“There must be a game at Wrigley tonight. It is Monday and there are more people around than usual. Looks like they plan on having some fun. I love living here, walking these streets and making them mine. I am beginning to realize that my job at Cosmodemonic * gives me something of an edge on everyone else. It is becoming a place to be. A new place. One that gives me a bit of notoriety over all these people on these sidewalks who have lived here way longer than I have. They are not a part of this growing thing that is the Cosmodemonic.” –from Tripio
* In Tripio, Jay calls Starbucks the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company.
Question for Kevin Knox–I never saw Starbucks as a global entity while I was there. I thought maybe coast to coast in larger cities. Did you foresee it? And, did you get the sense Howard saw Starbucks as it is now, back in the early90s.
A– I think Howard’s vision for Starbucks was that vast from the outset. But in the early 90’s it was all about laying the foundation. Dave Olsen: “we’ve gotten very good at making one product: coffee. We need to become equally good at making another: stores.”
Tripio excerpt– ‘My Amtrak is heading into suburban Chicago for real now. The Cosmodemonic might have a store in each suburb in a few years. Is there that much good coffee on the planet? There are rumblings of another roasting plant on the east coast. Cosmodemonic don’t play.“
Question for Kevin–In Tripio, Jay wonders to himself as he sees Starbucks growing so fast that there can’t be enough good coffee on the planet. Was that a concern in the early days? Even before the time of Tripio 1990-1994?
A -I don’t think that was ever a concern. We knew that if we were willing to pay up and offer technical support to farmers there would always be plenty of great coffee, and that what our growth was doing was really more about rescuing outstanding single-origin coffees from large European roasters who had gotten used to buying the lion’s share of really exquisite specialty-grade coffees.
It might help you to know that our most important green coffee vendor (which we had in common with Peet’s) was based in Hamburg (List + Beisler Coffee).https://www.list-beisler.coffee/
Have you ever wondered – What it means to love and serve coffee?- Well, Kevin provides an answer in a post from his blog that I would have been proud to author. Instead here’s the link!
“It is him.” Jay thought to himself. ‘Damn if it isn’t. Howard Behar. My old boss. Should I say something to him?“
Jay was in Palm Springs for work on a fluke brought on by the Pandemic. He hadn’t been able to travel for work since he became a single parent around eight years ago. His youngest was nineteen now and taking classes on zoom as a freshman in college. Work needed someone to cover routes here because the market center in Palm Springs was a mess. He’d worked for the supervisor, Jason, of the Palm Springs market center for several years in Indianapolis. Jason got several promotions and they hadn’t seen each other in years. Each time Jason had been promoted Jay felt it was the promotion he should have been given. Only snag was, he had no real time for any more work related exertion since he, at that time, was the sole provider of four young adult children. Sure, he could have made more money it he had slapped together a resume, dusted off his old management skills and gone after those jobs Jason got. But, it wouldn’t have been enough. Never is, mate.
So, Jay kept his blue collar job and stayed available to his kids. He made the mortgage, big thanks to the monthly social security he got. One by one, the young adults went out of braces and off to college. He had done it. One left in the house and he was there now, watching it now while Jay took the bonus money and a week driving around Palm Springs.
Over these last eight years, some dark ones, Jay had rediscovered his passion for writing along with the time to do it. He had also rediscovered coffee. Starbucks coffee. Not the coffee as such, the company. The four years he spent there in Chicago in the early nineties became his historical fiction novel, Tripio. Jay wrote it, got it professionally edited and published on Amazon, with the help of those young adult children. He had been shocked when on a whim Howard Behar signed off on the cover blurb so easily. And there he was in line, a couple places in front of Jay on a Tuesday afternoon at a Starbucks location in Palm Springs. “Should I say something?” Jay asked himself again”
I recently caught up with two men who were working for Starbucks before most anyone knew or cared about much about coffee in this country. I wanted to provide a unique look back at the now legendary company through the lens of my historical fiction novel, Tripio. By that I mean, I hope that this series of posts can provide a layered and long -view appreciation of what it took for Starbucks to become Starbucks from two men who were there to play big roles in making that happen. I was there as well, starting as a barista in 1990. My novel is a barista’s account of how the decisions and actions of these two (and few others, namely Howard Schultz) impacted his daily life. Tripio is not the history of Starbucks. That has been told and continues to be made. Tripio compliments and enlivens Howard and Kevin’s reflections of those times when Starbucks was making history and baristas like Jay were making lattes.
