Tripio The Novel

How I wrote my novel, and how I can help you write yours

In the process of attempting to publish Tripio, I have tried to research any other books in which Starbucks features prominently. I am curious to see if there is another book out there similar to Tripio. I know most of the business success books written about Starbucks the company. In what seems a million year ago I read “Pour your heart into it” by my old boss, Howard Schultz.

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      This morning I found a book about Starbucks that I had not heard of.  It is called “How Starbucks Saved my Life” by Michael Gates Gill. I read a bit about this book and it does not appear to be a novel, but more a real life account. It was published in 2007 and I may or may not read it. I am sure over the course of the next several months I will come across other books, novels or not, with a Starbucks tie-in. I may or may not read them.

    It is not so much that I am afraid to compare Michael Gates Gill’s experience at Starbucks to mine. His experience and mine appear to be completely different, as they should be, since we are two completely different people. I would, however, like to hear his descriptions of working the espresso bar at his Starbucks. In Tripio, Jay calls the espresso bar at store #204 “the beating heart of the growing Cosmodemonic empire.” ( Please see post #42, when published, for a more detailed explanation of the use of Cosmodemonic). And for Jay, the espresso bar is the place where he must prove himself to the customers and, more importantly, to his fellow baristas. Because to take the bar on a busy Saturday morning, we are talking 1,000 transactions by noon in those days, and deal with the line was how you earned and kept the respect of your co-workers.

   That is Jay’s experience and so it follows that it was also my experience. And, please don’t think any worse of me for saying this: I don’t really care about anybody else’s experiences at Starbucks. Because, I lived mine. I felt the butterflies in my stomach as I prepared to open on Saturday mornings knowing a three hour line of customers awaited me. This feeling mirrors and parallels what I felt when writing Tripio. I temporarily lost interest in reading other novels. I wanted to tell my own story. I am not sure if I am alone in this. I wonder if many, any, or no other writers felt this way while working on a project of theirs. These observations do not at all mean that I don’t want to share Tripio with as many people as possible. Maybe it isn’t that complicated after all. Maybe my apprehensions about putting Tripio out in the world really mean I am just a little fearful about sharing my own very personal story. I may just be coming down with a case of butterflies in my stomach, much like Jay did before those busy Saturday mornings over twenty years ago at store #204.  



   I am very protective of my mind. Not my brain. In order to appreciate this blog in its length and breadth, especially the few posts that don’t directly concern my crass, yet entertaining attempts to sell Tripio, that must be made clear. Take my brain, please. Take it and the five senses that it operates and reacts to.


   As for my mind. It is mine. All mine. The good, bad, happy and sad. It is all mine.

  Which brings me to my drowned phone device. Don’t ask me how I drowned my phone. All I will offer is that the bag of rice trick didn’t work for me. What does not work in the phone recovery process is not saving your icloud passwords and such. Because, as you all know, the process of recovering everything you have on that device is way more complicated than it needs to be.

   But it shouldn’t be. When did this happen? When did we give the important information in our  minds to someone else? We should not have to endure questions from ATT, 5/3rd bank, Facebook and countless other entities to access what was once kept in our quite capable minds. 

   I propose that we each have a unique code that requires them to access our minds. No, I am not ripping off Philip K. Dick, just placing value on the most powerful, unique and wonderful thing we all possess: our own minds.

    I say powerful because the ATTs. FBs, banks, etc. are nothing without what it is in there. They need our thoughts. They exist because we put our minds into thoughts that can be acted upon by them. If we keep what is ours where it is accessible only by us, when we need it (ex. When I used to know people’s phone numbers) then drowning a phone device would not be so stressful. Then, what we have in our minds is accessible only with our permission, not the other way around. Doesn’t that make more sense? I think that ATT, FB et al should be contacting me to confirm their identity and trying to remember how to access my thoughts, my mind, so they can take actions created by them. The all say that they are working for us, it’s time to prove it. They need to call, text or email me for permission to get at and use my mind, not the other way around.

