Caffeine Fix

Almost three weeks ago, I decided to abandon caffeine cold-turkey. I quit drinking coffee and chai. There was no gradual replacement of my 16 ounce cup of coffee with an 8 oz. cup and some Earl Grey tea. No, I woke up one morning and said, enough is enough. The first two days were pure hell. I felt like I was being stabbed behind my eyeballs by thin knives laced with acid. The headaches were disabling. I felt like I was losing my vision in my right eye. This only served to motivate me to keep away from caffeine. Ingesting a chemical that causes such acute withdrawl symptoms had to end...and I thought I didn't know what addiction was, right?

In the 18 days since this decision, I've had 3 cans of Diet Coke. Otherwise, no caffeinated drinks. But, I still have to go to Starbucks all the time since I meet there with my teachers. I've switched from a tall chai with a shot of vanilla to a venti tea. And I can still listen to the music.

My hunch is that the music that gets played in this Starbucks down here in Kenneth Hahn Plaza on 119th and Wilmington is infrequently played at other Starbucks across Los Angeles. Wait, let me clarify. This music is probably played neither in non-Black neighborhoods nor in neighborhoods where listening to The Gap Band full blast is not considered hip. Oh sure, those Starbucks may have the official cds but do they get put into the cd player on heavy rotation?

I've written here before about how this musical experience is completely absent at the Los Feliz Starbucks, where the tables are packed with wannabe screenwriters furiously tapping away at the keyboard, pausing only to observe themselves being observed by the neo-grunge hipsters looking like they just came down from their crystal meth high. Sips of triple lattes with two shots of vanilla, help everyone wax philosophical over how Los Angeles is just so hard to get used to, "But, it's so much better than Phoenix where people were just so closed minded, you know?" Fiona Apple is moaning in the distance...and everyone feels so cool. And so special.

The Starbucks by USC, is packed with America's second tier cream of the academic crop. These critical thinkers weren't able to go Ivy League, but will try to tell you they were never really interested in Harvard anyway. Now they studiously pore over Kerouac while dressed in boho-chic purchased for a pretty penny at Urban Outfitters. The music here trends towards reggae. I suppose it's meant to inspire everyone to work harder to Free Mumia. Or, at least work on it until they have to graduate and get on with the tough business of capitalistic consumption.

If you've never been to Kenneth Hahn Plaza in Willowbrook, the unincorporated slice of Los Angeles County, between the 105 freeway and Compton, you don't know what you're missing. Kenneth Hahn, was an L.A. County Supervisor, much beloved by the old-school Black community. He was also the father of our failed mayor, Jim Hahn, who rode Black Los Angeles' adoration for his father to election victory, and then subsequently spat on that adoration by firing the Black Police Chief, Bernard Parks.

These are complex issues to dwell on while I'm drinking a "Passion" tea and listening to "Between the Sheets". Everyone is busy bobbing their heads and singing along. Do you ever hear The Isley Brothers at your Starbucks?

Granted, this Starbucks has only been here for a couple of years and I don't think they play this music just for the heck of it. I'm sure some market research went into determining what should be played here. I supposed the analysts looked at these statistics:

For population 25 years and over in Willowbrook, California

  • High school or higher: 48.1%
  • Bachelor's degree or higher: 6.3%
  • Graduate or professional degree: 1.9%
  • Unemployed: 14.5%

Meaning that almost 45% of residents over the age of 25 have not graduated from high school. Did I mention that Willowbrook is tiny? Yes, it's only 3.7 square miles. Think about how massive Los Angeles really is: 469.1 square miles. Willowbrook is a speck on the map.

If you've never been to Los Angeles, think about the size of New York City. I'm not talking about Manhattan only. Compare Los Angeles to all five boroughs of New York City, which are only 303.3 square miles. Yep. And second-city Chicago is a mere 227.1 square miles.

I don't recall what used to be here in this space before Starbucks figured out that Black people drink coffee. I'm sure if I read enough on the Starbucks blog, I'll come across a santized version of how it went down. I wonder if it bugs them to be next door to a run-down Subway. Next door to that is a Chinese takeout place that, from a culinary standpoint, only bears the faintest resemblance to actual Chinese food. Next to the Chinese place is the Louisiana Fish Market, a true institution down here. And here come the girls in their Carver Elementary School uniforms. How I miss seeing those uniforms every day.

Ah, nothing like nine-year olds coming to get their caffeine fix.


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