For those who don’t know, the year of the Starbucks IPO was 1992, which is why I placed Tripio in that year. Both Kevin https://www.lamarzoccousa.com/blog/kevin-knox/and Howard Beharhttp://howardbehar.com/ were at Starbucks during that time, as were roughly 450 other folks. Some became millionairess, some didn’t. By following this blog and/or reading Tripio you will discover what happened to at least three of those 450 folks working at a small coffee company in 1992, and perhaps learn a thing or two. Have fun!
I’ll begin with Kevin Knox, who appears in Tripio simply as “the Coffee God’.
“That is why I am here-for the great coffee. Plus Candace had more good news after class, especially for me. The new Regional Manager can’t make it to our next class. But the coffee God of the Cosmodemonic is coming town and is going to at least spend an hour with us.” –Tripio excerpt
Q-In Tripio, Jay answers a want ad for Starbucks in a Chicago paper. How did you find Starbucks? Or did they find you?
A-I worked for Starbucks two different times. The first time, in 1984-1985 I had learned everything I could at the little roaster-retailer in Boulder, Colorado and asked Bob Fullmer at green coffee importer Royal Coffee if he could recommend a company that was totally dedicated to product quality where I could learn more. “Well there’s a little outfit up in Seattle doing a pretty great job.” I quit, moved myself out to Seattle, moved into a funky group household and had to start off sweeping floors and packaging coffee after being in charge of production and training at my old place. But I was quickly promoted to be the 14th roaster in Starbucks history and got to hang out with Jim Reynolds, Tim McCormack, Jerry and Gordon and others.
I ended up going back to Brewing Market in Boulder (which I renamed Allegro Coffee in honor of Dave Olsen’s Café Allegro) but stayed in touch with Starbucks plant manager Hap Hewitt and others, and when Howard bought Starbucks I answered the ad for the Coffee Specialist position. I had to beat out every internal applicant from Il Giornale as well as Starbucks but I did. So I moved myself across the country a second time in 1987. At that time our entire office was Howard, Dave Olsen https://stories.starbucks.com/stories/2015/a-lasting-tradition/, Christine Day, Dawn Pinaud and me.
My starting pay was $24000 a year and I never made more than 40K (though they offered me 70K and Dave Olsen was willing to give me some of his own stock options if I were willing to stay (which I should have accepted as I’d have been a multi-millionaire within a few years). Instead I returned to Allegro as senior VP and Coffee Buyer in 1993 because I couldn’t stand to look like a hypocrite and betrayer to my fellow middle management peers who like me got nothing when we went public while we read the IPO listing our immediate bosses as millionaires on the spot.
The week before Halloween found me on my front porch very early every morning drinking my doppio and journaling. This is the drill before work every day. I am able to use my rejuvenated and rested mind to plan my intentions for the day, and prepare to work on Back outta the World before the rest of the world awakes and comes after my thoughts. It works. The porch is quiet, the street in front of my house is calm and the neighbors not up. A great environment for thinking. Except his week. It being Halloween week, I faced something out of the normal: the distraction of my neighbor’s audio enhanced Halloween decorations. He did not set a timer to shut them off, or shut them off manually so the audio played all night. It was not loud enough to hear until I took my seat on the front porch, ready to sip, think and write.
The time is so precious to me. If I can get in one revamped and improved paragraph of Back outta the World then that feeling of personal achievement can carry me for the balance of the day. I have achieved something positive in my day before I even punch in at work. So I stayed on my chair and with the porch routine. I become accustomed to the fake ghost calls, creaky doors and werewolf howls. After three mornings of this, the scary noises were no longer scary and not even distractions to my morning writing time.
