It looks like Starbucks is going to start serving alcohol. This isn’t new news. It was hyped last year, I believe. The company is just really putting feelers out there, as any good company should do when introducing a new product.
This, however, is a horrible idea.
Don’t get me wrong. I love me liquor. I love beer. A good wine is a thing of beauty. I love a good bar where the tables have just enough wear and tear to give them personality. I love bartenders that chat and joke around. I love classic rock or rock in general playing over the speakers or a live band doing a decent cover. That’s what a bar is all about.
Starbucks, I will not drink at your places of business.
Other places serve alcohol, and that’s fine. I expect restaurants, whose primary service is food, to remain clean and relatively quiet. A bar is a bar, though. Starbucks is no bar. I will not be able to enjoy a drink there. I’m sorry, but the general clientele at Starbucks scares me. A lot of them go because it’s trendy. I don’t go to a bar because its trendy. I go for the atmosphere and the affordable happy hour special.
Besides, I already know what’s going to happen if Starbucks goes into the beer, wine, and liquor business.
Prices will be criminal. Expect to pay $8-12 for a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. The cheap stuff, too. They’ll tell you it’s imported from some East German country you’ve never heard off and made with exotic hops or something like that, too.
Despite my coworkers being able to bring in a giant tank of coffee in the mornings, I don’t expect I’ll be able to get a Starbucks keg for lunch to share with everyone. That’s just unfair.
It’s corporate, so expect the same atmosphere in one Starbucks bar to be the same as the next: cold and calculated. Forget about the personal touches. One of my favorite bars, Average Joes, is about as down to Earth as you can get. While they polished themselves a bit, all the pictures are of local shows and the waiters and waitresses at least make an effort to be friendly. It’s dark, not gloomy, and they are successful because they actually introduce new features and shows based on audience feedback. Plus, they make a mean pizza.
Being Starbucks, the company will try to sell their beers and spirits as exotic, rare, and hand-made. It will develop a culture of douchebags who insist on only drinking the highest quality beer, much like pretentious bastards who will only drink their rare Jamaican blend harvested by left-handed pygmies and imported on the full moon. I love high-quality beer, but I’m not above drinking a Bud if someone offers it to me.
And finally, they’ll probably have some ridiculous naming structure for glasses of beer: shot, wide, slammer, and crudo.
And if you don’t know Mexican slang, look up the last one.
Okay, maybe this is paranoia, but I really can’t stand Starbucks. If you have to put THAT much stuff into coffee to drink it, you don’t like coffee. You like the toppings. It’s like people who say they like to drink but can’t stand anything stronger than a hard lemonade.
People who can’t drink anything harder than lemonade piss me off.
See you Monday, and keep sharing links! In the meantime, enjoy a bay deer squeaking.
I tried making the spiced wine I wrote about a few days ago, and the results were… well, it wasn’t bad, but the process was a little more hectic than I thought it would be. And it wasn’t the recipe. It was the unwanted extra. Check it out, and don’t forget to keep sharing those links!
Most of you celebrated Halloween yesterday. Or maybe this Saturday or Friday. You dressed up, went out, had fun, probably got drunk, and called it a night. Good. I did pretty much the same thing, but I have something else in mind for tomorrow.
Tomorrow (and today for some people) is Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The smell of marigolds will attract the spirits of the dead, sugar skulls will serve as decoration snacks, and millions of people will pause to remember family and friends.
In Mexico, and for many living in the United States having emigrated from Mexico, these two days are a time to remember the dead, to celebrate their lives and pay homage to those who have come before. Many families will go to cemeteries and have picnics. Others will build altars with photographs, candies, food, and liquor to remember family and friends.
And I know that, to many of you, this seems like a morbid, depressing ritual.
Oh, how you have much to learn.
In Mexico, death is not something ominous, something that comes for you at the end of your life. Death is a part of life. We don’t shy away from eating every part of an animal, or even from cooking with the animal’s blood. We accept the animal’s death as part of the feast. Likewise death is a regular part of the news cycle south of the border.
We are just accustomed to death. We name it. Some worship an aspect of it called la Santa Muerte. It is not a love of death so much as a respect for it. This is not something that is widespread, and in fact in many more modernized areas of the country, this is frowned upon as witchcraft or dark magic.
Me? I like to think of death as something that is just always there.
In a way, I don’t fear death. I just know it will be there. And this is not, I believe, a morbid point of view.
In fact, it’s a beautiful way to look at the world. What makes things precious? We value that which is rare or unique. If there exists only a single copy of something, we will not even give it an amount. We just call it priceless.
