Tripio The Novel

How I found my mind, brewed some coffee and wrote a novel

    A troubling thing has been happening on this journey to publish Tripio. I have been getting asked quite a bit: “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 that a lot of people may not know what the title of my book was supposed to mean, imply or suggest. I had known 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. 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 had 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. 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 demitasse (google that, I can’t do all the work) cup. It is then often consumed with sugar, a dollop of milk 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 progresses. 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. Even better, you will be compelled to reflect on choices you have made in your own life.

    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 the 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?”

I could not believe what I had just seen. This was not the topic I was going to write about today. Especially since this happened about eight months ago in real life. At some point, yes, I was going to let you know how my request for a blurb from Starbucks Founder, CEO and my old boss Howard Schultz, went. A yes, no, or maybe. However, I discovered while I was looking for his contact info that he has beaten me to the punch and written his own book Some of his book covers the early days of Starbucks, much like Tripio. It was due out before mine, but Howard’s book “weaves two parallel narratives,” not three, like Tripio. So, my book is 33% better, as anyone can plainly see. By all means, buy both and compare. In fact, I think it would be unfair to Howard’s book if you don’t buy mine after you buy his. Unfair because my book is the perfect companion to his.

Meant to be? Howard Schultz and Jerry VanSchaik were meant to have their books come out as companion pieces? Of course: “There are no accidents” (Deepak Chopra)

Photo credit:

I can’t give away the end of Tripio. . Why give it away here and now? This blog is nothing more than a series of commercials designed to generate interest in selling Tripio to anyone who wants a copy, or two, or 20. Seriously though, this blog, and I do mean this, is meant to help someone find their own unique voice on their own unique journey to creating their own unique novel. You might be asking yourself, “Who is this guy?” But, I know what worked for me and I hope that some of what I share will help you in any way you chose to apply it.

So, it is agreed that I am not giving the end of Tripio away. It could be said that there are three endings to Tripio, since there are three story lines. I wrote all three of them and the story line I call “the Starbucks growth narrative” is intertwined and alongside the other two plot lines of Tripio. The reason I call our books companion pieces is that, from the description of Howard’s book, it looks like his book touches on subjects like employee stock options and healthcare for nearly all employees. These are also the things I write about in Tripio because I experienced both first hand. It is a barista-in-the-trenches look at what Howard covers in his book, as the man giving the orders. So, to have both perspectives will make each book, when read, a deeper and more meaningful experience.  Plus, I need the money more than Howard.

“May I help who’s next?”


On Thanksgiving Day I was visiting my family of origin. However, I wasn’t there this year to talk turkey. I was more interested in showing off the first mock up for the cover of Tripio. . On the screen of my laptop was the image I was so proud of. This was a real book cover with my name on it as the author. I explained to my family of origin that it was only the first mock of the cover.  It would get better. There was still work to do. It was a process. I began to feel like the person who saves up a joke he has heard that he was sure was going to get a laugh. Then he tells it, and has to explain it. In other words, I did not get the reaction I was hoping for. These people all read. They read a lot. They were hungry. Maybe I should have known my audience better and waited until after Thanksgiving dinner for my big reveal of the cover.

The drive home the next day was the perfect opportunity to think over the lukewarm response to my cover. I must have been deep in thought because at one point I spilled my coffee on my lap. Not good, but it was cold brew so it could have been worse. Once I found a rest stop and changed into a dry pair of pants, I was able to re-engage my mind. With a dry crotch I was able to do some more thinking on the previous day. I had been shaken. I had started the process of doubting the cover, the book and everything connected with Tripio. It was very easy to to break Tripio apart.

Then I thought of Legos. I remembered my sons as young boys building Lego towers. I remembered a few times when a painstakingly constructed tower was accidentally knocked over. It took a good deal of time to build that tower and no time at all for it to be destroyed. During the couple days after I closed my laptop at Thanksgiving, I saw Tripio as a crumbled Lego tower. All that work for nothing.

As I was doing the laundry that Sunday an image came into my mind. It was of either of my sons after their tower had fallen over. They had had a moment of anger but it had passed. Now they were reaching into that pile of Legos to start the tower all over again.

 “May I help who’s next in line?”