Then came the time change and the morning after Halloween night. As it was a Sunday I made no connection to the time on my phone changing to having to be anywhere. It was Sunday and all I had to do was make my doppio and get out on the porch. I did both. I stepped out to a much darker front porch than I expected. It was then I remembered the time change. But something else was different. No Halloween lights were on. The street was almost entirely without light. Everyone had turned off their Halloween lights and not put their porch lights on. Darker than usual. But I had my porch light on so I opened my journal. No Halloween noises. Good. My precious morning time was back. Silent. Still. Dark.
I got down to writing in my journal. I always note the date and time and judge the quality of my doppio to start out the entries. I just finished this when I heard something scuttling across my lawn. Something even was moving out there just beyond the light cast from my porch light. I felt suddenly vulnerable. I heard the noise again. Could it be cat? The noise was a scrapping type. It was not the soft paws of a cat. The scrapping of claws. I had my jammies and slippers on. I was not dressed to fight off whatever was out there. I stood up. I heard the scrapping claw noise again. I was scared. It was too damn dark and too quiet. No one else was up around me. No one would be out in a minute to start their car and head to work. It was foolish to be scared on my own front porch. But I was.
So, I quickly stepped back inside my house, locked the door behind me and slowly settled back down to work. I was finishing my first mug of drip coffee of the morning when it struck me. The tree in my front yard had been dropping it’s leaves for a while now. They were already dry. I had yet to rake and there was enough of a breeze this morning to send them scrapping across the sidewalk and street in front of my house. It had probably been happening all week but I hadn’t noticed due to my neighbor’s Halloween soundtrack. It was a relief. Thirty minutes later I hustled out my front door, across the lawn,stepping on some of the once scary leaves, got into my car and sped off to work.
I am not sure what makes a book great, or what makes someone’s writing worth reading. However, I know my fears when I see and feel them. I certainly felt them on the way to publishing Tripio. More recently, I felt a lot of fear before placing a call to interview my old boss and Starbucks legend Howard Behar. In both instances, the fears turned out to be nothing more than dry leaves being blown along the sidewalk. In fact, sitting on my backside, safe from the leaf terror in my dining room right now, I can’t remember specifically what any of them were. I will be back on my porch chair tomorrow morning, even if I haven’t raked those leaves. Whether that happens or not the scariest thing about fears would have been not doing anything about them.
I started this post two days ago. I thought it was done. But I was not. Yesterday, I was sitting on my porch after work in the glory of the cool fall evening, soaking in the post work day vibe on my street. I watched a different neighbor about three doors south collect her leaves on her lawn. She did not seem to be afraid of them. In fact, she and her son seemed to be having fun with it. They finished and their front lawn was clean and the grass under the leaves still green and pleasant to look at. I noticed that all the lawns on my street were clean and green, expect mine. I assume no one else on my block was afraid of their leaves. We all have different fears, as we should. That is because we all have different things to learn about ourselves. They say that fear is a great motivator. It can be. I think of that now as an affirmation that fear is a tool given to us to help us learn and overcome what we fear in and about to ourselves.
Okay. Now I’m really done. Gotta go find my rake and clear my lawn. I’m afraid of what the neighbors might say.
“I’m sittin’ in first class and they can all kiss my ass, ‘cuase I’m goin’ back baby, back outta world.”
Terry Allen & The Panhandle Mystery Band – Back Out Of The World – 1987 album – Amerasia
In Tripio, Jay is writing his first novel. It is a road book. One of Jay’s literary heroes in Tripio is Jack “That’s not writing, that’s typing” Kerouac. It is in character for Jay to have attempted his first novel based on the two month road trip he had taken as part of his aimless post college graduation life. Tripio starts as Jay is nearing the end of writing that novel. He is not exactly struggling with the ending of it. After all, it is finite. The book will end with end of journal he kept on the road trip. Jay is more concerned by the fact that he is afraid he doesn’t even know what his book is about.