What is more valuable than a life? Each person, animal, and plant will exist in one form for a single life in all of the history of the universe. I will only exist once. The Beatles existed only once. My family, my friends, and every person I’ve ever met will live but one life and then leave. With 6.7 billion people on the planet, some would say this is inconsequential. Surely we can have someone who is similar. Surely the death of one individual has no effect on the history of the world unless that individual is famous or contributes to society…
And yet that’s the exact opposite of what I believe.
Seeing death, knowing it will come, knowing it may happen at any time, makes life beautiful. It makes you appreciate every moment. If makes aware of the value of every day. The average life expectancy is 75 years. That means I have 588 months left, on average.
I know that number is even less for others, but that doesn’t take into account accidents, disease, meteors, and zombies that could take us at any time.
And when we do leave this world…
That’s the beauty. To the dead we owe the truth. Oddly enough, it’s one of the contradictions of death that it tells us more about the living than anything else. Funerals are not about the dead. They are there to comfort and give closure to the living.
I often wonder about the people who have come before. All of us will meet death. Every. One. Of us. To remember this is to want to make a mark on the world. Maybe you’ll teach. Maybe you’ll focus on raising your children to be the best they can. Perhaps you’ll decide to be an artist.
Death is not something to fear. It is what drives us to be better and make sure that, when we go, people remember who we are. It is the limit we have to beat if we hope to achieve everything possible. Death is a constant companion, not an enemy.
Tomorrow, I’ll remember these things more than usual. I’ll remember family that’s gone, some recently, some in the last few years. I encourage you to do the same, but don’t mourn the fact that they are gone. Remember the things they left behind, the memories they gave you, and the things that made them unique. No one like them will ever exist.
With that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems: Holy Sonnet X by John Donne. Enjoy, and jump down below the video for the links.
Death be not proud, though some have callèd thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better than thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.
Link time, boys and girls!
If you recommend a teacher for this group, you get a case of wine… But does the teacher get a case of wine!? We deserve it more!
Looks like the new Batman movie will be called The Dark Knight Rises. Word from Nolan is that there will be NO Riddler, which is good, I think. That would be a difficult villain to Nolanize. I once heard the argument that the third Batman film should not even have a main villain… just THE MOB. Make it completely character driven, in other words. Thoughts?
Beck’s on vacation, Limbaugh’s just normal crazy, Bachmann is still her same old psycho-idiot, and no one’s really done anything stupid enough in censorship this week. At least, I haven’t seen anything.
Time for an English language rant!
Arguments often lead to a basic truth. Even if one side will never admit it, there’s often one point of view that’s more valid or just made a better use of evidence and logic. However, this assumes both sides start on equal footing. If you have one side labeled a devil while the other is white-washed and wreathed in angels and flowers, you’re going to get a very different public perception.
If one side is for life, isn’t the opposite side for death?
That’s the first thing I thought when I first heard of this debate. The names are completely inadequate to frame the debate. You can always have, say, socialism versus capitalism since both terms which describe their points of view, but pro choice and pro-life both have names that are absurd.
“Pro-life” already implies that a fetus is alive from the point of conception. If you believe in a woman’s right to chose, you understand how problematic this can be. If the debate starts with the other side saying they want to save lives, because those lives are real (a circular argument), you’ve pretty much lost. Your side will forever be branded “pro-death.”
This is perhaps the only group I can think of that is named based on what it DOESN’T believe. A deist believes in a divine power but may choose not to worship it. A Christian believes that Christ is the son of God. A Buddhist follows the teaching of Buddha. An atheist believes in… atheism?
By framing atheism as the absence of a belief system when all other belief systems are based on their definition, it creates an instant hostility. We don’t call Jews “proto-Christians” any more than we call Buddhists “non-Muslims.” An atheist believes that the world and what we can analyze and interact with is all that exists. That’s it, but calling an atheist “materialistic” uses a term that’s also been tainted by meanings of greed.
Take, for example, “traditional family values.” Oh boy. I hate this one. The argument is never against Christian morality or fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. It’s typically framed in the context of “traditional family values,” a term that means almost nothing without knowing whose family you’re talking about.
And trust me. I wrote speeches for Congress. I learned to write five minutes of nothing. It hurt.
“Bigot” is another that’s been getting thrown out. If you don’t agree with someone’s philosophy, you’re a bigot, or at least that’s the way some people are using the term. That used to be called multiculturalism. I don’t have to agree with someone’s world-view to like or get along with them.
Okay, that’s it. I’m tired. On Friday, hopefully the new Charcoal Streets will be ready. It’s turning into my own personal Duke Nukem Forever.
This handy infographic on the Facebook vs iPhone vs Android app war is quite telling. No matter how much people complain about Facebook every time it changes something, it still manages to draw a crowd.
