly wouldn't be coming with us to East Hampton. This gave us more time to sleep, but by the time Bill finally got up I was starting to worry about the schedule. He spent some more time filming Ron and his cool stuff, like real live Galapagos turtles, that we ran out of time for a sit down breakfast. That was okay, because instead we stopped to grab some bagels at U-Need-A-Bagel where they only hire the cutest teenage east Long Island girls. It says so on the sign.
As we headed towards East Hampton on the Sunrise Highway, state highway 27, I spotted a sign for Manorville and remembered I needed another photo so I quickly pulled off. But the service road didn't look familiar at all, and I didn't see the Mobil station, and then I realized that the Starbucks was off L.I.E., not the Sunrise. So I got back on the freeway and called Bill so he wouldn't be confused.
Further down I spotted what appeared to be a US Highway shield. With Bill following me I couldn't do a hard break onto the shoulder. I looked intently and I'm sure now that I spotted another one, but I had failed to call and warn Bill so I decided to leave the photo for the return, or another time.
Further down, I became slightly concerned when Bill started to weave onto the shoulder. I figured he was just looking for something, but still. Also, he spent a lot of time on the phone, despite the fact that it was illegal in NY.
East Hampton was over sixty miles from West Babylon, where Sue lives, but traffic was light and we made good time. We lost a lot of time at the store however as Bill tried to get as much footage as possible. We had agreed that he would play it by ear and avoid pissing off the staff, and I encouraged him to put the camera down as soon as we entered. We asked to speak to the shift supervisor, and while she was accomodating with coffee, she could not allow us to film inside. But she didn't mind us filming outside.
We were about to leave, but I had left my article in the store, and when I went in to retrieve it I also asked for water. While I waited, a girl asked me why I "loved" Starbucks so much, and I explained that it wasn't about a love of Starbucks but just an attempt to do something different. The girl spoke really slowly, and I wondered if she had some type of disability. Regardless, she was capable of holding a job, because she in fact worked at the Starbucks. Furthermore, she loved Starbucks so much that she named one of her dogs "Starbucks", another "Latte", and had plans to name more after all the drinks. I point out the picture of the dog to Bill, not realize he would try to get footage of the girl, and we were delayed further.
I couldn't resist stopping to reshoot Manorville, but where we really lost more time was at Hauppage. I had planned to just run in and out. But Bill came up behind me with the camera. He put it down right away, and that would have been the end of it, except that somebody had tipped the store off that I was coming. According to the shift supervisor, the district manager had been waiting for me around 7:00 or 8:00 AM. I was trying to figure out where she had gotten that info, because my plan had never been to get to Hauppage that early. The most logical conclusion was that Sue had told them, but it didn't make sense that she had said 7:00 AM. She knew we couldn't possibly arrive that early. So there was a mystery.
So I discussed this with the shift supervisor, as well as answering questions, talking about my web site, and obliging a request for a photograph from a partner. Incidentally the partner who wanted the photo was so concerned about violating work rules that she came all the way across the street where I was photographing, well away from Starbucks property. Needless to say, we were delayed much more than I had expected, and I had to call Frank yet again and push back our meeting.
As it turned out, even without the delays we wouldn't have reached the new store at 45th and Broadway to meet Frank by 12:30--heavy traffic on the L.I.E. and then killer traffic and closed roads in Manhattan make this impossible. By the time parked my car (14 blocks away) and reached Broadway and 45th it was 2:30. Fortunately, the new Starbucks was a couple of blocks from Time Square, and so Frank and his sister Julie had plenty to do.
Bill interviewed Frank, and Frank talking to me, and Frank giving me a gift, a guide to Seattle he found from 1983 that talked about Starbucks. I immediately thought Sue might get a kick of out it. Speaking of Sue, with some time to relax, I called her up to find out if she had tipped off Starbucks that I was coming. According to her, she told somebody who told somebody and so on, and so I concluded that it wasn't going to be an issue at the NYC stores--they hadn't been warned to be wary of cameras. Nevertheless, given the issues with Reverend Billy, and the general way things were in New York City, I warned Bill not to even try to film inside the NYC stores.