In real life, that was also true. Today, I describe “Back Outta the World” as a road trip in which the main character’s mind and body are on two different trips and meet at the end. I only came to that conclusion as I reworked Back outta the World(BotW) prior to starting Tripio. I arrived at that conclusion approximately 20 years after I finished physically writing BotW. You will have to buy and read Tripio to find that section describing how I felt upon finishing BotW. I will tell you that it is one of the few parts of Tripio that remains word for word in the novel, as it was recorded in my SotM on that day in my Chicago apartment those many years ago.
If I am promoting and publishing Tripio as a Starbucks novel, reflecting on it daily now as the story of my early adult life, then I am writing about my writing twice over. In other words there could be no Tripio without BotW. Yet, I was hesitant at first to even name BotW in Tripio. Early in the writing of Tripio, I referred to BotW as “my writing” or “the novel”. Then, as I began to feel confident and came to see potential in the publishing of Tripio, I made it a point to name and embed BotW into Tripio. In fact, I had to. In order for Tripio to “work” (you be the judge), BotW had to be a powerful, named presence in Jay’s mind. It had to be identified so that it could carry it’s third of the book.
I believe it worked. Again, you be the judge. Either way I am continuing to work on the final revision of BotW. Both novels and nearly all fiction can be called “Emotionally autobiographical.” It is proving to be true in my case at least. I am experiencing, processing, writing and realizing each novel in distinct, separate ways. Tripio was a very personal memoir-like work. In fact, I am not sure that today, late 2020, I would be able to include some passages that went into Tripio as I was writing it several years ago. Yet they had to be there to make the book work. Hint: I’m talking about the sex scenes. In real life, I experienced BotW before Tripio. But I jumped off the cliff before seeing the bridge in writing and publishing Tripio. That done, I know now I will complete and publish BotW some 25 years after first typing, yes typing, it’s first draft. That would be the least Tripio could do for BotW since Tripio would not have come to be without it, even if preceded it in real life.
One upside to the times we now live in is that re-financing one’s mortgage is a sound financial move. So, right now, I am in the middle of refinancing my mortgage for the house and home my family and I have lived in for over 20 years. One part of this process required a new appraisal of house including porch, garage and basement. I did not have to be home when this happened. My son would be taking classes on Zoom the scheduled day. He let the appraiser into the house on the scheduled day to confirm dimensions, takes photos of each room and otherwise do his thing. A week later I got an email from the appraiser. I was anxious to see how much my house had increased in value over those 20 years.
I scrolled though the document of almost 15 pages of small text, measurements and checked boxes. I found the appraised value, which was close to what I expected and happy with that, I hurriedly scrolled to the end of the attachment. As I neared the end of the doc, photos of the house, interior rooms, porch and basement, showed up. I had not expected the photos to be included in this document. So, when I saw them pop up, I felt an odd feeling run up my spine, as if I were spying on my own life. I felt like I were looking at someone’s diary when I knew I shouldn’t have been, like I was looking in through the window at my wanna be Mario Batali neighbor as they made popcorn for dinner. It wasn’t anger or embarrassment that a stranger was in my house taking pictures while I wasn’t there. No, not at all. That was a arranged, understood part of the the process. Again, it was the surprise of seeing these photos in a the oddly voyeuristic circumstances in which I found them.
I know and lived the history and stories that are behind those photos, and that for me, animate them. There are so many stories in each room. So many days, nights, afternoons. So many times spent as family having dinner together in the kitchen. As I scrolled down from room to room, I began to imagine the appraiser doing the same thing. Room to room. What is interesting about the dining room to him? The porch? The washer and dryer in the basement? The hardwood floors?
