Going home again to find the want ad
Was it Thomas Wolfe who said you can’t go home again? Not sure why he said it. For me it was easy to jump in my car and drove two hours east to my birthplace of Dayton, Ohio. I wasn’t trying to prove him wrong or anything. I was trying to find the original want ad Starbucks had placed in the Dayton Daily News. The very same want-ad I had responded to which set off a series of events culminating in me getting a job with Starbucks in Chicago in the fall of 1990. Around this time three years ago, I was committed to the editing of the manuscript of my historical fiction “Starbucks” novel, Tripio.
I feel very fortunate to have worked with the editor I did on Tripio. This wise man suggested a more catchy “hook” for the opening of Tripio. Tripio does open deliberately and slowly as Jay is at his writing desk in his apartment, “shirtless and smelling a bit ripe”. Jay has been alone writing in his apartment all day. No car chases or explosions have suddenly taken place that afternoon. Tripio was going to be as close to a real life memoir as I could get away with. And yet, I couldn’t see his editorial reasoning right away. In fact, my first reaction was “Where is the patience, people? This is a novel with three intertwining and intersecting stories. One can’t rush writing this great!”
Where is the ad?
The wisdom of my editor did eventually make me come to my senses. I knew I had to make the opening more attention getting. I loved every comma of my masterpiece but that wasn’t going to make anyone else care about Tripio. My editor suggested I find a way to hook the reader as close to the start of the novel as possible. I based Tripio on several journals I kept for years I worked at Starbucks in the early 90’s. It made sense to review them for inspiration for the hook. I had not mined every line and scribble from those journals. Hopefully, there would be something still in them I could use for my hook. The search did yield something: a short scribbled reference to being “glad I saw that ad” on one of the coffee stained pages. I knew that was where I would start.
The ad said that I Must love coffee
I knew my hook was going to be that original Starbucks want ad. Fortunately, I remembered that the ad included the phrase “must love coffee.” I tried searching the internet using that phase. No luck again. With the “hook” analogy in mind, I moved the boat to a different spot on the water. I took a trip to the main library in Indy for help. Unfortunately their archives for the Dayton Daily News did not go back far enough. I think it may help to remind everyone reading that I we are not discussing today’s Starbucks. Starbucks was unknown outside of Seattle. I did find an old ad for Starbucks as it opened in the Los Angeles market. Close, but it wasn’t want I wanted. It was not the Starbucks want ad that I had to have.
At the Indy library I was given contact info for the archivist at the Dayton Daily News. I called him. He suggested I try to search the microfilm in person. Luckily, I have family who live in Dayton and I could arrange that easily. I did. The visit with my family went well. The search for the want ad did not. In short, I searched the microfilm for hours but came up empty. The search left me disappointed. Therefore, I had no choice but to prove Wolfe wrong again so I drove from old home to current home, this time heading west two hours.
Give it to the subconscious mind
A skill I learned during the writing and rewriting of Tripio now came handy. I needed my subconscious mind to give me the answer. This skill had served me well as I recalled names and places I needed to populate Tripio. I drove past cornfield after cornfield. I let my mind go off task. My subconscious mind nearly always came up with the answer my writing mind needed. I came to believe that the answers are always there. I let more cornfields pass. Suddenly, It occurred to me that in the summer of 1990 I was thinking of moving from Dayton to Chicago.
The realization hit me that the Starbucks want ad would have been in the Chicago Tribune and not the Dayton Daily News. I had been thinking in reverse. As soon as I docked at home I jumped on the computer and subscribed to a month of the Chicago Tribune archives. Within two minutes I had found the original ad. Success. After moving the boat and switching bait several times, I had hooked my hook. The original Starbucks want ad now is part of the prelude of Tripio. I can only hope it that it works as well on readers as it did on me!
Tags: Chicago tribune, coffee, Coffee and Starbucks, Dayton Daily News, editors, Writing novels