Tripio The Novel

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

                                              Blog 17- The want ad

    Was it Thomas Wolfe who said you can’t go home again? I think so. Not sure why he said it. For me it was easy, I jumped in my car and drove two hours east to 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 want-ad I had responded to which set off a series of events that culminated in me getting a job with Starbucks in Chicago in the fall of 1990.

  Around this time last year I was committed to the editing of the “novelized” version of Tripio , ttps:// . I can step back and evaluate Tripio, as it has now become, in three forms: The memoir version, the novelized version, and the edited, converted to past-tense version. I will cover editing more fully in future posts but will only say for now that I feel very fortunate to have worked with the editor I did. This wise man suggested a more catchy “hook” for the opening of Tripio. I could see his reasoning right away. Tripio opens deliberately and slowly as Jay is at his writing desk in his apartment, “shirtless and smelling a bit ripe”. Besides writing a little, all he bothered to do was take out the trash. Riveting stuff, eh? I did see my editor’s reasoning but my first reaction was “Where is the patience, people?”

                                         Dorothea Lange [Public domain]

     But in and among those thoughts I knew what I wanted. I wanted to find that original ad. At first I combed the couple journals I had kept from 1990 but could not find it. I remembered that the ad included the phrase “must love coffee” so I tried the internet. No luck.  I took a trip to the main library in downtown Indy for help. Their archives for the Dayton Daily News did not go back far enough. I did find an old ad for Starbucks as it opened in the Los Angeles market. Close, but that wasn’t want I wanted. Not what I, at this point, had to have.

  In Indy, I was given contact info for the archivist at the Dayton Daily who suggested I try to search the microfilm in person. I have family who live in Dayton and I could arrange that easily and visit them as part of the bargain. Off I drove.

   The visit with my family went well. The search for the want ad did not. I again proved Wolfe wrong and went from old home to current home, this time heading west two hours.

  During that drive with my brain and five senses occupied, my mind took control and it occurred to me that in the summer of 1990 I was thinking of moving from Dayton to Chicago. The ad would be in the Tribune! Almost as soon as I got home, I jumped on the computer, subscribed to a month of the Tribune archives and within two minutes had found the original ad. After switching bait several times, I had hooked my hook.

                                        May I help who’s next?


        At this point on the journey of Tripio, a lot has been happening. A lot of good things have taken place So much so that last night I voiced a desire to possibly move the publication date of Tripio up a month or so. I chose April 11th because in Tripio, the child that Kati and Jay are expecting has been assigned a due date of April 11th.  I will wait and see on the final decision for a new release date of Tripio.

                    “Nothing in human judgment is final”   attributed to FDR

    A lot of positive things are happening around Tripio: the wonderful blurbs from Starbucks legends, the inspired first mock cover, the classes at the Indiana Writers Centers seemingly appearing just when I need them, my tech support moving back home at the right time to help me launch this blog.  All those events listed are simply events following energy. That is, good energy following good energy.

   Events following energy is a cornerstone wisdom that I have believed in since way before I started working on Tripio. I had to understand it first in order to understand myself in order to put myself into a place to be able to create Tripio. For further clarification, find and read Daniel Pond’s Chakras for Beginners.

         I can’t even recall when I bought the book, or how it came to me years ago, during the time I call “early recovery”. Finding that book can rightly be called a milestone on my journey.

    From this book, I found so many wisdoms that I have come to use in my day to day life. I know I would not have come to create Tripio without having read Chakras. It is one of the books that I can honestly say helped change my life. Or as C.S. Lewis puts it in Experiment in Criticism,I have become what I was not before”, upon reading Chakras.

     Once again, the single most powerful wisdom practice I have followed since first putting down that book has consistently been “Events follow Energy”. The events I listed above are not random actions of an outside world that happened to crash into my life. For most of my life I would have seen those, and all events in my life, as such. I would have concluded that “Life happens”. Now I understand that it doesn’t. We create our lives with our thoughts and concomitant actions. Good events follow good energy. Bad events follow bad energy. I know, I followed some of them right into rehab. I have since worked daily, even hourly, to create better daily energies. Those energies continue to bring better events. A very short list appears above.

