Final Update: April 18, 2005 log continues here
Bill had scheduled his return flight for the god-awful hour of 6:16, so we set our alarms for 4:00. I had trouble sleeping and got up around 3:45, and we were out the door at 4:19. I needed to put in a few hours at work, so after dropping Bill off I went to the parking lot next to work and slept. That DoubleShot from Parkway East came in really handy when I finally got moving much later in the day.
The Son of Sam didn't get me, and I survived the night just fine. I had mercy on Bill and reset my alarm to 6:20, and then I called him. By the time he was ready it was 6:40 and started towards Virginia Beach. The coolest part of that stretch of US-13 was the Chesapeake Bridge-Tunnel. Actually there were two tunnels along the 18 miles of highway across the Bay. I can't remember their names, but the signs read "Channel Tunnel". I hadn't know there were any other tunnels across channels other than the English Channel.
I called Dawn to find out where we were meeting for breakfast, but she hadn't picked a place yet. So I went back to my financial log and found the name of Charlie's Cafe from last year and called Dawn with the address. We pushed the meeting back to 8:15, which gave me time to reshoot the store on Independence Blvd and then head to the new one in Little Neck.
I pulled in front of Charlie's Cafe, noticed that the parking space was a loading zone only, and pulled a u-turn. I didn't signal--no cars around--and a few seconds later the police car at the far end of the street rolled up close to us and stopped and just hovered. Bill and I got our stuff to head into the cafe, and the cop car just hovered. I tried not to look directly at them, but I was sure they were looking at us. Dawn came out to meet us, and Bill started filming as we greeted each other, and then the cops finally moved on. Goddamn cops! It was probably the camera that kept them from harassing me.
Breakfast was good, and we took our time, with a couple of diversions to talk to the cute Sleater-Kinney girl and the scrapple-eating guys. Bill then interviewed Dawn separately, and then after a stop to get online and figure out where the heck King's Dominion was (very imporant), we sped off northwestward. Lost a few minutes looking for the new Hampton store, but then we were soon speeding around 90-100 MPH towards the theme park. Besides the fact that the park spokesperson who had contacted me had a noon meeting, I also wanted to have enough time to get on a ride after visiting the Starbucks.
We arrived at the park to discover parking cost $8.00!!! Man, that's wack!!! I'm sure the ticket price they advertise doesn't include the parking fee. I quickly called Sarah and explained about parking, and suggested I just give the phone to the parking attendant. It worked, and we were soon in the park. There was a line at guest services where I needed to pick up my tickets, and during the wait there was some excitement with a chipmunk, only the second one I'd ever seen in my life.
Sarah couldn't meet us, but she sent a representative. Still, she wasn't able to move us to the head of the line. The line was long--the Starbucks was evidently popular--but it moved quickly, and I was soon on my way with my coffee. Because of the time, we picked the closest ride with the shortest line, the Berserker, a boat that swung back and forth. It didn't quite work the way it was supposed to, which was to swing all the way around, because someone wasn't strapped in correctly. That was fine with me--Bill got the footage we needed, and I didn't lose my lunch.
Next up was a race up I-95, as fast as I could, to meet Michelle who had a 3:00 PM deadline. On the way I debated whether or not to stop and visit the new Starbucks in Dale City. Optimistic as alway, I figured a 5-10 minute delay tops, but I still waffled back and forth because the interview with Michelle was more important. But further up the freeway traffic came to a near standstill, and I lost so much time I figured we'd have to reschedule with Michelle for the evening. So we stopped at the Starbucks--detour time--12 minutes (or was it 15?). We continued to make good time, and we actually made it to Michelle around 2:35, giving Bill enough time to talk to her for a while.
We got footage at the town house, and then picked up some food and headed to DC to get footage there. Visited one new store, then another in nearby Arlington, and then it was time to head up to the Senator Theater in Baltimore for the premiere of a Star Wars fan film. The film got an A for effort, but I was glad it was free, and short. Afterwards, we took the "scenic" route back through downtown Baltimore and some rough areas, and then back to the house for an early night.
Bill flew into BWI and called me around 1:40. I finished up at the gym, picked up a burger, and then headed over to the nearby airport to pick him up. I also called Liz from the Sun so she could meet us back at work. Bill got footage of my cups and of the one coworker that was willing to talk to him. Then we waited for Liz. When she arrived, it was like a mini media circus. Bill shot her asking me some follow-up questions. Then she asked him questions. Then he asked her questions. In the middle of all that, Joe and Pam popped in to see what was going on, and I explained that I had cleared it with Jan.
It was getting late, so I was already rushing as we left for Ocean City. However, I didn't want to pass up the opportunity of driving through Annapolis to try and reshoot a couple of stores there. Annapolis Harbour was a wasted detour, but thankfully of only 5-10 minutes. Dock Street, however, cost me about an hour getting to and from (and reshooting, and a pit stop), and then another hour's delay at the Bay Bridge. I really regretted the detour, because I knew w weren't going to reach Virginia Beach in time to meet Dawn that night, and I doubted that we would reach Ocean City in time for me to take a phot of the store with some good setting sunlight. As it turned out, we were only about 15 minutes late, and that almost pissed me off even more.
On the way I noticed that car was having real trouble accelerating quickly off the lights. I stopped to check the oil and found it low, so I bought some at a gas station and added half a quart. After driving some time, the problem seemed to go away, but later, in Ocean City, I noticed it again. I started to get worried that the car wouldn't last as long as I hoped.
Good new on the way, though, a call back from the guy with UCSB saying that my engagement to speak at the University was probably a go with travel expenses paid and also some additional money. Excellent! And very exciting, too!!
On the way out of town we stopped at the Olympia Diner.
The meatloaf was okay, but they didn't give me enough mashed potatoes, smothered all in gravy which I couldn't separate out, and the baked beans were really bad--I could only eat three spoonfuls before starting to feel sick. Bill enjoyed his meal though--yay for him!
Earlier that day I had received an invitation to visit a Starbucks at King's Dominion, and amusement park in Richmond. It was licensed, but since the invite came from the company spokesperson and included free tickets, and I'd be nearby, I figured it was an opportunity to get some good footage. So we set it up for 10:00 AM. This meant pushing Michelle back to 2:00 (the latest she could do it). Also, because of the Annapolis delay, we had to reschedule with Dawn for breakfast, which meant our Saturday morning schedule would be tight. Lots of juggling.
I asked the attendant what that parking lot across the street was. The Health Department, she said, and asked why. I explained I was with the guy that had just checked into a room and that I was sleeping in the car. She said that the room allowed two people, and that it was too cold, and too dangerous to sleep in the car. I went back to the room and saw only one bed, and not enough room on the floor really to set up my cushion, and I decided I'd be more comfortable in the car anyway. So I went a-hunting.
The problem with residential streets in these rural areas was that they were often narrow and not appropriate for parking, and the yards and driveways of the houses were so large that there was no need for the occupants' cars to park on the street. That meant my car would stick out like a sore thumb and arouse suspicion. So I kept looking, and I finally ended up in the parking lot of the office of some birding trail run by the Virginia Game and Wildlife Department. There were two lots, actually, and a pickup in each. I didn't see any signs prohibiting overnight parking. It was dark though. Real dark. I rather liked it, out in the dark, with the stars visible, the wind blowing, and occasional sounds of nature. But there was always that worry in the back of my mind that that would be the exact park that the Son of Sam was hiding out at.
I couldn't resist the curiosity, and I tried one of the new breakfast sandwiches during lunch. I had wanted to try one during breakfast, but I passed because the store ran out of orange juice. But I was back at lunchtime, and after sitting there a while I decided to go for it. I prefer biscuits to English muffins, but the Black Forest ham, egg, and cheddar sandwich was okay. I'll have to try the sandwiches a few more times to truly decide, however. In general, I haven't had a very good opinion of the food offerings at Starbucks.
Later, I came up with an idea for how to cut down on urban violence, a program to promote sharing of emotions through positive physical contact. The name--Hugz 4 Thugz.
In a moment of laziness, I neglected to change into my Starbucks shirt upon leaving the gym and heading to pick up some lunch and coffee, since I'd be going right back to work. A barista at Arundel Village noticed that I wasn't wearing it and commented. Crap. Now I'll have to have her memory of that even erased!
I made a rare visit to the Bowie Scrabble club, and on the way I did my usual of calling Olive Garden for some spaghetti. The person who answered the phone put me on hold while he retrieved the "to-go specialist". Since when does it require a specialist to take a to-go order???
After a disappointing second-place finish at the Bayside Scrabble tournament, I rushed to Manhattan for my massage and then grabbed a really bad roast beef sandwich from Stella's Deli at 43rd and 3rd. When I say "really bad", I mean really bad. Just how bad became evident in the morning.
I woke up feeling bloated, and with a sharp pressure in my gut. I'd experience similar sensations in the past, and in all cases a quick trip to the bathroom was required, though just how quickly varied from case to case. It was very early, and I doubted I would easily find an open restaurant in the area (all the Starbucks would be closed). Then I remembered the porta-potty I had spotted just up the street, in front of the Citibank building. I moved my car closer to the building and walked towards the unit, watching for other people as well as security inside Citibank. I walked all the way around it, looked around, and slid under the yellow tape. The door had a padlocked, but it wasn't locked. Once I was inside I felt better.
After a few minutes, I thought I heard a radio, like those used by cops or security. I immediately worried, that I had been spotted and that the police had been called. But I couldn't move, not until I had finished, and that took a looooong time. I was also worried that someone would come up and lock the padlock, trapping me in the unit. I wished I had thought to take my phone.
When I finished, I decided it would be a good idea to move. I had to wander around the financial district a bit until I finally found a spot, between a van and a car. I squeezed in, and what I notice but the silouhette of someone's head behind the rear windows of the van, covered by a screen. Ohio plates. a kindred spirit, someone else visiting Manhattan on the cheap!
I slept for another hour or two, and when I once again awoke to the pressure in my gut, it was more urgent. I didn't think I was going to make it, but I managed to hold it off until I reached the Starbucks at Layafette & Worth, which, praised be, was open! I quickly bought a juice and then rushed into the restroom, where I camped out for a goodly long time. I worried about what the barista would think, and I also worried about where I had left my car, in front of the store. But there was nothing I could do, not until I was finished.
I returned to Wall and Front to begin rephotographing stores, my project for the morning until I had to meet the filmmakers.
When I finished shooting that first store, I felt the urge again, and urgent enough to drive me back into the illicit porta-potty. I took my phone this time. As I sat there, I couldn't help but wonder what real homeless people do in situations like that, when no bathroom is accessible.
No matter how my stomach felt, I had to eat. I spotted a place on Whitehall, Cafe Whitehall, and the menu written on a blackboard on the sidewalk advertised a bagel sandwich, so I double-parked my car and rushed in to order, then back out to the street to watch for parking enforcement. A big blue suburban double-parked behind me and provided cover for a while. The bagel sandwich was only $2.10--that seemed really cheap to me, for New York City, and downtown even.
I shot stores until the last-possible moment and then headed up to Astor Place. But I wasn't able to take Park Row straight up to Astor Place like my map said, because the police had an area in between blocked off. The officer told me to take FDR up to Houston, but those were stupid directions--Pearl St took me up to Bowery and up to Astor Place. Despite my delay, I was right on time.
I was lucky to find parking just a block down from the Cooper Union store on St. Mark's. Just when I passed Cooper Union and walked towards Astor Place Marc called--he had been at the wrong store, but that was fine--he spotted my backpack and we made contact. I spent the next five hours with Marc and Nick, the microphone man. They filmed my photographing the Astor Place store and then walking around the block, at the same time answering questions about my project, coffee, and Starbucks. What I found most interesting though was the last segment, driving down Broadway and pointing out all the Starbucks, more than 20, though one fewer than I had expected, because the one in Spanish Harlem at 138th was no longer there. No matter--there were enough for them to get plenty of footage. So much that when we passed Astor Place, Marc suggested that we just head back there and wrap it up. That was great for me, because I was famished. I dropped them off nearby, signed a release form, and then headed to my usual Chinese/Latin American restaurant on 14th, La Nueva Rampa.
The previous day, during the Scrabble tournament, when I rushed outside to move my car, I had heard a couple minutes of This American Life talking about some skit in a Starbucks. On the drive back to Maryland I finally got to hear the entire segment, which was a piece put together by Improve Everywhere. Those guys are cool!!!
I finally had occasion to visit the Chantilly Crossing store. I was still tired and had a slight headache still, so I stealthed the store to avoid having to answer questions. After I took the photo and sat in my car looking at it, and the and some Scrabble stuff on my laptop, I noticed the older man in shorts sitting on the patio himself taking photos of something. I was thinking about the coincidence of it when one of the partners came outside and looked around, holding her hand to her eyes to block out the late afternoon sun. I suspected she was looking for meI didn't want to have to answer questions, so I quickly went over to the Target. I passed a cop on the way, and wondered if the barista had called them. Later I realized the patrol car had read "Herndon Police"--I had been in Chantilly.