In news that is sure to get all you history-philes all nice and moist, footage of the blitz IN COLOR has been recently unearthed in England. It shows the war in a way we hadn’t seen before. Now I’m waiting for that 3D footage of Normandy.
Friends of mine in the Army have told me about MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) and the verdict ranges from gut-cement to “taste of home.” Ever wonder what other countries give their troops? I have to say, if given the choice, I’d go with the French MRE.
Money can’t buy happiness, but $75,000 a year can buy peace of mind. That’s the claim by a recent study. Apparently, $75,000 is enough to lessen stress. It doesn’t make you happier, but it provides enough financial security to help offset many crises.
It’s Friday, so time for another tale from Via Rosa. It’s been a blast these last three weeks writing these stories, revisiting notes on characters, situations, and remembering how much fun I had when I first started drafting these stories. I want to thank each and every one of you who have shown support.
As for insights or comments on this story, all I can say is that I have it on good authority that real exorcisms rarely go this well.
A church filled with the dead listened to his sermon. Father Flores always thought it was impossible to talk about Lazarus and not look into the ocean of eyes simply following as his lips moved. Tell the story, deliver the message, close with a bang. Fire and brimstone and God’s love. He finished his script and everyone prayed, got up, and spoke for a few minutes in the isles before dispersing to catch the lunch specials. When the cathedral finally emptied, he went to his office and looked at the angel waiting for him behind the desk.
Micah would have stood out in any part of Via Rosa. His skin was too fair for the desert and his blond hair was immaculately combed. The golden scepter pin on his dark green suit matched the equally golden tie he wore like a man born into wealth. Everything about him contrasted with the dark brown leather-bound books on the shelves on every wall of Father Flores’ office. The room smelled like old paper. Micah smelled like… nothing. The angel sipped wine from a crystal goblet and Father Flores noted the bottle of wine on the desk was the same bottle he used for the Eucharist.
“Did you have to drink from that bottle?” he asked.
Micah took another tentative sip and put the goblet down, saying, “I was curious. I also wanted to make sure you weren’t using anything cheap. Only the best for our flock.”
“My flock. You just consult. And the wine’s good enough.”
“It’s a little tart.”
“It’s Cabernet Sauvignon.”
“Get something better for the next batch. But that’s not why I’m here. I think you’re losing your touch. Everyone looked half-dead out there.”
Flores took the goblet and took a long drink. He said, “Most of them are here to beg forgiveness for the things they were doing last night. And they were the ones who could get up. I’d count my blessings.”
Micah grinned like a wolf and stood from Father Flores’ chair. He walked around the office and ran a finger over the Bibles on the top shelf and said, “Maybe that’s just it. You’ve turned this into a spiritual drive-through. You’re the Catholic equivalent of McDonald’s.”
Father Flores finished the wine and said, “I’m filling the seats, aren’t I? It’s not like I believe all this any more than they do. It makes us feel better.”
Micah grabbed the goblet from Father Flores’ hand. He hadn’t even seen the angel move and within half a second, Micah’s eyes burned with clear blue light just an inch from Father Flores’ face. Micah remained calm, like a scientist dissecting an insect, and said, “You do what we tell you to do. Get the crowd motivated. Get them to know love. Show them order. Or I’ll personally rip your soul out and burn it for you to see.”
Father Flores walked to the restroom and cleaned the sweat from his face. Book leather-like skin and wrinkles had become his face in the last twenty years. With his collar off so he could wipe the sweat inside his shirt, he could see the horned skull tattoo on the right side of his neck. It was faded and warped with age, but it remained. He made sure to fully cover it before heading back to his office.
He entered and saw a woman sitting by the window, purse on her lap, while she stared at the tomes and the paintings on the wall. It took a moment, but he finally recognized her as he sat behind the desk and said, “What can I do for you, Lupe?”
Father Flores felt her tension almost as soon as he said it. She was young, maybe thirty, but her hair had more gray than him. Her neck tightened and she clutched her purse with both hands. Around her neck hung three crucifixes: one gold, one silver, and the other wooden. She moved her lips as though she were about to say something, but nothing came out. Father Flores poured her a glass of water and saw that the goblet with a bit of wine was still on his desk. He discreetly moved it out of the way and gave her the glass.
“Unless that’s holy water,” she finally mumbled, “it’s not going to help me.”
“What do you mean?”
Lupe loosened the grip on her purse and said, “It’s my daughter, Padre.”
Father Flores had a faint recollection of the girl. “Aurora,” he said.
“She’s been acting out a lot. I keep telling her to come in, ask God for help, but she just goes out with her friends, talks back to me, and her grades are slipping. And then a few days ago, things got really bad.”