                                  May I help who’s next?

     Yesterday afternoon I went to take my “Building your Blog” class at the Indiana Writers Center. It was the largest of the three classes I have so far taken at IWC. At the start of class our instructor had us do a quick “who are you and why are you here?” introduction as a way of breaking the ice and generating conversation. There were professional people who wanted to offer expert advice for their blogs sitting alongside the “creatives” like me, who wrote fiction or poetry or just wanted to blog for the hell of it.

    When it came to my turn to introduce myself I nailed it. I know my name. I know what I currently do for a living. No problems there. But when it came to describing Tripio I blew it. I had hoped to reel off a couple intriguing, fascinating sentences describing Tripio and then answer questions from the rest of the attendees along the lines of “When does it come out? And “How soon can I buy a copy? That didn’t happen. I stopped and restarted. I mumbled and talked too fast, then paused and restarted again. I think I ended by saying the pointless, “I love it.

     Luckily, our instructor saved me. He had taught in quite a few environments and must have been used to pulling bodies from the verbal wreckage. He helped me by restating the plot of Tripio as a question to everyone else. “So, Tripio has three plot lines, one involving a relationship, one involving writing a book and in the other,  you as the main character, received over 250 shares of Starbucks stock at the IPO. In …1992??

    “Yes. 1992” I replied, once again handling the two word reply like a pro.

     “Oh, I’m sorry to hear about not having the stock anymore.”  He replied.

      “Yea. So am I.” Was my riveting reaction, though I was proud of myself for having used four words this time.

      To be honest I did recover over the course of the next three hours and managed to receive positive feedback and comment about Tripio. That in turn provided motivation for me to write again this morning.

     And as you know, I am writing this blog in part to help and prepare aspiring writers in as many ways as I can, based on my present experiences, not any past success. This morning, in researching my journals (Sketchbooks of the Mind) for this post, I came across this entry about Tripio, -“I have no doubt at all in Tripio. In its creation, authenticity & purity. For it to work, it cannot be preconceived. It has to just happen. It has to be read as if it is just happening.” Which for me, is also how this blog is going to work best. This is a day in the life account of my efforts to publish Tripio. I have never tried to publish a book before and am discovering that it entails a lot of things I didn’t expect. One of which is describing your book to a room full of strangers. And blowing it.

     Which brings me to an inspirational quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that I have kept close for years now…”In life you must do the things you think you cannot do.” In my case, as you just read, I could write Tripio. It is everything else I have yet to do.

                                                “May I help who’s next?” 

Your buddy Howard is thinking about running for president. Could be good for the book

   Above is the text I received this morning. The text was from an old friend who appears in Tripio as my “older brother”.  I have been advised to get reviews of Tripio for the Amazon page. So, I have been. And the “older brother” from Tripio now has the manuscript in his hands and is hopefully enjoying the living hell out of reading it.

 [[File:’Man Reading’ by John Singer Sargent, Reading Public Museum.jpg|’Man Reading’ by John Singer Sargent, Reading Public Museum]]

  Since Tripio is partially about Starbucks and Howard Schultz, I feel obligated to comment on how I think he will perform as president. Except, I don’t really know, so I won’t. All I know for sure is that the one time I met him in person he handed me a Bean Stock Bravo award. The meeting is recounted in Tripio, “HS called some partners to the stage for recognition. I was one of them. He called my name about halfway through the presentation (he mispronounced the last name, and I politely corrected him), handed me a Cosmo Bravo award and shook my hand.”

   I reflect upon the historic meeting now and will not let Howard mispronouncing my name influence whether I will vote for him if he runs for president. I will rise above that. But I do want Howard to run for president for my sake.

  I say that only half kidding because I suspect there is a lot of truth in lot of truth what my friend texted me. In fact I did text him back replying, “My thoughts exactly.”