I was glad that Bill heeded my warnings. Earlier, as we sat in traffic on the L.I.E., I had been thinking about how I was going to balance Bill's desire to get as much footage as possible with my desire not to annoy Starbucks. There was going to be a lot of finessing involved, and I'm in general lacking in finesse.
While waiting for the bathroom at the first Starbucks something happened, or I thought of something, but I didn't write it down, and now I can't remember what it was!!!
Parking being what it is in NYC, when we reached yet another new Starbucks just nine blocks up Broadway at 54th Street I had to sprint 10 blocks to my car to put more coins in. When I returned I commented on how I really needed to Starbucks running again. I shouldn't be winded after just 10 blocks.
Secret bathroom stuff.
On the way to the final new Starbucks I stopped at the Juan Valdez Cafe on 57th Street, just to give the well-publicized new place a try (and to show minor solidary with my Colombian peeps). The coffee didn't impress me though. It's probably because that Starbucks is brewed so strong that most everything else tastes weak.
I learned that it was Bill's first time in New York City, and Frank and I commented about how it was fun to initiate an NYC "virgin". When Bill spotted a genuine New York pizzeria he became very excited and had to pop in for a slice.
It was getting close to 5:00 when I finished up at the new store on 84th St., and Bill was going to be cutting it close to make his flight. Julie lived nearby, so she took off. I fought my way down to 45th St, where Bill had parked in a garage, and then traffic came to a near standstill. 5:00 came and went, and we were hardly closer to Broadway, where the garage was. The original plan was for me to lead Bill to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. When I commented that he could reach the garage quicker on foot it occurred to Bill that Frank could lead the way, so the two hopped out and ran off. It was a good thing, because traffic was killer all the way down 45th to the West Side Highway.
Traffic seemed to be bad all over the city for some reason, and I didn't even want to try and find a Starbucks where I could park and sit to get online, so I just pulled over to the side when I found some random Wi-Fi single and took care of my business there. Before leaving, as usual, I picked up some takeout at La Nueva Rampa, the combo Chinese/Latin American restaurant and started the drive back.
I stopped for the night at my new usual rest area in Delaware, and once again I had trouble sleeping because my cave of warmth was penetrated by cold air down by my feet. I need to get a third blanket!
I woke up on some street in Brooklyn near the DUMBO store. I wondered for months about this "DUMBO" until I finally called and learned it stands for "Down Under Manhattan Bridge". And sure enough, it was under the bridge, and for that reason the route to the store was not direct and it took me a few extra minutes to find it. As a result I was a little late to meet Bill the filmmaker (as opposed to Bill the journalist) at the Jackson Hole in Bayside, a placed I'd picked for us to meet because it was recommended on CitySearch and close to the Scrabble tournament venue.
Bill offering to pick up breakfast, asking if that would violate some rule of my project. Heck no! Free food and coffee is one of the few tangible perks that have materialized since I began to gain recognition (or notoriety). The French toast was okay, but not as filling as I had first imagined--just a few hours later at the Scrabble tournament I was hungry again.
As the day and weekend progressed, I began to get a different perspective on documentaries, now that I was seeing one from the other side.
After the tournament I headed over to a nearby Starbucks to retrieve some phone number from my e-mail, for the simple reason that I still haven't gotten into the habit of writing these things down ahead of time!
We headed to eastern Long Island to meet Sue, a Starbucks collector extraordinaire! Her collection of Starbucks collectibles, cards, pins, mugs, shirts, bears, and more, is truly prodigious. Bill had a field day getting footage of the stuff and interviewing Sue and her husband and their dog Petey.
I called it an early night to catch up on sleep, but I could hear Bill and Sue talking well into the night.
My hair started to look fucked up again.