                                                        “May I help who’s next?”


     Today I reached a milestone on the journey of Tripio. I had my last meeting with the artist who did the cover art. His field of specialty is fashion and design but circumstance created the interest and opportunity for him to take on creating the cover art for a book. It was all meant to be. I had never written a book before and he had never created a design for a book cover before. I can only hope the book is a good as the cover.

  I will give you three guesses as to where the artist and I met for me to pay and for us to sign the copyright transfer. Need help? There was one exactly halfway between his house and mine. Still need help? Tripio takes place primarily at one of these places, although at the time of Tripio, there were about 10,000 fewer of these places to choose from.

                 From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

       Well, you’ll get it eventually. For now I look at the cover and see the story behind it. I see the work that went into it. I see the very first cover draft I came up with. I see long the before that, to the writing of the book itself. And I see the requesting of the blurbs and the photo shoot for the back cover headshot. I see my original journals that begat Tripio. I see learning how to use Dropbox for the editing. I see myself with printed pages on my porch this past summer Sunday evenings, looking over what I had written that weekend. I see four am start times. I see that this list is getting tedious for you, so I will stop.

   My point is this anyhow. I see a lot of good times. I see good times in my Mind Garden. I see good productive days and weeks getting both me and Tripio to this point. And that is what I feel best about when I look at the cover…even though you can’t see it.

                                                “May I help who’s next?”


    “Are you mad at Starbucks?”

      I was caught off guard for a second. That was the first question my editor asked me after reading an excerpt from Tripio. I simply replied that Tripio is my novel and that my story could not have taken place without Starbucks as a major part of it. He then asked quite reasonably,  “Why are you calling Starbucks the “Cosmodemonic Coffee Company”?

    I had not thought about it all that much when writing Tripio. I think because it is how I referred to Starbucks throughout the journals (SotMs: that is Sketchbooks of the Mind), I kept during the early 1990s when I worked there. Since those journals were the source material for Tripio and it was incredibly obvious that I could only be referring to Starbucks when I subbed Cosmodemonic, I saw no urgency in making a change.

      My editor was fine with that but was more interested in the “Why?’ So, I went on. In Tripio, the Jay character and his new lover Kati both had read lots of Henry Miller by the time their romance starts. In his early writing days Henry Miller worked for Western Union and referred to it as the Cosmodemonic Telephone and Telegraph Company. In the book, Jay and Kati simply use Cosmodemonic as a nickname more out of homage to Henry Miller than anything to do with Starbucks. But my editor was not swayed and had me insert a clarification and disclaimer of sorts, as early in Tripio as I could. I did so.

    Wait, there’s more. Since Tripio is at least part memoir and there are many passages where Jay is taking notes or reviewing his SotMs, he also uses Cosmodemonic, “to keep work out of my mind as I take notes and go about my off hours”. This reasoning also goes deep into the struggle the protagonist Jay faces in Tripio. Jay moved to Chicago to “test his metal as a writer, not to find a career” and is actively questioning whether he has what it takes to actually succeed as a novelist. The other safer but less writerly option is climbing the ladder at this fast growing coffee company he has been working for over two years. In using the word Cosmodemonic in his personal journals Jay is identifying himself more as a writer, like Henry Miller, than just as a cog in the growing Cosmodemonic/Starbucks machine.

    Last but not least, I just checked an on-line dictionary site and found that no definition for the word Cosmodemonic existes.  Since Henry Miller is no longer alive, I can’t ask him for his permission to use the word. Too bad, because I would also liked to have asked him what he thought about the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company.

                                          “May I help who’s next?”

