Tripio The Novel

How I found my mind, brewed some coffee, and learned to write novels.

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

The last time I saw Howard was at my store in Oak Park. I was the manager then. He was with the new Regional Manager- Stu. Yes, Stu Fields. God no. I give Stu hell in Tripio. Not really. But, the whole incident with the spilled mocha on the door and Stu talking into his tape recorder make him look like a dick. That was about twenty five years ago. They can’t be still in touch. But, I call Starbucks the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company in Tripio. Howard must know that. I counted it once. I call Starbucks the Cosmodemonic 199 times in Tripio. But it is purely a literary reference. Henry Miller called Western Union the Cosmodemonic. I looked the word up and it has no meaning. Plus, it shows how personal the story is. How it is the story of Jay the Barista, not of Howard Schultz, Pike Place Market, the Siren logo and all that other crap…now Howard’s next in line….”

No matter, I don’t have the time. Gotta get back to my room, get dressed and head out. Need my coffee. It’s my third morning getting a grande of the day to go. If I were a barista I would have remembered a new customer’s drink on their third trip in. Never could remember their names. The drinks yea. Unless they were famous….

Tripio ExcerptOver at Mike and Sarah’s station the trash was overflowing and they needed drip. Paula had to refill the creamer and sugar at the stations. Money needed to be dropped. No cakes for the upcoming evening shift in the case. Onward the customers came. None of this mattered to them. Why should it? I glance at the line and see two guys in roller blades are in line without shirts. Two rules being broken at once. Damn, if that isn’t Gene Siskel in front of them. No time to care about either. I

Two double tall skim lattes. And a cup holder.

knew Gene’s drink and some others so that brings a second of calm. I feel a touch of relief to know what to expect before Mikey or Sarah yell them at us. I know Dennis has to leave soon. He will stay for another 30 minutes if I ask. It’s been two hours since I stepped on the bar. The only one of us working this rush to have moved at more than a step or two off their station is Paula. But this was it, this was the bar at rush time and if you were up here you had earned your stripes. I remember my first morning rush at 206. I had butterflies in my stomach but knew I had to get on that espresso bar and get through the line. To me it is the heart of the store, the beating heart of the growing Cosmodemonic Empire, and here is where you earned the respect of everyone you worked with. As this rush wears on, Dennis and I reached that point when we know it just couldn’t get any busier but we had established control. He had held higher ground. We had won.

“I’ll stick with a grande to go. Not that blonde crap either. Never would have seen that if Starbucks didn’t go public. And Howard was always nice. I never saw him without a sweater on. Then again it was Chicago. Maybe I can just say Hi. I wouldn’t even get into Tripio. Just tell him thanks for the blurb in person. That would work…that’ all I have time for anyway…”

What do I do next?

“Damn, my phone…what do they want?”

Jay - Your first two stops cancelled. Closed due to the Pandemic. 
Sleep in a bit. Thanks again for helping out this week - Jason"

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

Question for KevinIf Howard (Schultz) had stayed at Xerox, would Starbucks have come to be? In other words was a company like Starbucks inevitable to some degree?

Answer – Without a doubt Starbucks would have remained regional without Howard. I had a conversation with Jerry Baldwin after the buyout and his move down to Peet’s about the ideal size of Starbucks or any other chain and he basically said “you’re too big when it’s not bicycle or bus distance between stores, when all your store managers don’t know each other, when you can’t all meet for a picnic or a company celebration in one place.” He believed in human scale and put the product, not money, on a pedestal.

That said, one or more national chains was certainly inevitable and Starbucks set the bar for product quality and progressive employee culture very, very high. Jerry Baldwin, Jim Reynolds and Gordon Bowker – along with Mr. Peet – deserve the credit for the product quality, while Howard deserves all the credit in the world for the culture and the ambition and changing American coffee at scale for the better.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cropped-capture_3-e1589190785304.png
I wonder if Howard remembers me?

TRIPIO EXCERPT Like everyone else in the audience I sat in silence and listened intently. It was mostly all great news. The Cosmodemonic is just getting started and not taking any prisoners. HS didn’t put in those terms but that’s how I remember it. And I very clearly remember HS saying that “They are going to write books about the Cosmodemonic, people.” That stuck in my head: write & books. The reasons are obvious. The reason I don’t’ remember much of the rest is that a few minutes after the speech was over, 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. It was for the “exceptional customer service experience” demonstrated to the Midas guy who bought a half pound of everything. Recognition in front of everyone. From HS himself.”

Peet's Coffee

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

Jay kept his place in line at the Palm Springs Starbucks. He remembered when they used to sell coffee. He remembered all the varietals under the counter. The shiny dark beans, dated and organized by growing region. Such great coffee. For now the line that held Howard Behar and him was not moving very fast. It was not moving anywere near as fast as Jay’s mind was.