I was home and still in work clothes and trying to get dinner going when my neighbor dropped in to ask if she could borrow a hammer for a quick project she was doing at her place right next door. What the Hell does this have to do with Tripio  Well, my neighbor was the person who invited me to classes at the Indy SOM (School of Metaphysics) and I was thinking about her a lot yesterday because I needed to confirm the date of my first class there for the previous blog. It was a coincidence that she stopped over since I had not seen her in a month or so. Nonsense! It was not. There is no such thing as coincidence.

Does that mean that I somehow summoned my neighbor to my house to provide the date I needed? No. I could have texted but remembered she recently lost her phone. When I asked, she knew the date right away, even if it was well over two years ago. What the incident means, to me, is that, over the last couple years my thoughts have become aligned with my true intentions. In other words, I am now directed by my thoughts, not Flo’s from Progressive or the Lizard from Gieco. No, they are no longer welcome in my Mind Garden. GTF out. If it is not becoming clear that Tripio is simply a result of a clear and focused mind, my Mind Garden in full bloom, then that is my fault. Or you simply may have to read more. Didn’t I warn you in blog number 1 that this will take some time?

From here I could go down any number of rabbit holes, or snakes holes or worm holes. But I do not want to go astray, previous sentence excepted. My point being is that the disciplined and focused attention of my mind, without a doubt was more responsible for creating Tripio than any other factor including talent, literary acumen, classes taken, books read, seminars attended. That list goes on and on.

As much as I’d like to go on and on, I have to get to work. Not a bad thing, as you will see in future blogs. For, it was going to work and at times, turning my brain and 5 senses off, that I was able to discover and confirm how my subconscious mind works. Later as I grew to trust my subconscious mind, I would intentionally “give it to my subconscious mind” when I needed to recall the name of a Starbucks partner from 25 years ago. It almost always provided the answer when it was ready. Which in turn was how I was able to write so much of Tripio while at work, and not here at my desk on my laptop, which I have to close now.

“May I help who’s next?”

    Yesterday my daughter spent some time on the internet trying to find an English version of a French Starbucks documentary she had seen on a flight home for the holidays. It was called “Starbucks Unfiltered” and she could find the French version, but nothing with English subtitles. A little bit later, as we watched some football, she and I saw a commercial for Starbucks.

This morning, I came across this:

My question this morning over my cup of coffee (not telling whose) is, “When did this happen”?

In my job I go to approximately two dozen workplaces a day. There I see every shape, size and design of Starbucks coffee travel mugs. I see Starbucks mugs that don’t travel. I see lots of Starbucks coffee drinks in hands, in trash cans and recycling bins. I was even recently offered an extra Starbucks drink bought for a person who wasn’t going to make the meeting. I opened the lid first and saw there was milk or cream already added and politely had to turn it down. The next day in a medical office I overheard the staff discussing their coffee preferences vis a vis Starbucks. Their opinions were moons of coffee orbiting around the coffee planet Starbucks. In other words, Starbucks is now coffee and vice versa.



    At the end of my tenure at Starbucks in the mid 1990s I recall once seeing a Starbucks commercial on a TV screen in a Chicago bar. I was having some beers, the bar was loud and I could not hear the audio but I think the commercial showed a monkey using a French Press coffee brewer. Maybe I was also doing some shots. Anyway the point is, that pretty much after I left that bar on Broadway in Lakeview, I tuned out Starbucks. I had to. I was starting to raise a family and very soon free time would be a thing of the past.

   There is no mention of Starbucks TV commercials or anything of the like in Tripio . Jay’s observations of the growth of the company he works for is for more anecdotal. In Tripio Jay notices “a Cosmodemonic cup in the trash at the bus stop or crushed along the curb” as an indicator that his place of employment is doing more and more business. Mostly Jay lives the “word of mouth” growth of Starbucks via the intensely busy Saturday and Sunday morning shifts at the various stores he was working.

    More that two decades after leaving that bar in Chicago and seeing my kids become young adults I again have found some free time. If I choose to use some of that time to meet a friend at my nearest Starbucks, I always take in the lines and the mise en scene. I think that it is never as busy as when Jay (me, duh) worked there. But when I leave my local Starbucks I leave with good memories of the days when I was behind the counter. And on the way to car, I always toss my empty cup down to the curb for old times’ sake.


                         “May I help who is next?”

   “Just saw Taxi Blues at the glorious Music Box Theatre. There were women speaking Russian in the lobby.”

That is an excerpt from my Sketchbook of the Mind that I began on October 4, 1990. It is the first journal, or SotM, of the years I lived in Chicago. Those journals and many entries just like the one above are the backbone of Tripio. That particular entry did not make it into Tripio, though reading it now I am forced to consider why it didn’t. Especially as it concludes several lines later with a mention of the “Kati” character in the book.

I just read the entire entry again and am almost angry at myself for not including it in Tripio. The entry mentions work and loneliness. I know where I would have written it into Tripio. I may have simply missed it as I combed through the three or four journals that I used extensively to first generate, then populate Tripio . I may have simply put the journal down and stepped away to grab another cup of coffee or put a load of laundry in the dryer, came back to my desk, absentmindedly turned the page, and that was it.

   If I had found that entry I may have started a paragraph with it. I may have used only that line or maybe used the entire entry. Or, I may have parsed the entry out and used a sentence here or there. I am not second guessing myself and Tripio is no worse for not using it. In this expert, Jay, the main character in Tripio, waves to the Russian women just as they turn away from him. He had taken Russian in college. He wanted a connection to someone. His next thought is that he wants to go to his apartment and “sleep on the floor and I don’t care if the place needs to be cleaned”.

Hmmmm. Maybe I can put it in Tripio. I am now clearly second guessing myself. After all, that flexibility is part of the appeal of direct publishing. But where would it end? Too scary to contemplate right now. However, the excerpt does capture Jay’s state of mind and being for the first third of Tripio. He is lonely and living in Chicago and Kati is on his mind. He has found places to go like the Music Box theatre but lacks something. Something is missing in his life.

I can only hope that the reader can “feel” that excerpt as they read Tripio. After all, the book is finished. Damn. They will get it won’t they?  There are lots of other entries in Tripio and they will connect the reader to Jay. Right?

                                             “May I help who’s next?”

I got up this morning at 4:59, having set an intention to use my journals as the subject for today’s post. There would be no Tripio without my journals, or Sketchbooks of the Mind, or SotMs, if you’re into the whole brevity thing. Sitting down with a cup of coffee at the downstairs computer, I tried to open my on-line bank account before starting to write.  It wanted me to register the device. I almost didn’t click. But I did and a code was sent to my phone. I retrieved my phone from the table across the dining room. The code required a dash but apparently the dash key on this computer didn’t work. I tried anyway. The cloud didn’t want to play. I quit the game.

I only go into that tedious communal experience to point out how easy it is to get sidetracked in writing. The physical part of that took maybe two minutes. But, it took a lot longer to get back to a point where I was ready to start writing again. I had to do a few of last night’s dishes, fearlessly check my bank account on the unregistered device, and jot down a few must do’s in my planner. In addition, I made an entry in my current SotM and had some buttered toast. In other words, I had to weed my mind garden from that earlier unwanted growth. Only after all that was I ready to sit down to begin this post. Now, where was I?

Image taken from:

Oh yes. The subject of today’s post: SotMs. Tripio takes place in the summer of 1992, the year of the Starbucks Initial Public Offering of its stock. The protagonist, Jay, has been working for Starbucks full time for over two years by this point, is fully vested and receives the maximum amount of those options his position and duration with the company mandates. Do that math and that stock today is worth…a lot. But remember, I want you to buy Tripio to find out exactly how much.

I wrote and kept many SotMs during those years at Starbucks. Like the Starbucks stock I no longer owned, those journals accumulated value as they sat in boxes, tucked under beds and into closets over the past 25 years. The SotMs survived a flooded basement, escaped being thrown away, outlasted indifference and simply survived being forgotten about. They survived for all those reasons because they were clearly meant to become Tripio.

“May I help who’s next?”

I do the vast majority of my writing before nine a.m. When I “novelized” Tripio it took me approximately 52 hours. Again, the vast majority of it was done between four and nine a.m. I worked on it on some mornings when I had to be in to work by six thirty. There are a million reasons why I find morning writing productive.