      I found it. As I have been writing these posts it has become important to confirm facts and dates. If the writing of Tripio, as recounted in this blog, is going to help even one person find their own voice and thus create their own unique work, then I have to check the facts. In this case, they are found in my journals, or what I call Sketchbooks of the Mind (SotM). Those contain the dates, times and places I need. I keep and always have kept a SotM to track where my thought-producing mind is. I know that now. For the first 25 SotMs I did not realize that that was what I was doing. I am quite happy to be able to pinpoint the birth of Tripio as a seed planted in my mind garden. But the date is only relevant as it tracks where my thoughts were at that time. My thoughts give the date meaning and not the other way around.

    My thoughts in the days before Tripio was born were occupied on a variety of things, which is the norm for most all of us. I was reading the books of James Allen. I noted a few days or two earlier  that a 22 minute mediation was “just about the quickest 22 minutes to ever pass”. I was now getting Mondays off as part of the 4-10 hours a day work week. I was religiously practicing the Five Tibetan Yoga rites.

My job was getting to me and I was keeping busy with my two older kids still at the house. My writing consisted of a short story called My Dinner with Padre and an attempt to re-work another short story called Altonstreet and Philpatrick and the Mystical Antagonist. I had also been searching old letters and typed notes from the years I lived in Chicago and put those in a folder which I labeled Chicago Days. This was all noted in the SotM and all taking place in and around the grocery store, paying bills, watching sports on TV, placing calls to relatives and making visits to my therapist.

    Why recount all this? I hope I am making clear that there is no “one size fits all” approach to writing and creating. There is no “one size fits all” approach that works for anything in life, really. Tripio was born on an early spring Monday in 2017 among events, people and places that will never be sequenced, made relevant, or affect me the same way ever again. So, there is no prescription for starting a novel here except perhaps to begin your practice of paying attention to your own thoughts which are growing out of your own wonderful, unique, bountiful and beautiful mind.

    Maybe that was a prescription. Be that as it may, as spring of 2017 arrived, I was just becoming comfortable with that practice. And, believe me, I am not claiming to be an expert on anything. I just know that just as I was discovering how to track and cultivate my thoughts from an observed mind, Tripio was born. These more closely observed and carefully cultivated thoughts were noted in the SotMs of course. One of which records the original seed of Tripio:

   “Odd, but I’m trying to hit on what to write next. And maybe I have. The early days of the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company are stirring in me. It’s there and ready on my desk.”

“May I help who’s next?”

 Yesterday I took an hour drive to have breakfast with my oldest son. We were joined by his significant other, my daughter and my sister. After the mid-morning food, I undertook three more hours in the car to get back home which included a stop for coffee at a Starbucks. For some, that time driving amounts to the time they spend commuting every week to work and back. On a short week. In any case it seems like a good deal of driving just to have breakfast.

      I wanted to see my oldest son at some point over the long holiday weekend and this proved to be the simplest way. For me, it was an easy decision and time well spent. We had good food, a good time and good talk, costing me four hours in the car. I wonder if Howard Schultz would spend four hours in a car to visit a 25 year old Starbucks location?

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    No easy answer to that question or proposition is there? In fact, it could be dismissed as clearly unanswerable and simply odd.  But that is the kind of question I hope all of you who read Tripio put to yourself in some form or fashion.  To fully grasp where I am going with this you will have to read Tripio. Because, in Tripio Jay is asking himself to measure the value of a family, compared to the value of a growing company, compared to the value of work of creative imagination. By some measures, he can’t do it. But, please read Tripio and see for yourself what happens.

      I have come to the conclusion that I wrote Tripio in part to forgive Jay for not being able to see the future, for not being wise enough to know what his future would bring. None of us know that. But, I am not alone in being way, way too hard on myself.

     Twenty five years later, after seeing way more of that future that Jay found so murky, I have mellowed a great deal. I have forgiven Jay for not being Nostradamus. I am content and blessed that his future found me. To understand this more fully please buy and read….

