Final update April 29, 2008.

April 25, 2008

Yoicks!!! I almost messed up big time, but I caught a break. I detoured about 30 miles to visited the Groton (CT) and North Kingtown (RI) stores on the way to the BAT. When I reached Groton, I discovered that I had left my camera battery back at the office!!! Fortunately, I was saved by the fact that I had moved out of my room on the 11th and been living out of my car. I still had the Sony camera I'd found in Portland and never gotten around to selling. By coincidence, I had posted about selling it and had a buyer at BAT. When I reached BAT, I had to tell him I needed to keep the camera so I could photograph a new store near Hartford on the way back, as well as the new Beverly store in MA.

April 19, 2008

I'm approaching breaking my record, at least in the recent past, for hanging out at a Starbucks. Callowhill St. in Philadelphia. Scrabble tournament nearby on Sunday, but nothing to do on Saturday but study and work on my web site and blogs. Around 3:15 a strange woman, maybe 20s, maybe 30s, arrived carrying a laptop in a brown trash bag and asking, in very quick and hard to understand speech, if there was access to the Feather network (wi-fi). I let her have my seat so she could plug in, and I noticed the distinct and pungent odor of a homeless person. Thing was, I was homeless myself. I had to move out of my room on the 11th, but my contract was not yet over. Fortunately, I had a gym and shower access at work. I wondered what the lady's story was.

March 5, 2008

Whew, that was a close call. A necessary flight to Texas to renew my driver license would afford me the opportunity to visit some new stores in Houston, DFW, and Austin. So it's a very good thing that I remembered my camera while I was still on the shuttle bus and before I had reached the terminal and arrived at my gate. I left for the airport early enough that I might have been able to take the shuttle back to the parking lot and return to the gate in time, but I'm glad I did not have to try.

March 2, 2008

Ah, nuts. First store of the morning, Nashua, and neither of the two young baristas were shift supervisor. Instead, an older lady wearing waaaay too much make up. Rarely ever get a good reception from those types, so I just bought my coffee and skeedadled.

Oops. The temperature hadn't been bad in Hyde Park, NY, the sun had warmed up the air up enought hat I had been running around with no undershirt or coat. I was starting to think in terms of spring, but as soon as I stepped outside the car in Manchester, NH, I was disabused of that notice. It was freaking cold, and the strong wind made it worse. Real spring couldn't come soon enough for me.

At the Rochester store I was answering some questions for the cute short black-haired barista, and an older man interjected "sounds like you need to get a life." I wasn't upset, just cognizant that he was coming from a different paradigm, probably one of being settled down and working most of the year instead of traveling as much as possible. I told him a few things, ending with "work is for suckers."

Before I even left for Bangor I started to worry that I might not reach those final two stores in Connecticut in time. With 200 miles to drive north and another south, I tried to make up as much time as possible, but I still did not manage to reach Seabrook until nearly 5:30. I definitely should not have waited 5+ minutes for the mediocre spaghheti, though I was amused by the strange little Italian man at the Seabrook House of Pizza. I could not tell if his English was really that poor and his accent that strong, or if he was talking that way for effect. Either way, he seemed to enjoyed giving me a hard time about my being in a hurry.

My hurry turned out moot, because by the time I got from the two Plymouth stores across US-44 to East Providence, and then proceeded to get lost on the way to the interstate, I had blown my timetable for reaching East Lyme and Guildford. I regretted not having hurried more across New England, because the following week at work was going to be short already. Waiting until morning to visit those last two CT stores would mean not reaching work 'til after noon. Still, I hoped not to have to revisit New England for a good long while, so I figured it would be more cost-effective to go ahead and wait it out until morning.

March 1, 2008

With the end of my contract in PA coming up soon, I took the opportunity of being in upstate NY again (Hyde Park) for Scrabble to head up to some new stores in New England. Didn't look like the trip would be possible the way the Weather Channel was reporting ice and snow, but the storm passed quickly and the roads were clear by Saturday morning.

A first at the Danbury Fair Mall. I was leaving the bathroom when I saw two teenage girls being led away in handcuffs by what appeared to be local police, with security guards following. No idea what they did.

Not sure if it was the coffee or something else, but as I drove towards Hartford my right led started spasming. It wasn't the same kind of pain I had felt a few weeks earlier after three days of hard running. This was something else. No idea what, and that is rather troubling.

February 10, 2008

Up around 7:30 and headed back towards Upper Arlington when I suddenly remembered that there were some Columbus stores I needed to reshoot. Some? When I pulled up my photos I realized I needed to reshoot a whole lot of them. I finally had the time, since it would not make sense to head any farther east than Columbus, and the trip back was only about 6 hours. Might as well take advantage of the opportunity, and the sun obliged me by coming out.

The sunlight might have warmed up the temperature, but it hardly felt warmer because of the strong winds. While the air temperature was not as cold as in Minneapolis, the effect of the wind was to make it seem colder as the air hit my hands and face.

The two stores downtown were the most difficult. I think the tall buildings intensify the winds, and my face felt like it was on fire when a full-strength gust hit me dead-on. I'm not fucking kidding. I can't remember the last time I felt so much pain. Maybe during my eye surgery. My hands are numb as I write this. The wind is shaking my car. The wind is so strong that it blew my coat so that its edge hit my eyelid hard enough to hurt pretty bad.

Not far down from the Starbucks in Lancaster I spotted the Roots Restaurant, advertising "home cooking". But when I walked in and asked for a menu the manager said, "we have no electric". Interesting choice of words, "electric" instead of "power" or "electricity". The Mexican restaurant was also out of power, and I found nothing appealing before I had to start heading back towards the interstate, so I gave in and went for Donato's Pizza. I had bypassed two or three other locations earlier in favor of something more local, but I had to eat something and was out of time to keep looking.

