Updated December 14. Current base of operations: Princeton (working).

December 21, 2009

Mexico City trip.

December 19, 2009

On the way to the Allentown airport, in Flemington (NJ), I spotted something very interesting (to me, at least). I building that was clearly slated to be a Starbucks, but with no signs of construction or "coming soon" sign. I did not remember ever seeing a store listed as coming soon for Flemington, so (unless my memory is wrong), this store must have been abandonded well before it was scheduled to open. I went over to a hair salon and asked a lady working there, and she confirmed that the Starbucks was supposed to open but was abandoned about a year or more earlier.

Seeing the building gave me an interesting idea--wouldn't it be neat to identify all the "phantom" Almostbucks out there. I think I'll leave that to somebody else.

Coincidentally enough, the Allentown airport is very close to the Airport Center shopping center, where another Almostbucks sits. This one is still listed on the website (or was the last time I checked), but the manager of a nearby store said it probably wasn't going to open.

December 19, 2009

After exchanging e-mails with a bunch of people on Craig's List, I finally decided to stop at Best Buy and buy a lens for my D80. The previous weekend I'd discovered, after meeting a guy with a D50 body, that it was my lens that was damaged, not my D80 body. The cheapest lens, $200, was a 55-200mm, so I went with that. When I tested it, the lighting was fine on my photos, but I would soon discover a different problem. The focal length of 55mm was too long to photograph stores from the parking lot. I would have to get farther away that was convenient. Bah.

December 14, 2009

Why does Starbucks have to keep making dick moves???

December 10, 2009

Couldn't find reasonably priced tickets to anywhere in Asia, so I had to book for Mexico instead. Wouldn't be able to hit 10,000 during that trip in Mexico in 7 days, and that's all I had available because of Scrabble. I think it's better this way, though, because chances are many of the reporters I'd be contacting with my press release would be on vacation. Hitting 10,000 later in the year would increase my chances of coverage.

December 9, 2009

Ooh! More competition!

November 10, 2009

Is this my future?

November 25, 2009

My nightmare.

November 20, 2009

My latest Starbucks experience.

November 3, 2009

AARRGHH!!! They did it to me again. Waited some six weeks to drop the Hwy 249 & Antoine store from the website, which makes it next to impossible to find out the exact date. After calling a couple of stores I even found a partner who had worked there, but he could not remember a date six or seven weeks in the past. I want the truth, dammit!!!

October 30, 2009

Well, perhaps I don't love everything about New York--traffic comes to mind. I could have avoided the mess by heading straight towards New England from Queens, but I had an urge for beignets. Boubon Street, a cafe I had found in '08, had closed, but googling yielded another possibility, F&B Gudtfood. I exited the Queensborough Bridge and quickly found myself in heavy traffic, on 60th or 61st St., whichever runs west. At Madison Avenue to followed the lead of a small black sedan and turned despite the prohibition, and after weaving my way among stupid pedestrians, I saw an officer motioning for both our cars to pull over. Crap.

The officer took my license, and the other driver's, back to his van, and, after a few minutes, returned, handed me back my license, and said to me, "don't say you never got a break in New York." Actually, that was the third time, at least, that I'd gotten a break in New York, but that's not what was interesting. What sparked my curiosity was that the officer had the driver of the other car, a tall swarthy man, scruffy, wearing all black, perhaps Eastern European, get out and stand behind his vehicle. At the same time, two other officers exited the police van, although this might have been unrelated. I drove off very curious about what that other driver had done, but I did not stick around to ask.

The beignets were not as expensive as I expected, $2.12 per order, but neither were they anywhere near as good as Louisiana beignets. Which makes sense. New York is part of the U.S., while Louisiana is, technically, part of France.

October 29, 2009

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating... I love New York City!

October 28, 2009

Ugh. I had forgotten, but there is another reason, besides quality, to hate those fake-ass wannabe licensed Starbucks stores. Stopped at one of the HMS Host-operated stores at a service plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and was reminded of the sad, sad fact that they do not offer the drip coffee in the short size (even though I could see the cups right there on the counter). Motherfuckers. It's not bad enough their prices are higher, but they want to force customers to buy a taller size too??? Fuck those motherfuckers--I got their drip right here, yo.

On a positive tip, the real benefit of having gotten a contract when I did was not the money, but the fact I was able to return to a part of the country where I could buy more of my precious Tradewinds tea. Really, Tradewinds is the only thing that makes my life worth living.