I know right now I have a favorite room, but that changes as the weather does. It’s the front porch. But that matters little to the appraiser. Or to the any prospective buyers, if and when that happens. After I e-signed the document and sent it on its way, It struck me how similar the appraisal process of the commodity of a house is similar to that of my novel, Tripio. I have may favorite parts and passages in the book. The parts that after I had written them created thoughts of grandeur, thoughts of self-congratulation, and certainty that the future readers of Tripio would simply love them as well. What I have found in talking to a few readers of Tripio is that not a single one of them has taken my favorite parts as theirs. They appraise the book, appreciate the book differently. I have since got used to this and upon reflection, it makes sense. I love drinking coffee and reading on my front porch. Not everyone does, or will. It doesn’t make it bad or wrong. It doesn’t mean they won’t like the house or want to but it. It only means we are all different, unique and fabulous in our own ways. After awhile I began signing Tripio with the dedication “We all read a different book. I hope you enjoy your copy of Tripio!” I now recognize that they have the front door key and will apprise and appreciate Tripio in their own way, even it it isn’t on the front porch over a cup of coffee.
“Don’t translate, answer.” Those were the instruction from my Russian professor in college. He wanted his students to answer his questions posed in Russian as responses, not having taken the extra step to translate from Russian to English to Russian to answer. I have something similar in mind with the thoughts I’m listing below. They are collected from my Sketchbooks of the Mind (journals) from the recent past. When you read them, just think them over. No need to like, comment or even agree or disaggree. I’m not after clicks, as is so often the intent of “list” posts. In other words, “Don’t click, think”. Have fun…
One cannot breathe yesterday's air
The universal truths are universal because the the truth in them is different for everyone
My mind is my dedicated work space
If you don't posses it, you can not address it
If you can't let it go, at least let it flow
America is the land of cardboard boxes
The journey is not difficult once you decided to take it
Live cheaply to sleep deeply
It's not the book, the painting, the creation that matters, but what the creation creates that is most important
My life is hard enough for me to appreciate just how easy it is
Recently, I have been resisting working on “Back outta the World. Oh sure, I can tell myself that work has been busy. True. I have been paying more attention to the blog. Also true. This afternoon I spent a good deal of time letting as many people as possible know that I have just appeared on a podcast.
All the above are true. Yet if I truly wanted to find the time and energy to keep revising, reworking and refining “Back outta the World” I could have.
I have made good progress to date and may have found an editor to take on the manuscript after I have finished this revision. As some of you may know, the novel and the current revisions were written almost 25 years apart. That dynamic provides a unique vantage point to take stock of who I was and what I felt and thought about life a quarter century ago. This is a common theme is my blog: that the writing is so often secondary, a byproduct of working on one’s mind, body and soul. That said, I sometimes I look foolish to my now older self. A good sign, I think. In other passages I see myself and mutter, “That’s me, alright.”
In “A Commotion in your heart-notes on writing and life“, Barb Shoup says that ‘The first tool in any revision toolkit is putting the manuscript away for a while.” Maybe I went a little overboard in waiting over two decades between revisions. That book is not pictured above. The book in the photo I found at a yard sale in Bloomington, Indiana for $.50 cents. Both have proven valuable but the main take away from this post is from “Art and Fear.”
Whatever the case, I am enjoying the hell out of communicating with my younger self. But, the above resistance came as I approached a part of the revision that caused me to look at myself as who I am, not who I wanted to be.
In BotW, Jay is several weeks into his road trip and is becoming accustomed to not knowing what day it is, and not setting the alarm clock. He is about to head out of Chicago on the next part of his pilgrimage westward with his companions when he stops on a busy corner to observe the commuters boarding one of the many buses that are stopping there at rush hour:
‘They are on those buses. Jay has just seen them and they have glanced over at him, while waiting for the bus to move again. From nowhere came the feeling that Jay wanted to be one of them. He stood on the sidewalk of a huge and purpose driven city and staring into the bus of strangers, and he felt unsure, afraid even, of his life and where it was taking him. It struck him that he’d rather be stable, in his own routine, heading home to a familiar living room.‘
For that moment, Jay wants to give up the road trip for the boredom and security of the daily grind, which those bus commuters are bound to. It seems safe. It presents a good place to be. He pictures himself momentarily living that routine specific to his own life. But, isn’t he on this trip, isn’t’ he heading back out of the world, to avoid just such a fate? Jay only comes out of these thoughts because he is clinging to the hope of a second meeting with a beautiful female wanna be rock star who may be down the road in Louisville.
