In Tripio, the protagonist Jay works at a Starbucks store located near Lincoln Park on the corner of Clark, Diversey and Broadway. In the novel Tripio, for the sake of brevity and authenticity, I refer to it simply as store #204. It was already beat up and worn out when Jay arrives there as the new Lead Clerk. But the store had character. At this point I feel I have to remind everyone that this is an era of Starbucks that most have not experienced. Store #204 was not a cookie cutter, wi-fi ready, module of a Starbucks. I’m fairly sure it was taken over, and not built by and for, the Starbucks we all know today. I think this is a vital point as it emphasizes the unique viewpoint of Tripio. I lived this location. I did not select it because it was a trendy, popular, click bait spot into which to set a novel. So there. Since his co-workers were mostly aspiring to make a living at one art form or another, Jay, as an aspiring writer, felt he fit right in at this inclusive, artsy coffee store at the intersection of three busy streets. There are several passages in the book when Jay states that he feels “at home” at #204. He finds comfort settling back in there for a shift after returning to the city from a trip downstate: “ I had spent too much time here not to treat #204 as a home away from home”
So, it was no shock that I had a strong desire to go back and revisit store #204 once I had committed to writing Tripio. I also wanted to look again on the Days Inn that stood diagonally and across the street from #204. There were many, many nights I closed #204 and had to get back to open for a morning shift. If I closed, I locked that door after midnight. If I opened the next morning, it was re-opened at 5:30 or 6 a.m. The Days Inn stood just across the street on those nights, calling me, tempting me. A shower and bed was just minutes away. My apartment was a long bus ride up Clark. It could take almost an hour before a shower and bed there. I would then have to make the return trip on almost no sleep. All that could be fixed by a night at the Days Inn. But no money, no way. Of course, those mornings I fell back on my tripios on ice to get me up and running.
As summer 2017 arrived I took the opportunity to drive to Chicago and visit both places. I wanted to confirm the details of #204. After all, it had been 20 plus years since the last time I stepped out it’s doors. My trip to Chicago was also a gift for my daughter. She was headed to college in the fall and we went together as a going away present. That is why I did no research on whether #204 still existed. I was going anyway.
Not surprisingly #204 was no more. If it is true that you can’t go home again, at least you have a shot if it still standing. Standing on the sidewalk out front though, I could visualize where #204 stood in the new collection of storefronts that had taken over the whole building that housed and surrounded #204. I could still hear the thud of the filter basket hitting the bar across the dump bucket positioned on either end of the espresso bar. I could hear the grinders clicking on and the shriek of the hot steaming wand entering the cold milk. I could still hear my own voice calling out drinks I had made on the elevated espresso bar. I remembered the trick the baristas had of making an snow ball in the winter and throwing it at the dumpster in back to scare off rats before dumping the trash.
As I think it over now, perhaps not having a physical confirmation of #204 made me work harder to recreate #204 in Tripio. I had to work to rebuild store #204, and I did. It was all in my mind, waiting to be accessed. Look for proof when you read Tripio in the scene where Jay dusts off an “order here” sign that hung unnoticed by almost every customer and most partners who had ever entered #204. Also, not sure why I didn’t put in the rat anecdote somewhere in Tripio. Oh well.
My daughter and I spent the day walking all over Lincoln Park and saw other sights. She put up with my reminiscing throughout. Best of all I finally got to stay at that Days Inn. Now it is called The Versey https://www.hotelversey.com/ but the ghost of my Days Inn was still hovering around.
There are 20,000 Starbucks around the globe now. Thousands of folks start of their days with a trip “to my Starbucks”. Fair enough. But, “my Starbucks” is long closed. I would have loved to step inside one more time that day with my daughter in Chicago. So I could order a drink from the young man who worked there over two decades ago. But that vision passed that day. It came and went as writing Tripio and writing about writing Tripio kept those days near the top of my thoughts. I will never be able to set foot inside the brick and mortar store #204 again. But I don’t mind all that much since store #204 is always opened for business in the pages of Tripio.
“May I help who’s next?”
I posted this over a year ago. It received no visitors. As I looked it over I realized this trip was over three years ago. It struck me that I have been working on the Tripio, starting the blog, writing Back outta the World and everything that goes with all of it, most every day for several years before that. So, I have decided to take break in July. When this post is scheduled I will be on vacation from work and renewing my mind for more of this journey.Tags: blog posts, chicago, Coffee and Starbucks, coffee shop fiction, Writing novels