    Odd thing just occurred to me as I write this post. It feels right to use just Howard in referring to possible presidential candidate Howard Schultz. In my four years at Starbucks, everyone referred to Howard as Howard. It seemed to fit him to use his first name only. The other bigshot in the hierarchy at the time was Howard Behar. In Tripio I use HS and HB to make the distinction. But in those days it was not uncommon to have one of them visit Chicago. After all when Tripio takes places there were only 125 Starbucks stores and 500 employees. But everyone could tell which Howard was coming to visit by the slight change in tone when one said “Howard is coming to town.” Both meant lots of extra cleaning in case they showed up at your store. But the Howard in Howard Schultz visiting had a little more excitement or buzz in the pronouncement. Not of fear, but of anticipation.

    Like I said, I have no idea how that recollection relates to Howard as president. I just felt obligated to share it. Also, I am sure Howard has practiced pronouncing names since we last met.

                                             “May I help who’s next?”


    It is nearly 7 a.m. on this Sunday morning. I have been up for close to ninety minutes. This is my schedule. I have come to the conclusion that sleeping in is overrated. This is my day off and one hears a lot about how others relish the chance to “sleep in” on their off days. I can’t, even if I try, I can’t. So, I get up and make coffee. Or, I simply warm up the leftovers from the day before and get to work. I always, always, always have a cup of coffee near me when I write.

    This brings me to Stephen Fry. I read once that when he was working on screenplay for Peter Jackson he could not get going on it to save his skin. It took him awhile to find the reason but it struck him that at the time he was working on the screenplay his was trying to give up smoking. Smoking energized his mind while at the same time the ritual calmed and rewarded him. I feel almost exactly the same about my cups of coffee. This morning, I am wondering if I could have written Tripio without coffee?

  One indisputable answer is no. No coffee, no Starbucks. No Starbucks, no Tripio . Starbucks did not invent coffee of course and I drank plenty of coffee before Starbucks was available. In Tripio, Jay even refers to a coffee house where he was working before he moved to Chicago. Even after Jay is working at Starbucks he often goes to favorite coffee house that “sat on an alley under the El tracks”. I come by my love of coffee honestly. Hey, I loved coffee before it was trendy and pricey.

   The point here, however, isn’t how cool I am. I was thinking as I started this post that it could be a bad thing that I believe I have to have a cup of coffee within arm’s reach anytime I write. I sometimes know that I will not drink the contents of the mug but that I have to have it close regardless. If I were feeling somehow inadequate about myself for not be able to write without coffee near, I arrived at the conclusion to stop it. One reason is that I am in good company with Stephen Fry. The second is that I would have never responded to the Starbucks want ad if I hadn’t already loved coffee. For proof I refer again to Tripio and Jay thinking to himself as he prepares to answer at want ad for Starbucks, “about the only real qualification I have is that I’m a coffee lover.”

   And I am not alone! The spectacular growth of Starbucks confirms this. If you are reading this blog with a cup of coffee nearby, then drink up! If you are doing so at your local Starbucks then that’s even better. Better because I hope you will appreciate both your own coffee and your Starbucks for having read this post.

                                           “May I help who’s next?”


    “Here goes.”

    I stepped down from the small but elevated stage at Indy Reads Books  with copies of Tripio in hand and headed for the shelves. The store closed in ten minutes and I had decided to give my novel away. No matter that it had been born in a series of journals I kept over 20 years ago. No matter that those journals had survived several moves, a basement flood and 20 years of neglect. No matter that resurrecting those journals and turning them into a novel may have changed the course of my life. 

     The Greek had advised me to give Tripio away. He had said not to hold the book to close. To let it go. That Tripio was no longer mine. That it was our job now to get the book out there. That the reader has no emotional stake in how Tripio came to be. Why the fuck should they care?