When I read that passage it struck me, these 25 years later, that I am happy to be like the commuters on the bus on that corner in Chicago. I like the five day routine. I like shutting down the work day and the work week and doing things on the weekends just like most everyone else.
In fact, that stability and routine has enabled me to create a consistent, predictable and productive time to work on Tripio, and now BotW. When I was living out what was the source material for those novels, certainly BotW , I fancied myself a mad Beatnik or a wondering Henry Miller type. I’m not though. I thrive on exactly the type routine based life Jay is running from in BotW. I need that stability so that I know where and when I can write, exactly where and when I could and can get back into those manuscripts and make something better out of them.
The question that has me stuck for now is, “How did Jay know? Jay knew me better than I know myself, even though he was younger me than the theoretically wiser me that I am now. A little confusing and unsettling to be sure. I think that this is why I have been resisting moving deeper into BotW. I know I will keep at it. I have no choice. But I am just a little afraid of what Jay is going to tell me about myself next.
‘I’m now finished with “Back outta the World” and feel good about it. I don’t really mean I feel great about the stuff on the pages but rather how it got there. Plus, I had the thought towards the end that I really learned how to write – why then and there?- About 90 pages in? It was more than a decision to move away from the passive voice of Jay. Maybe I hit my 10,000 hours? Who knows? Just noted it for the record”
Journal entry from Sunday March 29, 2020 5:59 a.m.
So there you have it. No diploma, certificate, accreditation, grade or outside validation in any way shape or form. In fact as I searched the couple journals I thought this entry originated from, I told myself it would sound more meaningful when I did find it and read it. The entry is fairly mundane. ‘Just the facts, mam” . There is no entry from the previous days or weeks that hinted or foreshadowed the above entry. I read it again just now and doubt if you all will be convinced all that much that I believe every syllable, that I believe that the writing I have been doing since that entry on “Back outta the World”- BotW has been something that I see as writing filled with opportunities to make the novel more interesting, engaging, intriguing and entertaining for the readers. And, just as important to me, that the writing is staying as true to my unique self as my dental records would be in case of a grisly accident involving, perhaps, a flaming sword.
As it turned out, the key words in the entry are not even words. Words are the thing in writing. Numbers are the thing in math. Yet, on the momentous occasion of my realization that I feel like I learned how to write, specifically novels, it is the numbers that tell the story. Oh well, too late for a career change.
The 10,000 reference is from Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” theory. It can get complicated but means to me simply, one must put in the time.
The second number and the more personal and equally significant to me, is the year 2020. I wrote the first draft, or version, of BotW during the early 90’s while living in Chicago and working at an early Starbucks. This is one of the story lines that make up my first published novel, Tripio. More math will let one come to the conclusion that BotW was started before Tripio and will be published after. So, am I saying that I published TripioAFTER learning how to write? Well, yes, in a way. But only because I had to.
Sorry if this is starting to sound like a word problem in math. Yet, I wrote and published Tripio because of BotW. There could be not be one without the other -as books- in the journey of my life. I had to write Tripio to get to my 10,000 hours, to put in the time, to get back to Back outta the World, started over 20 years earlier. Make no mistake, Tripio is certainly worth buying and reading- it is about as honest a book a one will find out there- but I was still learning to write while writing it.
Again, where is the proof, the diploma, the certificate that proves that? There aint’ one. But after putting in the time, I know it to be true, I know the truth about BotW. Which to me make both books, and any future ones, worth writing and reading. Put in the intentional time (my phrase, not Malcolm’s) and when the time comes, you and only you will know when your own books will tell the truth back to you.