February 9, 2008

Doubly annoyed by the staff at Steelyard . First, when I called a month earlier for directions whomever I spoke to indicated the store was just west of downtown. Wrong. I called again as I was approaching and the barista indicated the store was in a completely different part of Cleveland. Not a problem, except her directions were not quite specific enough, and I did not realize the 176 exit off I-90 was also the I-71 exit. Only lost about 10 miles, and I wasn't cutting it that close for Scrabble, so that wasn't really a problem. But when I reached the store the barista poured Komodo before I could ask her for House blend. Then when I asked her for House she poured it into a separate cup instead of reusing the first cup, to be more environmental. I tried to get her to slow down, pour out the Komodo, and use that cup for double-cupping. She did, but she responded with irritation. That's extremely annoying, all these customer service people all over the place who react with irritation when a customer tries to make environmental choices.

Rushed off with my Scrabble winnings and started to look up the distance to Columbus when I remembered a new Canton store. All of a sudden time became an issue, because I hoped to reach the store before nightfall. Had I realized this I would have left the tournament in a greater hurry instead of sticking around to chat, and I would not have detoured to photograph that Rustic Restaurant place. Those delays, plus Streets & Trips failure to correctly plot the location of the store, made me arrive well after darkness had fallen.

Grumpwise, Ohio was proving rather pesky. The supervisor in Canton was grumpy as he handed over the sample, and at the first two Columus-area stores I visited the supervisors looked mean, so I just paid for coffee. Not sure why I was so skittish--I just didn't feel like being given a hard time I guess.

On the flip side, the barista at Bethel was really excited to meet me. Here's the thing, though--she was hellah gorgeous. Without having gathered statistics, I think there is a definite correlation between meanness and baristas who are not as attractive. Could it be that ugly chicks are always pissed off at life and take it out on others? Well, at the next store the supervisor was a bit homely, and... you got it--grumpy. I wonder if a study has been done to correlate homeliness and grumpiness.

Speaking of grumpy, I became grumpy in the parking lot outside Panera when I discovered two things--U.S. iTunes accounts cannot make purchases in the UK store; and a really cool British artist, Amy MacDonald, is only on sale in the UK store! I had to settle for listening to on YouTube. Illicit, yes, but I'd gladly pay for the song... if they'd let me buy it!!! Grrr...

Where you gonna go? Where you gonna sleep tonight? Always a salient question with me. I took a look at my map and decided to head from Upper Arlington towards High Street. When I saw the railroad tracks on the map I was overcome by a sudden urge to sleep near the tracks so I could hear the trains pass at night. Took a little bit of driving around, but I found a spot at 18th Ave. and Dora Dr. That's what's so cool about sleep in the car. If I get the urge to sleep next to the train tracks, I just get in the car and drive!

Once I shut off my car and speakers I could clearly hear the train. I'm sure many people who live next to train tracks find the trains annoying, but I found the sound rather soothing. As I did the wind and the light rain that started.

February 8

AARRGHH! I hate these stupid stores that don't answer the freakin' phone for weeks and weeks. And then I'll call and find it it opened almost a month ago and the freakin' manager or barista won't want to tell me. If I still had long hair I'd be pulling it. Hello, Starbucks, hellooooo--Howard Schultz says he wants to refocus on customer service. Well, not being so goddamn secretive is a good way to start!

So no I've got a dilemma. The manager of that store, Hwy 29 & LaVista Rd, was, if not quite rude, fairly annoying and frustrating, and when I finally visit I really don't want to talk to her. But I have no way to remind myself when I finally get to that store.

Interesting... I realized once I reached Ohio that even though I had detoured 70 miles to visit the Jamestown, NY, store, I had probably spent less money because I had avoided tolls on the remainder of the PA Turnpike and on the Ohio Turnpike.

January 29

Man, it's like pulling teeth, trying to get the baristas are some Canadian stores to try and remember, or to tell me, when the store opened. Their tones are very often suspicious. For the life of me I can't figure out what it is they are afraid of. How exactly does it hurt Starbucks that people know if a store opened on December 7th or December 14th? What possible advantage could that give to a competitor. A district manager in Houston actually implied that Starbucks kept that information secret for a reason, and she implied that the reason was obvious, but she would not say what the reason was.

January 12

Spent the morning photographing in Manhattan and waiting for a callback from that barista, with whom I had made plans for Saturday. I never heard from her. Well, at least she got the inevitable disappointment out of the way early before I had gotten my hopes up too much.

On the bright side, I had a chance to finally visit the Museum of Modern Art. Excellent.

Excellent, if pricey, French toast, from L'Express.

January 7

A dramatic new development!!! Howard Schultz is back in as CEO of Starbucks, and he promises to slow growth. This is to my advantage, but he also promises to close stores!!! This could be bad, because it might mean some stores might close until I get to them if I do not make frequent trips. This would conflict with my new strategy of waiting longer in between trips!

What I need is to receive info from Starbucks about which stores are closing, but of course that's not going to happen. I don't even think that one specific person would have access to that info. I suspect those decisions will be made a more regional levels.

January 6

A first, I met the first fan who had e-mailed me after seeing my movie (on On Demand, which was interesting in itself). And even better, she not only sent her photo in the e-mail, but she was even more attractive in person than in the photo.

Another first, my first encounter with a blue law in my adult memory. I had heard that blue laws were still in effect somewhere in the U.S., but I had not encountered them, so I was very surprised when a lady in the parking lot explained that was the reason TJ Maxx was closed. I was in Bergen County, NJ, and I had to drive south to a Pathmark to buy a cap and gloves. According to the map, the Pathmark is Bergen County, but I suppose the laws don't prevent grocery stores from being open.

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