I received an e-mail from a girl who wanted to buy several of my photos for her mother as a Christmas present. I was excited that I might finally sell a photo to a regular person (not the media), and I e-mailed her with prices I thought were reasonable, but I never heard back. I guess she thought they were too high, but at least she could have e-mailed me back!
In anticipation of the first footage for the documentary, I got a quick haircut (always, for me).
AARRGHH!!! I finally finished downloading listings from the Starbucks store locator that were missing in my city searches, and there were almost 400 listings I was missing!!! Thankfully, most of those appear to be licensed stores, but I'm going to guess 50-100 true stores that I was unaware of. It will take me a while to go through them. I'm relieved to have found the listings, true, but pissed at the people who maintain the store locator for their buggy code.
I was awoken by rattling and voices, the arrival of a pair of Whole Foods employees with carts. I thought the one was talking about me, but when I got up the other was surprised and said he hadn't realized someone was sleeping there. They didn't say anything. I figured these guys probably understood the need to sleep in the car and weren't passing judgement like maybe a cashier just working her way through college and leading a more privileged lifestyle would. Nevertheless, it was time to go, so I picked up some breakfast at the market and went about my way.
When I crossed into Pennsylvania I discovered there is a rest area along I-83 after all.
The Crown gas station at the Shrewsbury exit off I-83 is an example of one of the few stations that still offer cash discounts.
Brindle Road in Harrisburg, where the second starbucks in the area is located, is a new road and thus not listed on my 2002 version of Microsoft Streets and Trips. As a result I had more trouble finding this Starbucks than any in recent memory. I called a total of three times and spoke to three different baristas before I finally found the shopping center. I think I need to upgrade to a newer version of Streets and Trips.
The PA Turnpike was smooth all the way to the Philly burbs, but no sooner had I reached Plymouth Meeting than I found reason to grumble when I heard that Dar Williams was playing that night... back in Harrisburg! Well, I debated turning right around, but I decided I'd catch up with her in Connecticut and just visited the Starbucks in the mall and set about preparing for my Scrabble Tournament.
YAY!!! Clap! Clap! Clap! I got paid!!!
Later, at work, I had an interesting moment when I walked behind the receptionists desk and thought I saw "Chain Reaction" on her computer screen. I turned around to peek, and, sure enough, she was reading the Washington Post Magazine article about me. She said she was told to look at my web site. Told? Hmmm... Anyway, it was odd to just randomly see someone reading about me like that.
Later, I debated whether to detour to Shrewsbury, PA, and the Harrisburg on the way to Philly to visit a couple of new stores, or to wait a few months and see if any other new stores opened up in Harrisburg. Later still, I just couldn't concentrate at work and decided to leave early. I could have made it to Shrewsbury before nightfall, but after two weeks of eating crap I needed a good meal. So I went to Rosita's Restaurant , a place I had found on the Baltimore Sun web site. The Salvadorean food wasn't exactly like Colombian fare. It was suitable, but I would keep looking.
I worked on my site at the nearest suitable Starbucks from central Baltimore, which was almost on the outer boundary of the city along York Road. Other than the two at shopping centers next to the harbor, central Baltimore is devoid of Starbucks. More than half of the area's stores are in the suburban communities. It's not as bad as Detroit, which has only three in the city limits, but another disappointing aspect of the city's Starbucks was that, even on a Friday night, they closed mighty early. The ones that closed later didn't have T-Mobile, so I had to call it a night at 9:30.
I had thought Shrewsbury was farther away, but it was actually only 30 miles from Baltimore, so I decided to stay in the city and drive up in the morning, in part because my map didn't show any rest areas along I-83. I decided to give Mount Washington Mill another try, thinking that maybe on a Friday night there would be cars in the parking lot to distract from anybody's noticing mine. I lucked out, because way in the back were parked two (non-yellow) Ryder trucks that provided ample cover.
Crap. It looks like Bush won the election. I had been hoping that a Kerry victory would lead to an improved economy and higher contract rates for me. Oh, and a better world. I guess that would be good too.