    The last thought was mine. It was true. The Greek was right. No one came knocking on my door two years ago and asked me to write a novel based on my life at a Starbucks location in Chicago during the summer of 1992. No one called me and requested I add a love story. Popular demand wasn’t accountable for me adding the story line about writing my first novel. The world at large didn’t demand Tripio ask the reader to consider the value of three types of creation: a business, a work of art, a family. No. No one cared if and what I was writing then. Having  finished writing what I was writing, had not changed anything in the world at large. That in mind, Tripio still in hand, I was about  to meet my indifferent public, to give away my masterpiece.

   The Greek was right again. I felt great on the way home, nine boxes of unopened books in my trunk. I did not sell a copy of Tripio. But, receiving Tripio had made some half dozen people happy. One mother of a teen-aged coffee fan even requested I sign Tripio for her son. She was thrilled that her son was going to get a signed copy of Tripio, a book as much about coffee as anything else. As a parent myself, her joy hit close to home.  Giving Tripio away had made me happy. Giving the book away had power. Tripio was out there now, on its way to being appreciated. 

       And it was a great feeling.

                                               “May I help who’s next?”

        I am an hour into my book release event at Indy Reads Books. My first public attempt to get the word out for my historical fiction novel, Tripio. The first attempt to get the word out about this very personal, private book. So personal that there are parts of the book that reveal things that happened in my life that not even my own family of origin know about. My own adult children have yet to learn things in there about their father’s life in Chicago in the early 90s’ and two of them are characters in the book.

    Good. It is too private, too intimate. I put too much of myself into Tripio. I am glad no one is showing up this afternoon to buy it. I am glad that no one has even asked me about the book as they wonder the store. It makes me pleased, deeply relieved that I put my emotional, spiritual and creative ass out for the public to see and no one notices or seems to even care.

    “Give it away” Said the Greek.  

   “Try giving it away.” Not the voice in my head any longer. No. It was the Greek friend of mine who helped me set up the event and has, out of sympathy, stayed with me this entire lonely first hour.

    “Give it away?” I asked aloud this time, assured that no one else in the store cared what I said, did, ate or wrote.

     I considered the Greek’s words of advice. I asked the store manager if that would be fine with them. She said it was “my book” to do with what I pleased. I considered the Greeks’ words for about 45 more minutes. Surely before the store closes and the event ends someone will buy Tripio. A last minute rush to get the book they’ve heard so much about would make the event worth the time and effort. I would have made some money and be a self-anointed success! Even better, a literary agent who had been held up at the airport would rush in breathlessly, business card in hand, and ask me..”Do you have a minute to talk?  I’ve read your book and…”

   “Give it away” He said one more time.

    Greek friend, I’m liking this fantasy a little better. But I do have to carry these ten boxes of books back to the car.  Plus, the store is closing and I feel bad for the people who are about to get kicked out. I’ve been in their place before. I hated being tossed out of a bookstore just as you are about to find that book that will speak to you.  

         “OK…why not?” I said to the Greek. “I have nothing to lose.”

                                  “May I help who’s next?”

           The photo above is of me, Jay, from the epilogue of Tripio. Besides a dashing, handsome and still young man, what do you see? I see so much that it is difficult to even write this post. I have no idea where or how to even start. Maybe that is why I  messed around so long with applying the photo itself. I was “resisting” starting this post. For the purposes of this post will keep what I see, as much as I am able, in the context of the character Jay in Tripio.

       As I said, this photo would be from the time of the epilogue of Tripio, when Jay has left Chicago, Starbucks and it’s 268 shares of IPO stock behind for good. He doesn’t look that dumb in the photo, does he? Yes, no, maybe? That is up to the readers of Tripio to decide.

     Look a little more closely and you will see a wannabe writer who has had to stop writing and given up his dream of becoming a novelist. He now will only have to time read and take a few notes now and again in his journals (Sketchbooks of the Mind, as Jay calls his journals in Tripio). By reading, I mean mostly read children’s books.

   I say children’s books because if you look even closer you will see that the man in the photo is married, has two you sons and is working hard to support them. In fact, on break, he may be headed to the children’s books section of MegaBooks to buy some marked down hardback children’s books that he would read to his two young sons over and over again.

