Friday, January 27, 2012

Starbucks and the Inner Id


All day long, I am responsible. I see the world through the prism of someone who has been a mom for almost a decade and basically done pretty  much the same work with the same people for more than  15 years. What that means is that I am boring in certain respects. I eat my greens, work out quite a bit, keep a clean house, and go on date nights with my husband. I am boring---except I’m not. I too have an inner id---an id that I don’t let out very much. Not sure why. It won’t hurt anybody. I feel the safest place to observe my inner id is the safe sanctum of a nice cafĂ© in a large city. But when I walk out those doors---oh well, I once again become the me that I’ve been all these years. Nice, responsible, disciplined, happy, kind of boring me. How about you? Can you tell me about your inner id???

From January 26, 2011
I have had a pretty tough day. I’ve been working hard, copy writing on demand all day. Trying to basically write a 12-page custom publication in a couple of days. I’m in downtown Manhattan. But I’ve stopped off at Starbucks. There is a barista with the highest cheekbones I’ve ever seen. She is ethnically unidentifiable and stunningly beautiful. She is a perfect size 2. Definitely under 25—and she is completely unselfconscious. When she takes an order, she simply looks at you with her expanding eyes and in a very matter-of-fact, professional-barista way asks what you want. She is exceptional because she is not narcissistic or trying to be cool or appealing. For that reason alone, she would be a good role model for my daughter, I think. The guy in front of me gets a cappuccino. His friend gets water.  I get a 3-pump grande skim chai—which for the record has caffeine.

All day, I have been thinking about this character Felicity in Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart.” At 18, the man who promised to marry her went off and married someone else, shocking her into  lifelong sadness and an endless search for love. As a maid, Felicity was involved in caring for other people’s children, who eventually either died or abandoned her. She fell in love with God and eventually with a parrot. When the parrot died she had it stuffed, and even as she herself lay dying, she focused on the parrot, worrying about its eternal soul. I wish Felicity had been able to come to Starbucks and find soulmates or friends to hang out with---to cure the loneliness of the French countryside.

As I sit here in lower Manhattan, there are lots of people catching up, talking about when they got married, how they met their spouses, whether they should go to CUNY Law School, their fascination with feather earrings. There is a man of indeterminate age, probably in his 50’s, with one of those hats that looks like he just got back from skiing in the Alps. His scarf is plaid. He is wearing high-end running shoes and frayed faded denim jeans, eating oatmeal, wearing hipster glasses and texting.  He is not at all unappealing. Since I am writing about him, I keep looking at him and now he is looking at me too. I am nondescript today, wearing a navy blue suit. Basically sitting here working. He is not wearing a wedding ring, but he is toting a backpack---a sign that he is happily engaged with his work, I assume.

 Across the street is Dunkin’ Donuts with its bright orange and red lighting. It looks like it would be painful to sit in there. One would need sunglasses for sure. And above that there is a sign for breast mammography and medical/dental/podiatry. All of this is housed in a post-war,  tan building with green-trimmed windows. I can imagine that there are many women who go for a mammogram and come to Starbucks for a latte afterward. Or perhaps they go get their teeth whitened and come for a hot chocolate to get rid of the taste. Perhaps they work in one of the nondescript offices doing something terribly creative. I wonder about all of those people. This sea of humanity whose lives intersect at one corner and who congregate in one of the two largest coffee chains in the northeast (and in the case of Starbucks in the world).

It’s raining. There are so many young people milling about with coffee and bags and umbrellas, and so many middle-aged people who look incredibly young. And so many people drinking coffee whose eyes widen each time they take a sip. I should be rushing home, but I’m not. I’m going to go order more coffee now.

9 comments:

Lisa W. Rosenberg said...

Nicole, I love the way your thought processes make me think. You are a truly special and rare kind of writer and person. I do have an id, though like you and many other writer moms I know, it's tucked away most of the time. I think mine involves an obsession with a capella sing-offs on Youtube which I indulge at one a.m. when I'm too tired to write and too wired to sleep!

Nicole Gray-Chan said...

Lisa--thank you.

I bet you sing pretty well...

I know what it's like to be too tired and too wired all at once.

Thank goodness for morning coffee!

Anonymous said...

Whether in non-descript clothing or not, you may be among the throng, but not of the throng.

Maybe you should take your Id out dancing just to shake things up.

Or, one fun project is to change the art work in your home. This can usually be done inexpensively and is a lot of fun. Most people hang things on the wall that are chosen without much thought and never replace them. What a shame. They change, and their art doesn't. As if it's furniture.

On Tuesday 9 full length Renoirs go on exhibit at the Frick, if you require inspiration.

Anonymous said...

BTW- Freud was a million laughs; he smoked like a fiend, drank, and told some great jokes. Oh, and he thought about sex 24/7.

Also, I understand he believed he would die at age 51, had a pet Hamster named Kaiser, was afraid of Sauer-Kraut and used to refer to everyone as; "Bob-o-link" no matter what their real name or gender.

Anonymous said...

Don't a-capella sing-offs at 1:00 A.M. wake everybody up?

Oh well. Ah, rainy coffee house days, makes one want to wax lyrical (or at least wax) about days gone by. That reminds me;

Q; What flower is it, that says; days go by, and they keep going by, endlessly, endlessly pulling us into the future?

A; And the florist says; "White Lily".

Some Laurie Anderson for you. It's been in my mind for 30 years.

Anonymous said...

Newsflash!

Dateline 2012; Earth:

The Global Headquarters obtains a new coffee maker!

Yes, I know you're thinking this is hardly surprizing since we were using the old coffee maker for experimants in Particle Physics. However, despite the explosions (most of the staff have fully recovered) we are shocked at the lack of durability in our former device.

Now, fully satiated in the bliss of caffeine once again, we can re-ignite the vital programs that so many people around the world depend upon.

The first initiative is to assign a task force to conduct in depth research on the Barista mentioned in your latest communique. Several important questions need to be answered, including;

a. What nationality is she?
b. If she isn't a narcissist, what does she believe in?
c. Does she have an older sister?

While the staff is usually chomping at the bit to get to the next project, this project, with it's global, even galatic implications, requires the utmost discretion and experience. Therefore, I myself will spearheading the initiative.

Anonymous said...

typo; experiments

Excuse #1; poor proofreading
Excuse #2; it slipped
Excuse #3; earthquake

Nicole Gray-Chan said...

Anonymous, I enjoy your posts more than my own. They are so far ranging, insightful and eclectic. So what I would like to say about the barista is that she is probably an American NYU college student...a typical American mix of x,y, and z. Naturally thin. Probably not as deep as I am projecting...but on her way to some interesting life. The Frick! Are they up yet! Oh and btw, I heard that Freud, though not so nice, was awfully brilliant---but again, not so nice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks!

In answer to your query;

The Frick has the 9 full-length (they're big!!!) Renoirs until May 13th. There are a series of web-cast lectures about Renoir that will occur on their website and will be archived on fora.tv.

However, before you do anything else(forget everything but remember this!)you must see the series "The Power Of Art"
which is on youtube, but also available on DVD. Specifically; the Van Gogh and Rothko episodes, especially the Rothko. And Caravaggio.