I guess somebody out there is reading my journals. I received an e-mail from a person who had read my musings about whether I would be recognized in DC. She had in fact recognized me at the Eastern Market store on Saturday morning, but she had been unsure of whether to say anything. I was disappointed, wishing that she had said something. Always the attention lover, I.
I probably shouldn't have spent the gas to drive out to Oxon Hill, not until I received my first paycheck, but I couldn't resist the pull of the new store. When I arrived, I grumbled that I had not heeded my instincts--it was drizzling, lousy weather for a photo, and to top it off the parking lot was full of high school students dressed in uniforms of some sort, ROTC perhaps, by the way they were practicing marching. Not only did this meant I'd have to shoot around them, but it also meant the store was crowded, and I didn't even try to get free coffee. Of course, as soon as I paid for my coffee the line disappeared.
After breakfast at a well-known hole-in-the-wall in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Jimmy T's , things got "exciting" when I headed up to the new store in Union Station. Despite my recent experience at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, it didn't occur to me until I actually saw the huge building that there would be heighted security like at other large transportation hubs. My biggest worry was about the DC Metro Police, which had gotten a lot of publicity in the recent past for handcuffing and arresting people for things like eating a french fry and talking loudly on the phone.
At least things went well with the manager of the store, who had seen me on CNN.com and seemed glad to meet me. Coincidentally, given the impending challenge, he suggested that I take photos of all the stores--he had not yet been to my web site. I sipped my sample coffee slowly as I walk around, up the stairs, down the stairs, surveilling possible photo angles and the positions of the police and security. I decided I would try asking permission, but first get a backup shot just in case. I managed to find a angle from above when all three Amtrak police were huddled at the booth and blocked from view by the Amtrak sign. But with the booth right across from the Starbucks, there was no way I'd get a straight on shot without being seen. So I asked about a photo and they directed me to the mall security which, as expected, wouldn't give me permission and insted said I would have to wait until Monday and contact LaSalle, the property management company. Just doing their job, I suppose. I left, debating whether I should just shoot and run, but I decided to see if I could get some informal permission with just an e-mail first.
Another interview, for a magazine out in California with a relatively small print run. This was an interesting one, though, because the publisher had convinced several local Starbucks to carry the magazine, something rather unusual.
Meanwhile, plans for the documentary were progressing, and the first weekened of filming was being scheduled for mid-November.
As I had been driving towards Maryland, I wondered if any DC residents would recognize me when I got down there, given that the Washington Post Magazine article had been published just a couple of months prior. Well, it might have happened on Tuesday, in front of a Starbucks in Chevy Chase. I was checking my e-mail while waiting for the deli next door to heat up a couple of slices of pizza for me. A girl in a red leather jacket was giving me this queer look. A friend arrived to meet her, and the girl continued to glance at me. Later, when I was returning from the Safeway where I was seeking a soda, I happened to pass the girl, and she said "Hi". I concluded that she either recognized me as the Starbucks guy, or had simply seen my photo and was trying to figure out where she knew me from.
Because I had waited around Philadelphia for my interview instead of leaving for Maryland right away the night before, I only made it as far as the Delaware service area. When I finally got up in the morning I didn't have time to visit the new Amyclae store (what a strange name) in Bel Air as I had hoped. It wasn't a big deal--I'd have plenty of time visit so long as I didn't get fired for doing stupid shit like arriving late on my first day.
After lunch there was a monumental occurrence. My development lead was going over some things with me in my cubicle when suddenly two of the coworkers I'd been introduced to earlier appeared with queer looks on their faces. One said, "Hey, are you that guy that goes around visiting all the Starbucks!?" Bingo!!! My level of recognition was increasing!
No sooner had my Starbucks trip ended than I visited a new store, in Philadelphia, while on the way to a Scrabble tournament!
After the tournament I waited around for an interview with The Overnightscape, a web radio show. It was the longest interview I'd done so far, and after some technical difficulties with the phone it got very interesting when the host's sister came on the line.