He couldn’t help but chuckle a little as he said, “She’s fifteen years old. That’s typical for a kid her age. She’s going through some changes, and I’m sure with a little attention and some space, she’ll find-”
Lupe lived in one of the better neighborhoods in Via Rosa. Father Flores drove his beat-up Ford truck into the driveway already filled with assorted BMW’s and a Porsche. The house’s white columns were nearly as wide as the bed on his truck and the red brick walls, immaculate and clean like a catalogue photograph, made Father Flores self-conscious of the beaten walking shoes he wore. A servant ushered him into the living room where Lupe sat with a pitcher of water as she paced back and forth. When she saw Father Flores, she leapt and hugged him.
“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you for coming, Padre.”
“Lupe,” he said as she finally let go, “I’m not promising anything. I don’t care what you’ve seen in the movies, but demonic possession is not something we really believe in anymore.”
“But isn’t the devil real?”
Father Flores picked up the second glass of water on the table and said, “Of course he’s real. Satan is very real. But demonic possession is the kind of thing we used to blame for everything from schizophrenia to Tourette’s. Now, I’d like to see Aurora and put your mind at ease.”
She nodded and pointed him to the stairs. He smiled and said, “You’re not coming with me?”
“My daughter isn’t upstairs. I don’t know what that thing is.”
Father Flores gripped his rosary and walked up the grand staircase in the main lobby. One hallway was littered with broken picture frames and scratches on the walls. The room at the end of the hall and all the blinds along the corridor were closed. As he got closer, he saw the smashed pictures on the walls. Most were of the same chipper, brightly-clothed girl with mousy features and long black hair. His shoes crunched on bits of glass. Above him, perhaps in the attic, he heard a pair of dogs fighting and growling.
The bedroom door opened before he touched the doorknob.
Aurora’s room was empty except for a four-post bed and home-made restraints. The closed blinds let just a little yellow sunlight trickle into the room, and what little there was reflected off the girl standing facing the far corner. Long, greasy hair hung low below her shoulders and she wore nothing except a pair of running shorts and a white shirt. She mumbled so low he could barely hear her, but she was awake. Holding his rosary in one hand and forcing himself to smile, he said, “Aurora, it’s Father Flores. Can I talk to you?”
She stopped mumbling and barely turned her head, saying, “No.”
She walked along the room’s edge, one hand touching the wall. Father Flores watched her twitch her feet into working, stop and start like a marionette with loose strings, all the while he said, “It’s just that your mother is very concerned about you and she wanted me to talk to you. She says you’ve been violent, but I didn’t know it was like this. Did you do the damage in the hallway?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Why did you do that?”
“I was bored. I wanted to go out and play. Lupe wouldn’t let me.”
Aurora neared the corner closest to the door, the one nearest to Father Flores. He hadn’t realized how tightly he held his rosary until he looked down and saw his fingernails turning white. Aurora approached him, her hand still on the wall, hair over her face.
Father Flores said, “You should really call her, ‘Mom,’ Aurora.”
“Why? She’s not my mother,” and Aurora stopped just three feet from Father Flores. She put her hand down and tilted her head while whispering, “I have no mother… and I don’t want a father. He made sure I knew that.”
“Aurora, I remember when your father left.”
“I meant Him,” she said, pointing up, “and I meant you. Priests piss me off.”
“Aurora, I really don’t think-”
“Stop calling me that!” Her voice echoed as though a small chorus had chanted the words. Barking within the walls rattled the pictures in the hallway. The window shook and cracked and Father Flores felt the sound in his bones. He hadn’t felt anything like that since he stopped going to concerts as a kid. It took a moment for the buzz and the sound of fighting dogs to dissipate, and even when they did, Father Flores’ rosary beads clacked in his hands.
The echo was gone. He asked, “What should I call you?”
Aurora looked up. The circles around her eyes contrasted her otherwise fair skin. Chapped lips cracked as she smiled and said, “We are many.”
Father Flores swallowed hard and Aurora giggled. She walked to the center of the room, saying, “You look just as nervous as you did the day you left the Hidalgo Boys.”
Everything went cold. He asked, “How could you know that?”
“You took that beat-up Taurus revolver Antonio gave you and threw it in the river. Very dramatic.”
“You couldn’t possibly know that. How did you-”
“I know all about you, Mario,” Aurora said, and when she reached the center of the room, her eyes glowed with golden light.
To be continued…
Want to read more? Just visit the main Charcoal Streetspage and take a look at the complete stories, samples, and other fun features, and stay tuned in 2011 for the release of the first volume of collected stories!