    As I write this post, some of those books are on a shelf upstairs in the special spot I set aside.  In Tripio, Jay calls buying those books, “the best investment I ever made”.

      That is the best I can do in putting that photo in the context of Tripio. I hope it interested you in the book. I think I did a good job of keeping my observations short enough to fit into a blog post. Writing it created a desire in me to want to go upstairs and look through those old children’s books I bought years ago.

                                                   “May I help who’s next?”

     I like to record old movies from TCM. They are free from commercials and any additional cost. I am not alone in liking these advantages. I am especially fond of the classic black and white noir films. I recently watched Gilda. I reference it not because it has anything to do with Tripio but because it gives me an excuse to look through photos of Rita Hayworth to use below.

     I think that was a good use of my time. One movie I did not record was “No Time for Sergeants”. I reference that because as a writer putting out his first novel, I feel that recently I no longer have time to write.

    That struck me as I was rereading two of my recent posts this morning. I have come to truly enjoy writing these posts. That comes as quite a surprise to me. I have never had the need nor inclination to do any writing intended for in blogosphere, the internet, social media etc. Partly I think I took writing posts because they have been replacing my morning journal entries.  I write blog posts in the morning before leaving for work. The job has a way of taking up a lot of time each and every week. As does commuting, eating, sleeping, shopping, cleaning and all the countless daily activities one must make time to do. As far as writing fiction in any other form, not much time is left in the normal week.

    I prioritized my remaining free time in order to attend the first of three “Author Development” classes at a nearby library. They are presented by a person with a best selling book on Amazon. Previously, I have taken courses at the Indiana Writers Center, and none of those focused on writing, as such. Instead they focused on topics such as building your own brand, SEO and owning my niche audience. All valuable pursuits. And pursuing them takes a lot of time.

      One other thing all classes did have in common was that they all emphasized the need for writers to create content. That sound like something I can do! Good thing too. Since I have “no time for writing” anymore.

                                         “May I help who’s next?”

     A troubling thing has been happening on this journey to publish Tripio. I have been getting asked quite a bit the question: “What is a tripio?” 

     This was first brought to my attention at a class on memoir writing at the Indiana Writers Center. No one in the class with me knew what a tripio was. It hadn’t even occurred to me. I knew what a tripio was since the fall of 1990 when I started at Starbucks. Actually, I had worked at a couple independent, hippy coffee houses even before that, so the word was part of my personal vocabulary so long I assumed everyone knew what one was. Also creating my false sense of security was the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of Starbucks on this earth. Surely, everyone who’s visited a Starbucks has ordered a tripio…right?

     I’ll break the silence and continue. In Tripio, the book, Jay describes his tripio, the drink, as “my crutch, my momentum and my solace”. I’m sure that helped clear things up. If it didn’t, I will define a tripio as three shots of espresso which is usually consumed immediately after it is brewed into pre-warmed cup. It is then often consumed with sugar or whatever one wants to add. In Tripio, the book, Jay always drinks his tripios over lots of ice in a plastic cup. Jay needs the caffeine from the three shots and the ice keeps the drink alive and refreshing as he goes about his work day.


    Of course, I did not choose to title the book Tripio based solely on the fact that the main character drank lots of triple espressos over ice. There are three plot lines that intertwine and collaborate as Tripio goes along. Jay has three life options facing him as he goes about his increasingly complicated days. After reading Tripio, you will be asked to decide if the option he chose was the correct one for him.  

     In order to read Tripio you will first have to buy it. Before you do that, you will examine the cover and see that subtitle includes a partial definition of the word tripio. Which brings me back around to the class I mentioned above. I was helped a great deal in choosing that subtitle by the instructor of that class. Thankfully, he was one other person in the room that day who knew what a tripio was.  And now, I hope you do as well.

                              “May I help who’s next?”