    And, to answer the question above, I would drive four hours again today if that is what it took to see my oldest son. In fact, I could make it in less than four hours if I didn’t stop at a Starbucks along the way.

May I help who’s next?”

                 Computers are useless-all they can give you are answers.

 –Pablo Picasso

In Tripio, Jay is suddenly transferred from his nearby Starbucks to a location in suburban Chicago. He has no car so must rise at four a.m. to make the two train commute. He has to first take the El downtown and then walk several blocks to catch the Metra train heading west. That walk takes him through Jackson Square, crossing under the watchful eye of the “Picasso horse” statue. At this point in Tripio, Jay feels  his life is no longer under his control. His dream of living the solitary life of a writer in a shack in Costa Rica is gone, unattainable. This sudden transfer to the suburbs has shaken Jay at a time when he was already mentally quite fragile. The city and square are nearly empty at five am. Jay’s only regular companion is the Picasso horse, who he now believes is alive and watching him as he crosses in front of it.    

     Does this mean that Jay knows his dream of living as a writer is dead? And can only be wishfully reanimated by the Picasso horse? Does is mean that Jay is losing his marbles just a little as the fear of parenthood shakes him to the core? Does the horse now represent Starbucks as a growing beast watching Jay’s every move? How the hell do I know? I just wrote Tripio. It’s up to you ,the reader, to decide that.

     I started this post because I came across the above quote with the intent of tying it to Tripio via the Picasso Horse . I have done that, but lucky for you I am not finished. Here goes the bonus content… I wonder all the time about cell phones. What is so interesting about them? What  it is in them that wasn’t there before? Why are the so enticing that many of us risk are lives to look at one while we drive?

    Why am I asking so many questions? Because that is where the answers are, not in the devices at all. There are only answers and ultimately, and answers are boring, as Picasso is saying above. If the question in your mind is worth pursuing at all it must roll around and occupy your mind for hours or even days. So put down that phone and think, especially if you are driving, but not before hitting the link to  buy Tripio on Amazon-

                                    May I help who’s next?

 It is not yet seven a.m. on Sunday morning. And 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.

                         vpjayant [CC BY 2.0 (

   This brings me to Stephen Fry. I read once that when he was working on a screenplay for Peter Jackson he could not get going on it to save his skin. It took him awhile to understand the reason but it struck him that at the time he was working on the screenplay he was trying to give up smoking. Smoking energized his mind while at the same time the smoking ritual calmed and rewarded him as he wrote.  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. I drank plenty of coffee before Starbucks was available. In Tripio, Jay refers to a coffee house where he was working before he moved to Chicago. And even after Jay is working at Starbucks, he often goes to a 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. At times, I 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 being 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 “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 coffee house or Starbucks then that’s even better. If you have come across this post on National Coffee Day 2019, that may prove that coffee is as much a part of your life as it was Jay’s. How cool is that?

                                            “May I help who’s next?”

        There it sits a few feet away. In book form. A book. My book. What to do with it? The box actually arrived three days ago. I knew what was in the box and opened it with a kitchen knife. My first thought was that Tripio is bigger and thicker than I thought, than I expected. It didn’t “feel” like 333 pages when I was writing it. Wait, wait! On second thought,  I did plan every word, comma and space. Because I wanted the final printed, for sale edition to end up being 333 pages. Threes. Tripio. Three storylines. What I genius I am! 

     Of course the above is nonsense. Except maybe the part about me being a genius. Actually, if I were that smart, I would have done something brilliant with my five proof copies of Tripio. Yet, after I took one out of the box and looked it over with a smile, I let them sit in that box, on the table across from where I now write this post.