I spotted the old man riding his bicycle across the parking lot and caught up with him. I was curious if the barista had said anything about me. Since he was listening, I bent his ear and complained about how Starbucks shouldn't be telling partners to hassle people on public property about taking photographs, to threaten to sue when there is no legal basis.
I need to stop at the Target anyway because the last of my whole jeans had finally developed a hole in the crotch, big enough for my nuts to show through if I bent in an uncareful manner.
Later in Herndon, I stopped at the Starbucks to check my e-mail. When I returned to my car, I put my coffee from Chantilly on the roof and promptly forgot about it. I drove off, and it spilled on the ground. AARRGHH! I'd have to go back! And wearing a disguise, in case that barista was still looking for me.
It was no problem to switch my itinerary around to accomodate Maureen--I just visited the three new NYC Starbucks first. I was only recognized at the first, 31st and 6th. At the second, the shift supervisor was suspicious, so she went into the back to ask someone about the sample, and when she came back out it was okay. At the last, the first new store in the Bronx in a couple of years, the manager seemed amused, but it was a customer sitting across from the bar that really took interest. She asked plenty of questions, and she seemed intent on determining what my purpose was, even as I told her there was no purpose. When I mentioned the documentary, she insisted that was the purpose, and made a comparison to Super-Size Me. I replied that no, that wasn't the purpose, the documentary and all the publicity came later, and were never my purpose.
I wasn't sure how much time I'd have to get out to Easton on the way back to Philly after the 1:00 PM massage, but I caught a break and Maureen called me earlier to suggest doing it at her place in Brooklyn instead, and right away. So I got out of there earlier than I expected, but then I discovered I still had in my pocket the keys that Maureen had tossed me from her fourth floor window (presumabl because she didn't want to come downstairs). So I had to go back to give her the keys. This cost me just enough time that by the time I got out to Jersey I decided I couldn't go out to Allentown before meeting a group in Philly for a Scrabble party.
My Scrabble tournament was actually in Philadelphia, on Sunday, but I made plans to go to NYC first. I had grown frustrated with my inability to find a great massage in almost two months, and so I decided the drive up to NYC to see Maureen would be worth it, especially since she would be leaving New York at the end of April.
Heck considering how much time I'd wasted on mediocre or downright crappy massages, the drive from Philly to New York was nothing. Plus, I had Starbucks to visit in NYC and on the way, in PA and NJ. My original plan was to stop in West Chester, Easton, and Wayne before NYC. Then I remembered to check the Landmark website and learned The Fisher King was playing at midnight.
I had vivid memories of having seen the film when it was originally released, in Houston, on a weekend home from college (which was almost every weekend back then). My memory was so clear because I had gotten sick during the movie. Actually, I had probably started getting sick well before, but I thought I was just suffering from allergies, and I even had a box of tissues in the theater. Midfilm I realized it was a cold, not just allergies, and I don't think I enjoyed the movie as much as I would have otherwise.
Back then, I didn't even realize the film was directed by Terry Gilliam, but in the years since I've become a big fan of his movies. And The Fisher King was definitely worth seeing again, even if I stayed up later than I usually do when I'm sleeping in the car in NYC, because while I've always felt safe in Manhattan, I don't really want passersby on the sidewalk noticing me. But since it was the weekend, I just headed downtown to a space in front of a building I'd used before. There wouldn't be any activity in front on a weekend morning.
The evening's light drizzle turned to rain that continued on into the morning. This was great for me, because I was able to sleep until Maureen called at 9:00 to push our appointment back to 1:00 because she'd stayed out too late celebrating her roommate's birthday.
The hunt continued, at the Wheaton store, but the manager there had also not received enough for all his partners.
The hunt for the new shirt began, down in North Chevy Chase, but the manager there had not received enough even for her thirty partners. I got some tips though of where else I could try.
I went to the Burtonsville store to meet a reporter for the Baltimore Sun who wanted an interview. I spotted one of the partners wearing a new t-shirt, one promoting the new hot breakfast sandwiches that were about to be tested at select stores. Oooooh!!!