The first one is now that I don’t have get young children off to their own days, I have re-connected with the calm beauty of the early morning. I even enjoy the time of day called “God’s left hand”: the hour of pre-dawn when you can hear the birds in the warm weather, but not see them. I will get back to all that in later posts. Today, I just wanted to write one sentence for a post. That is what I told myself. Get to the laptop and write one sentence. I compare it to the bargain I make with myself when I don’t feel like dragging my ass to the gym for some cardio and resistance. I tell myself to just get there, you aren’t preparing for a decathlon, so just get there. And typically, I do that. I make it to the cross-trainer and about 15 minutes after that, my body and mind are feeling just dandy.

As you have read above, the one sentence was written. Just as experience has taught me, I found what I was looking for: the actual subject for today’s post. Here it is: I have one of the best practices that anyone can honor if they are planning to write any piece of any length. My own journey has told me that it ain’t “read the classics”. It ain’t get an MFA in Creative Writing. It ain’t attend readings or workshops. It ain’t none of that. If that writing project is going to get finished, you can’t wait for inspiration, you can’t expect genius to wake you up and get you going. The best way to finish your project is this: write when you don’t want to. Make yourself do the ugly, gritty dirty work of writing. And writing some more. That is what worked for me to date. A lot of the times I began a productive stretch of writing because I told myself I would be happy just getting one Tripio sentence out of me and onto the screen or paper. It worked for Tripio and it worked just now.

“May I help who’s next?”

“Dad. Dad! Its back on.”  It was my daughter trying to get my attention. I had muted the sound of the college football game I was watching while reading “The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.” by Alan Jacobs  (Link to Book on Amazon). I am not sure what Alan Jacobs would make of what I just described.

Anyway, the quote I picked out of “Pleasures” was, “To publish a book is to invite a response.” Of the many wisdoms to pick out and blog about from that book, I chose it because this morning I received a response to Tripio . A response to the prologue anyway.

The response comes from an employee of Starbucks who works for their legal department in Seattle. She has been a sounding board for Tripio through my brother in law, a lawyer also living in Seattle. She had read the first ten pages of Tripio many months and many edits ago. I recall getting her response to that early version and hearing positive, uplifting things. I was excited and pleased to hear that she would be interested in reading more of the book. That was in January.

Since then the emotional stakes have been raised. Tripio has become something altogether different to me. I don’t want to seem too precious in the comparison of Tripio to a child. But, here goes: In January Tripio was my 5 year old still at the house and getting praised a lot for just being who they were. Now, Tripio has been on the bus to school and is getting graded by complete strangers. Strangers with opinions and influence. These strangers hold the power to respond to Tripio and thus affect my emotions, thoughts, and hopes regarding its future. The email I read this morning from the Starbucks lawyer was greatly appreciated and it’s something I’m going to have to get used to. I invited a response, got it, but I am not sure how I feel about sending Tripio back to school on Monday.

“May I help who’s next?”

    I published my novel, Tripio, on Amazon on April 11th. Exactly how did this happen??

    If you found this blog hoping to find help with writing your own novel, you have come to the right place. If you are hoping for some quick and easy bullets points to help you slap out a book in a couple months, then perhaps, you have not. Not that I know anything for certain. I only know what worked for me. So, for those who are willing to stick around, I believe the origin story of Tripio, will inspire and fortify you along your own, unique path to writing your book. Ready? Then, let us begin around 28 years ago….

   I had been trying to write a series of short stories based on images from the front of old postcards I had received over the years. I had a shoe box full of them and the stories would be called –wait for it– Postcards. It wasn’t working.

   Before I go any farther, I have to point out that I had been meditating 3 or 4 times a week during these days of early spring. I had also established a “sacred space” in my garage, where I would retreat to do Yoga and Meditate. In addition, I had also become a practitioner of disciplining and utilizing the mind as taught by The School of Metaphysics. Find a school near you…


   I woke up at 4:52 a.m. on the morning I would start what would become, but was not yet, Tripio. It was a Tuesday morning in the spring on 2017. I noted in my current journal that “Chicago Days” is calling me. In the process of sorting through all the old postcards, I had also recovered dozens of pages of old type written notes and observations I had written while I was living in Chicago in the early 1990s. That morning, I headed to work as usual. I did not yet even consider that I had discovered the core notes for what would become Tripio. I did not yet realize that the mind I had been disciplining and cultivating, had other plans for me.

“May I help who’s next?”