Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In Defense of Starbucks...

I've written here before that I was concerned about the trashing of Starbuck's. The conservative Christian core (or is that corps) led by Focus on the Family pointed out complaints based largely on comments on their cups.

Starbucks does run a "The Way I See It" series of brief quotes from luminaries and other customers. Some comments run in past months were in defense of gay rights.

OK, I may not agree with that particular series, but there were many I have agreed with, smiled at or disagreed but had good thoughts stimulated.

I find it interesting that Starbucks is coming under fire from a variety of sources. I chuckle to hear the Left denigrating it as a symptom of the multi-cultural glut. Of the massive standardization and blight.

So Left and Right are complaining... that tells me there's something good going on. And here's what I think it is. Starbucks (and for that matter, Panera) are the first examples of a socially redeeming mass-market retail food chain.

Yes, McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King have had their value. No really, I mean it, there is a value in the quick food. As any parent with a car full of kids trying to get from Point A to Point B in a limited amount of time. To be able to top of the blood sugar and keep them chewing (and not fighting) for a time is priceless.

But our food blob chains of the 50s and 60s enforced a certain individualization. A growing apart.

Interesting aside that CS Lewis pictured Hell in The Great Divorce as a place where people moved a little further apart from each other every day... the cold blackness descending ever-so-slowly on them, sliding further and further apart from the love and care of others...

But our new places are places that bring us together. Throw in Barnes and Noble and Borders with their coffee shops. These are places that invite us in. Invite us to share our lives.

The baristas who pour my coffee get to know me. They're encouraged to do that.

And as a believing Christian, I find that these are amazing places where God works. I'm in Starbucks now. It was here I first heard of John Eldredge. Where Blue Like Jazz first came to my attention. Where I've overheard some marvellous conversations.

It was in Panera where I first met my pastor and now my friend, Darin Shaw.

Even the cups. They urge me to slow down. To read. To reflect.

OK, some will be ideas I don't like. But some will be ideas that advance God's Kingdom...

Another aside... I wonder if Jim Dobson thought of submitting a gentle "The Way I See It..." He'd reach a far broader audience, and one that needs his message of Jesus' love.

So I came into Starbucks today, beaten and down... the first day of school, the kids are gone and I'm feeling the strain of 5 years of managing it all by myself.

And what should happen but the most amazing and sweet Christian meeting as I learned that one of my favorite baristas is a believer. She introduced me to another believer.

I'm humbled and I'm encouraged. Starbucks has created a place where God can work... by simply creating a space where we can meet, talk and connect.

That's a good thing.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Far Side of weather...

Somebody actually said it to me today ... "Hot enough for you?"

Weatherbug says it's 98. But hey, don't worry. It's a wet heat.

I was in Starbuck's for a time this afternoon. The people were pouring in. So many of them obviously had never been in to a Starbuck's before.

I think I heard it 6 or 7 times in 90 minutes. "I'd like something cold, do you sell anything cold?"


Cultural recluses I guess.

I thought our entire Western Civilization had actually done away with the internal combustion engine and our reliance on fossil fuel and we were running on Frappucinos and iced lattes these days.

Which takes me back to the most miserable I've ever been in the heat...

My parents decided every summer from the year before my sister (2 years my senior) graduated high school until we I was out of college for 2 years that, "This is the last summer we'll be able to travel as a family."

So began the yearly installments. Before that, they'd been the "every so often" miserable trips ... maybe the "every 3 or 4 year torture chambers." Now, the dreaded all-family LoveBoat cruise became a necessary yearly event. OH my...

We started "small". Just a little trip around the whole United States in a 20' motor home. Seattle. Chicago. Boston. NYC. Charleston/Savannah (getting the picture?). Hobart, OK (don't ask). Montana. Home.

Perhaps that's where I developed this darn nervous tic tic tic tic tic.

Eventually it got to be a European vacation. This was actually inspired by me (I am shamed to admit it).

I desperately wanted to travel, so when I graduated college and had a job, I booked a trip to England. I wanted to just go and wander... but bowed to pressure (as I always did in those days) because it wasn't safe to just wander such a wild and violent country as England, Scotland and Wales.

This was before Braveheart so you can't blame Mel Gibson for that one.

I went on the ultimate old-folks tour. What a wonderful group! What social outlet!

The nearest person to my age was 40 years my senior, though a grammy and grampy or two HAD brought along a young teen or two.

England by motorbus. Yeehaw.

But I did have a great time anyway. My first time abroad. The first of the family to travel off the North American continent.

So of course, my sister had to take 4 trips in the next year. And then ... the family trip.

We wound up in Paris, our last stop.

It was about this time of year... I know because the World Cup was just ending.

We had rooms in Paris' Grand Hotel. Everyone was on floors 2 and 3. Except us. WE had the wonderful garrett rooms at the top of the hotel, the fifth floor. Oh they were so wonderfully quaint.

And one teensy problem. There was no a/c on the fifth floor. But never mind, Paris just doesn't get that...


Breeze? Windows?

Oh, did I mention my insane sister didn't like the fumes from the city, and didn't want to take a risk of getting raped (on the 5th floor)... so we had to shut and lock our windows.

Nevermind we were in the room next door to her... there was a connecting door... so we were required (Dad opted for conflict reduction) to keep the connecting door open so she could come in and check, several times a night. Vital to make SURE we hadn't snuck those windows open...

Until the night it hit about 100 in the city... she relented. We could open the windows...

Who knew there were that many Italians in Paris? Who knew the World Cup would end at about 1am? Who know how much noise Italians in Paris could make as they circled our block with music, horns, singing, fireworks.

Who knew it could go on until well after dawn?

I subsisted those few days in Paris on a little drink I discovered called a "Caffe Liegois"... Coffee. Cream. Sugar. Ice. Blended together. It may sound familiar...

How expensive could the lot of them be? When delivered by room service?

Ummmm.. $150?

Ever see the Far Side panel, "Nerds in Hell"? A couple of guys in geeky clothing and taped glasses... and one of them is saying ....

... hot enough for ya?