    Those couple of days later it is occuring to me that I think I was afraid I wouldn’t like Tripio anymore. Tripio arriving as a real book was like your best friend from high school or college dropping by after not seeing you in twenty years. Would you still like him or her? Would he or she like you? I wanted to retrieve the journals I kept while writing Tripio and find the entries that I wrote in which I was excited about the creation of Tripio. I wanted to find the passage I wrote when I knew Tripio was great and I was doing all I could to write a unique and wonderful book. I did not. I simply went about my work week. I let some friends a family know that the proof copies were in my possession and that was about it.

    I think that it felt odd to have Tripio back in the house because I had been practicing giving it away. I have made it an intention during my morning yoga to release attachments and expectations to and for Tripio. It is no longer mine. It did not feel comfortable to have it to myself again in my house. Like the old friend whose jokes no longer makes you laugh. What do you do? After a couple days the answer came. 

      I decided to take my old friend Tripio out in public where we could relax together and get reacquainted. This was yesterday, the third day after getting the proof copies. And my off day. I packed Tripio in my bag  and we headed off to Coat Check coffee

 It made sense. It was a way of coming full circle. Remember that Tripio was actually born over 25 years ago in Chicago’s coffee houses and early Starbucks locations.

      So, in the spacious and calm environs of Coat Check, my dear old companion and I got reacquainted. The coffee of the day was an Ethiopian, always a favorite varietal of mine. This felt right. As the barista called out the occasional drink order in the background I read the first chapter and felt relieved that I still liked my dear old friend. Relieved and needing to relieve myself, I got up to use the facilities. Upon returning to my table, I saw my thicker than expected copy awaiting me, looking content and relaxed on that table next to my mug of coffee, as if it had known this would happen.

                                           “May I help who’s next?”

 I have recently given myself credit for creating a new word: Starbattical. Do you like it? I define it as long retreat or break from Starbucks. I came up with it to describe the 20 some years I was either too busy, too poor or using my time to raise a raise a family to take much notice of Starbucks.

   With the writing and publishing of my “Starbucks novel” Tripio, I have come off my Starbattcial. Odd how things come full circle. In the early nineties when I traveled home from Chicago to seed the land with bags of Starbucks coffee I was asked about a company no had ever heard of. These days I am being asked about a company every has heard of. 

   I am also being sent articles on Starbucks by family and friends once again. In the ninteles the articles were more likely to bear the headline something similar to “Starbucks to open stores in my city.” Now I get them like the one I received about Starbucks in the New Yorker.

       If you read the article  you know it concerns Starbucks closing one of its own stores. In the aforementioned novel, Tripio, the protagonist Jay has been working at a Starbucks in Chicago for a couple years. Starbucks was certainly not closing its own stores in those days. It was opening stores and attracting lots of attention while doing it, as the excerpt from Tripio shows…

The reason she was here was that she represented a coffee company just getting started on the Atlantic Coast. Was I interested? Cosmodemonic had bought a good-sized competitor in Boston not long ago, so I knew there was competition out there. My ego was happy to be talking to her. But I was an owner here at my store. This was my store. Here in my city. And it struck me that Kati would figure in all these decisions now. That was it. The source of my distraction most of the night. Only I hadn’t realized it. A big change was coming in my life. So, I turned the competitor down. Looking back, I don’t think she sought me out personally. I have a feeling she was canvassing the nearby, if not all, Cosmodemonics to see who was interested. I did put her business card in my bag, however.

     The Starbucks location Jay worked at in Tripio was one of the busier locations in the city, especially on weekends. So much so that Jay finds himself wishing  that “ they hurried up and opened more stores so these people could go somewhere else.”  Jay had other things to think of in Tripio. He hadn’t realized that the IPO of Starbucks stock he was about to take part in was happening in part to generate revenue to open more and more Starbucks. And a quarter century later, they haven’t stopped.

    An exception to that last observation is the location discussed in the above article. The loyal customers would seem to provide a good enough base to do a good coffee house business, if not quite up to Starbucks standards. Hmmm, makes me wonder if that card is somewhere in my bag after all these years. 

 “May I help who’s next?”