AARRGHH!!! Arrived at work at 2:00 only to find out that the paperwork wasn't complete yet, and because of this, I could not be let into the building. I would have to wait until Monday, Friday at the earliest. Besides those three days of pay that I was counting on, I was irked because I had not visited Rebecca in Pittsburgh the night before so I could arrive at work on Wednesday.

Continuing on the bad service tip, I sat crouched against a wall outside the bathroom at the Mercer Mall Starbucks waiting for whoever was in there to exit. I had heard a toilet noise, but it must have been coming from elsewhere, and after 10 minutes I noticed the light appeared off. I went to get a barista and she said that I needed to yank up on the door handle. Geez, if they knew about that, why wasn't there a sign posted??? I suggested to the barista, and from the way she glanced at me and looked away I could tell she couldn't care less and that she didn't want to hear it. She'd probably been told the same by other customers and was sick of hearing it. So why didn't they just posting the freaking sign? No point in talking to the manager or writing into Starbucks, as they have already demonstrated full well that they don't care about customer service, just about the perception of service and the profit margin.

October 27, 2009

Finally, six years later, I finally had a chance to return to Oxford, OH, and take some good photos of the store there. I was in danger of running late, but it seemed this was my best chance to make the shortest detour to that store. It should have been just 40 miles, but because of a detour on US-27 it took me longer than I expected. On the bright side, I got some good shots off, and I had a good pastrami and provolone sub on sourdough from a neat little shot on High Street called La Bodega.

Over in Columbus, on Dublin-Granville Rd, at Cleveland, I found something unusual, a market/cafe that seemed Mexican owned/operated but included green plaintains on the menu. For just $5 I got a heaping helping of tostones, beans, and rice.

October 26, 2009

Third attempt at rephotographing a stores in Joplin and Springfield. The first was at night. The second photo I lost when the SD card (or Windows Vista) malfunctioned. And now, light rain and an overcast sky. Yay.

October 25, 2009

Just remembered--it's been over a week since I sent my complaint to Starbucks about their non-legal policy of disallowing photography. No response yet. Great customer service, eh?

Oh, what bad timing! Just as I was leaving DFW, north along US-75, I remembered that a store was scheduled to open at Custer & 121. I called a nearby store and learned the new store would open on Tuesday!!! Had it opened on Monday, I could have thougt about killing a day and then making the drive to Princeton in two days, which was totally doable. But not in one day, and it just wasn't worth giving up a day's worth of income for that Starbucks. Heck, with a day's income, I could fly to Dallas in March for the Dallas Open Scrabble tournament and visit the store. Surely it wouldn't close down that quickly, would it?

As usual I stopped at China Moon in Tulsa, and as usual I did not look forward to the food options available to me between the parlor and the interstate. However, now that I had come to accept Chinese food, I had more options, and I noticed a very unusual place down 31st Street--a drive-thru Chinese Restaurant. Egg Roll Kingdom was the first Chinese place I'd seen that could be call a fast food restaurant, and I found the sight of the drive-thru fairly amusing.

Well, that didn't last long. All that effort I put in Friday morning to clean and vacuum the car, and it only lasted 2 1/2 days before I went and spilled fried rice. Rice is one of the worst things to spill, because without a vacuum it's nearly impossible to get all the grains out. Grrr...

October 24, 2009

Left Houston on Saturday afternoon to start a job in Princeton, and, if my memory is correct, this would be the first multi-day road trip I have taken since I began Starbucking, in '97, during which I will visit no new stores!

Somewhere along I-45, before I had left the far northern reaches of the greater Houston metro area, my Jensen 75-watt power inverter switched off (due to heat, I presumed), and I finally remembered to implement an idea I'd had for months. I stopped at Best Buy and bought a second inverter with the idea that I would alternate the two. When one overheated I would switch to the other, and thus I could run the laptop continuously like back when I had a really good 150-watt inverter and a car that could handle it without blowing the fuse.

Stopped in Dallas for dinner with Starbucks Melody and a couple of her barista friends from the Southlake store. Melody claimed they were fans of my sight, but as the did not shriek and faint when I arrived, I have to wonder. Howard also showed up, and since he had more lines in the documentary than anybody (besides me), it was an all-Starbucks get together.

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