Free Pile Of Money Png, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on Clipart  Library

It was just this morning in the hotel when he woke up facing his ten hour day that it happened yet again. When his phone woke Jay up, it took a second to realize and remember where he was. That must have been the trigger. He was not at home in his drafty- ass house in his bed. That instant of uncertainty sent his mind to “If I had“. This was a place Jay didn’t really like to go. We all go there once in while in our own minds. The unique, special place where we relive our lives on the proviso that if we had done that ONE THING differently, then our lives would be all candy and nuts, days of wine and roses, and nights of contended worry free slumber. For, Jay, that morning it meant he would not be putting on his blue collar work uniform in a cramped hotel bathroom but rather he would have been wondering what would be the best way to spend his day at his ocean front villa. It could have been- so easily. All he had to do was do what Howard Behar did and stay at Starbucks until his 268 options on shares of Starbucks stock matured and a few year ago, he’d would have become a millionaire. Just that easy.

Instead, Jay looked around the hotel room and centered himself. No, it was not his beach house. There was his uniform on the chair ready to to. Just like at home, he always got ready the night before. The uniform held his life, the mortgage, grocery store, bills and self-image. Jay was a working stiff. Howard Behar on the other hand is a millionaire many times over. His boss, Howard Schultz, a billionaire. “Why didn’t I just stay at Starbucks…If I had, then I… ??

Odd that Jay had the “If I had ” thought this morning and then see Howard Behar in line at the Starbucks near his hotel. They say our thoughts become our reality.” I have been thinking about re-booting the cover of Tripio to highlight his blurb. I bet he doesn’t remember he did it. That was two years ago. The book, Tripio, has to start selling at some point. How else will I ever be able to stop working? If I just cut in line. Or wait until he gets his drink, then I can step over and introduce myself. He as always nice to me when he visited my stores at Starbucks a million years ago. Why not? The line has started moving. He could get Tripio to Howard Schultz. I really think he’d like it. A nostalgia trip for him. He’s not running for president anymore. He has time to read it. And from there…best seller? What do I have to lose?”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cropped-capture_3-e1589190785304.png
Regrets, I have had 268

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

In a post a couple months ago, I said I didn’t really care too much what your choice of coffee beverage was. Sorry, if I have too much gravitas for cheap click bait, its just who I am. As a middle path, I offer a few ideas for gifts this season for the coffee lover on your list via Kevin Knox who is the “Coffee God” in my novel Tripio. If the coffee lover on your list isn’t impressed then they can take it up with Kevin. Or they can use a Starbucks gift card to buy cans of espresso he mentioned. So, there you go. On with the interview…

Question for Kevin Knox- Do you ever go to Starbucks? What do you order?

A- I try to avoid it but enjoy visiting Roastery Reserve stores where I can order one of the limited edition coffees brewed on the Clover. Those are the only coffees they sell that are of the caliber of all the single origin coffees we had in the early 90’s.

Starbucks Reserve Logo

Otherwise, the one and only Starbucks product I wholeheartedly recommend are the tiny little cans of Doubleshot Espresso with Cream. They taste exactly like they did with Dave Olsen invented them and are the best road trip coffee I know of.

Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso & Cream, 6.5 Fl. Oz, (4-Pack) - -

Meanwhile I’m happily roasting the best coffee of my life on my front porch using a glorified hot air popcorn popper and stellar green beans from Sweet Maria’s.

Home Coffee Roasting

And Kevin liked my novel, Tripio. An ideal gift for the coffee loving reader on your list!

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

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 KnoxI 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.”

“Starbuckin’ it man”

31,256 stores

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

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 KevinIn 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).

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!

Not your mom and dad’s can of coffee

It is him.” Jay thought to himself. ‘Damn if it isn’t. Howard Behar. My old boss. Should I say something to him?

2382714. sy475

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 hope you like this interpretation of an interview. It confirms to me that Tripio is not just a book.

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

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 Howard Behar 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!

Coffee Basics: A Quick and Easy Guide 0471136174 Book Cover
One of Kevin’s books

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, 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.

Stay tuned

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.

ᐈ Spooky halloween trees stock vectors, Royalty Free spooky tree  illustrations | download on Depositphotos®

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.

“May I help who’s next.

                                    “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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is GvltZQVY-Uf5KuQVaa4HotJuzy8xL4oOmXRhWS9NUnLcNpfWbqLQn2pL-cuIR8NMlHKu2krbxgp63gJeZhgTbg13G4WQVnlo1HHR8aBEFcW1SZn081jZgv1_awtUpTrFRcXiVgJ8
Jay, Rick and T heading back outta the world

      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.

Know thy self, know thy 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.

                                   “May I help who’s next?”