Tuesday, March 03, 2009


It’s morning at the beach, Bruce is in my headphones asking if Rosalita is gonna come out tonight and I’m mourning the passing of another great ideal gone with most of the rest of the credibility and self respect that our economic system once held dear. It’s like listening to the great big flushing of a toilet as you watch all manner of honor and dignity swirling down the hole. Listening to Bruce reminds me that at one time in our history hard work and honorable character might eventually bring respect and success. Now it seems we need either the instant fix or the government bailout to keep our self esteem intact which, God knows, is the most important commodity being traded on our cultural floors. It’s bad enough that I’ve lived through this era of cold damp days with dark fireplaces. I’ve now seen the once proud ideal of the Starbucks experience breathe it’s last.
I should have known that something was up this morning when the gulls were shrieking at me in unusual numbers out front. They were trying to warn me. I had heard the rumors, but like a big 3 auto executive, I tried to close my eyes to reality. Well I’m here to tell you that it’s true. This morning is day one of Starbucks “instant coffee” era. My how the great ones have fallen. After studying the rise of Starbucks and the ideals that they once held dear, I am just speechless. This once proud empire was built here in Seattle on first and foremost the promise of good coffee, which has frequently been called into question as it is. The genius behind this whole experiment though has always been not so much the coffee but the experience. Love them or hate them, they established and validated the American version of the coffee experience. In knowing their history, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the determination that built them into a worldwide trademark for coffee experience.
I come here every week and it’s never been for the coffee. It has always been for the experience. I’m a coffee snob and if I want quality, I’ll walk half a block from my front door to Hotwire in West Seattle. I come here for the experience, although the fireplace issue with me has dulled even that in recent months …. I should have seen this coming. Which is why this act of desperation cuts so deeply. They’ve sunk to Sanka. They didn’t just lower the bar, they dug a hole and dropped it in. There is no experience with instant. It doesn’t come instantly. I’m crushed, like their tiny little ridiculous crystals that you just add water to and stir.
Let me be clear on this, the coffee is not the point. The sellout of an ideal is almost more than I can tolerate as I’ve watched the rest of our ideals of free market, cause and effect , self sustainability and self respect being flushed while we just stand around like dogs watching the bowl empty. I don’t think that I’ve seen a more desperate attempt at gaining market share since the ill fated McDonalds venture into selling pizza.
Being of the pastoral arts profession, I tend to look for the spiritual implications in the cultural realities. This one for me is crystal clear as I get prepared to teach on the concept that a tree is known by the fruit it produces. Words and claims don’t mean much and can’t hide much when the fruit appears. Reality always trumps the “ideal”. To claim quality and experience means little when the result is “instant”. In the end, as we worry about bailing out those that a true free market economy would never bailout, we watch ideals fall like domino’s. And speaking of Domino’s, whatever happened to the simplicity of delivering decent pizza in 30 minutes or less?

No comments: