Christmas + Chai + Candied Yams = Happiness

Merry Christmas to each of you! I hope you had a fantastic day yesterday whether or not you observe the holiday.

I've noticed that sometimes people think that just because I'm a Baha'i that I'm anti-Christian and therefore a Christmas hater or something. This is so not true.

In some ways I "get" this misunderstanding because so many of the problems in our world are caused by people fighting over religious differences. Everyone seems to want to hit everyone else over the head with their "my religion is right" stick. However I truly believe all religion has the same fundamental truth and comes from the same source. It's all good until we quite fallible humans get interpretive and corrupt things to suit our own desires.

So, even though the Baha'i gift giving and celebration season, Ayyam-i-ha, is at the end of February, I definitely don't mind being a part of the celebrations of my friends and family who are Christian. As a matter of fact, I went to a fun Christmas Eve party and yesterday morning my two boys had a fun time opening the generous presents sent from Christian aunts, cousins and friends.

The boys turned our living room into a sea of wrapping paper and then I helped my youngest put together some Legos. After that, I figured I'd head to Starbucks for some Christmas "breakfast": a grande soy chai with a shot of vanilla.

Once at the Starbucks, I ordered and then observed that there were three other people ahead of me waiting for their drinks. It was going to be a minute since there were only two people behind the counter. But this was no problem since I started entertaining myself by analyzing the bright red, pointy-toed cowboy boots on the feet of the man standing to my right. I mean, seriously, what kind of guy wears boots like that on Christmas Day in LA?

My ruminations abruptly skidded to a halt when a voice at the order counter responded to the barista's usual, "What can I get you?" with a loud, "Give me whatever drink has the most caffeine!"

I turned to observe a man with a graying ZZ Top-ish type beard standing at the front of the line After a bit of back and forth banter between the barista and this man, it became clear that the requested high caffeine drink would not include any shots of espresso, pumps of syrup or even a smidgen of chocolate.

"So it sounds like a regular coffee is what you're looking for?" asked the barista. Both he and the growing line behind ZZ Top Beard looked decidedly hopeful that an ordering decision seemed to be nigh.

"Sure, what's the biggest size you've got?" asked ZZ Top Beard.

I took in his brown corduroy pants, crumpled white button-down shirt and wire rimmed glasses. It was a stereotypical hippie turned crusty academic outfit. I figured he'd just recently woken up out of a publish or perish coma and had decided to investigate the Starbucks phenomenon for the first time ever.

"A venti," said the barista, reaching out to grab a large cup.

"Venti?" ZZ Top Beard rubbed his chin, er, beard, before continuing. "What language is that?"

"Italian," replied the barista. He pursed his lips a bit and then offered, "Would you like a venti coffee, sir?"

"Italian?" queried ZZ Top Beard. "Now that's really interesting! Why not just call it a 'large?'"

ZZ Top Beard appeared to mull over his own question for a few seconds and then asked a doozy.

" Was Starbucks started in Italy because I lived in Italy for 30 years?" He sighed with regret. "I don't remember how to speak any Italian though. Only "Ciao"."

At this point, the red cowboy boot wearing guy next to me uttered a completely un-Christmaslike question: "Are you f*%king kidding me?"

This exact sentiment had just run through my mind as well but it seemed so blasphemous to even think such a profanity laced thought on Christmas Day. Plus, I figured ZZ Top Beard was either 1) a bit drunk 2) off his medication or 3) an actor and we were all on some sort of twisted Candid Camera type show and would get money for staying calm.

I began to hope I'd go home with a crisp $20 bill, compliments of some TV crew.

As for the barista, he seemed fully immune from the desire to swear out loud. There was not even a hint of sarcasm in his voice as he shot back, "That's too bad you don't remember Italian, sir, but, no, Starbucks wasn't started in Italy." He smiled a bit before adding, "It was started in Seattle. Now, can I get you that venti drip?"

Of course, ZZ Top Beard asked what "drip" was. Then he had to inquire about what kind of coffee beans were included in the holiday blend. And as the line behind him expanded to at least eleven mutinous looking patrons, he started up on a tangent about how he only drinks caffeine once a year so when he does, he really, "Goes all out!"

Red boots guy next to me got his drink, a venti chai with a shot of valencia. He stormed out, muttering unholy oaths to himself along the way.

In contrast, Saint Barista nodded and smiled as he poured ZZ Top Beard's coffee and handed it across the counter. ZZ Top Beard paid and moved to the side to pour some cream into his coffee. And then, before I knew it, he was out the door too.

I waited for the TV crews to jump out with their cameras.

Nothing. There was no Ashton Kutcher look alike shouting, "You've been punk'd!"

"Grande soy chai with a shot of vanilla," called the barista.

Ah, yes, my drink. There was no $20 bill to be had. It was all just life in LA on Christmas Day.

I came home, talked to friends and family on the phone, watched movies, made my awesome candied yams, took a nap, watched the family devour the candied yams, and refused to wash dishes.

Yes, it was a wonderful Christmas Day. Except for the dishes. Sadly, they're still in the sink. If you feel like coming over to wash them for me, let me know.

I'll take you to Starbucks as a thank you.


Jameil said…
i don't like starbucks. make me another offer! I lived in Italy for 30 years but I speak no Italian dude??? wild!! i'm over here cracking up!!! so funny.
1969 said…
I would come over and do the dishes in LA!!! Pick me!

I would also accept a Grande,Extra Hot, Nonfat Caramel Macchiato as payment.
1969 said…
And why is my little friend looking so angry in that picture?
Liz Dwyer said…
Seriously, I wanted to hold up a sign that said, "Put the crack pipe down!" Okay, I'll take you to the Moroccan cafe down the street on Sunset Blvd. It's called Casbah and it's delicious. Overpriced, but delicious!

Deal. Except that with the cross country flight and getting from LAX to my place, the dishes might start to grate on my nerves. I might have to get off my rear and go wash them myself.

And the angry look? Oh that's not the angry look, trust me. The angry look has more narrowed eyes and the lips get poked out about 30% more. This look right here is a cross between mischievous and annoyed. He didn't want to take any pictures. He just wanted to get to building his lego pirate ship.
This is a marvelous vignette Liz. Really well written.

But really, hiring models to pose as your sons. That's a little over the top! ;) (God, they are gorgeous! and look so happy!)

I think I should meet Jameil because I don't like Starbucks either. I never know what to order, everything comes with lots of milk or soy milk or is over sweet and (oh the horrors) most Starbucks barista's can't make a machiato - bastards.
Anonymous said…
How I agree, Liz, that all religion has the same truth and comes from the same source. If only more people could see it that way and not battle furiously for the supremacy of their own "correct" religion. Baha'i is still a bit of a mystery to me but if it emphasises the "spiritual unity of all humankind" that just sounds likes common sense.

Very impressed by the unflappability of the Starbucks barista in the face of such a pedantic customer! Clearly a well-centred, philosophical kind of guy.
the joy said…
Merry Christmas! New reader!
Have to check out this baha'I thing. I have had friends of many affiliations but not that one. But I totally agree on the Christmas think.

Oh my God if I were you I'd have died laughing! I've been in the barista's place, and I'm nowhere near as saintly as him.
Merry Christmas Liz! Speaking of Starbucks, how about that L.A. Bloggers get together you mentioned a while back?

BTW...I finally took the plunge and started the blog I created umm...3 years ago. LOL
That's why I miss New York. I love the characters you meet on the street on a daily basis!

I've never been to LA, so I would gladly do the dishes in exhange for a personalized tour of the city!

Gorgeous picture!
Mes Deux Cents said…

A few months ago I sent for some info about the Baha'i Faith. I'm kind of looking for a spiritual home.

I like Baha'i views on equality of women and men. That's unusual. I also like the "Oneness" concept.

There is a Baha'i study group in my area, so I may check it out.

On the subject of Starbucks; I used to work near a Starbuck's (I know, who doesn't they're everywhere) so I went often. But their insistence on using the Italian terms really annoyed me. I really hated when they would correct someone, if a customer says large, just go get a Venti. lol

And that is such a cute photo of you and your boys.
Lydia said…
I have 4 teenagers in my house who I would be HAPPY to send over to do your dishes! They will work for Yams. lol

Happy holidays!!
Liz Dwyer said…
Why thank you for the compliment about my boys. I totally agree. They are a couple of ridiculously handsome fellows. I'm very afraid of the teenage years.

As far as SBUX goes, now that I don't drink coffee, most of the drinks are out for me, except for chai and the regular teas. I get annoyed when baristas screw up chai because it just tastes awful when they do. I definitely think Coffee Bean has much better teas, especially that Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearl tea.

I don't think I could have been as patient as the barista but maybe if I were in his shoes I'd be the same. I'm sure he's heard and seen lots of different things from customers.

Yes, unity is at the heart of Baha'i belief -- so opposite to alot of our modern life which encourages extreme individualism and selfishness. To me it's common sense since our world is so small and we are quickly seeing on a practical level that the individual desires of a person or group of people cannot come before the prosperity of the entire planet.

The Joy,
Merry Christmas to you as well and glad you decided to say hello. That barista really was so kind. I fully expect to see his face on one of the saint candles that everyone gets these days.

SO happy you finally made a blog! What a fab gift to everyone in the blogosphere. And yes, we SHOULD have a blogger get together at a cafe. Okay, I'm going to mull it over and pick a date in January. Hmm...any ideas for a location? Everywhere I think of is in Silver Lake/Hollywood (like The Coffee Table).

Yes, anywhere where there's public transportation and a walking culture just makes meeting characters inevitable. But the walking culture is definitely growing here in certain neighborhoods. Or maybe it's just me on foot! LOL! And when you come to LA, drop me a line and I'll give you a little tour of my neck of the woods.

By the way, it's so trifling of me but I only washed the dishes after dinner tonight...which was eaten on paper plates. I suck, I know.

Oh, and thanks for saying the pic is gorgeous! They're two sweetpeas, that's for sure.

The way they correct someone when they say "large" always gets to me as well. I figure their correcting a customer is almost a way of teaching a customer how to be a part of the "in" crowd. Plus, it's their way of training us all to speak in Starbucks talk. I don't get the Italian term usage at all, but I suppose it makes it seem special, exotic even.

Small world that you're thinking of checking out one of the Baha'i study groups. I was doing one last fall because I always feel like there's something new I can be learning. Let me know if you do go to one.

Thanks for saying our photo is cute. They are the sparkly diamonds reflecting light back onto me.
Liz Dwyer said…
I seriously was wishing I had a dishwasher today. My mom had this joke where she'd tell folks she didn't need a dishwasher installed in the kitchen because she had me. I was her dishwasher!

Well, I didn't wash anything for hours today. Too lazy by far, but if you've got teenagers that will work for yams, hmm...we might be able to work something out! LOL!
Jameil said…
done! i was watching "sideways" the other day and totally thinking, "i need to move to california RIGHT NOW!!" there's a casbah here I still need to go to. mmmmm!
Ian Lidster said…
If I was in your neighborhood I would gladly help with the dishes, and just your company (and the Starbucks coffee date) would work for me.
Have a wonderful 2008. Lovely photo.
SheWhoLives said…
Liz you know how I feel about religion and all that stuff... But I did have to refer to my trusty "Great Sects" book in order to ind out what the Baha'i faith involves. Hm, I learnt something new today - thank you!

And Strabucks is open on Christmas Day in LA??! I guess commerce stops for no man, even Jesus.

Lovely photo btw. You guys sure are one good looking family.
Liz Dwyer said…
You should move out here! I bet you'd love it. I walked over to Casbah this morning and got some trifling because I could just make myself some.

I was definitely the dishwashing queen last night. And I mopped the floors and washed all the surfaces in my kitchen. But I'll still hang out with you at Starbucks just because you offered! And thanks for the compliments on the photo. Those two really do make my day.

I know how you feel and I completely understand. Religion has been so used and manipulated in our society, and too few actually read and develop their own spiritual understandings. Much is just known through the opinions of others. So Baha'i is in the "Great Sects" book? I'm so curious what it says. :)

Thanks for saying such nice things about my boys. They both have such good hearts and that's what matters most to me.

As far as the stores, let me tell you, there was plenty that was open on Christmas Day here. Stores just close a bit early, at like 6 PM. Truly, materialism is worshiped universally, even on Christmas Day.
BZ said…
You guys are beautiful! Your son on the right looks like his brother just stole his G.I.Joe but was forced into posing for a photo with mommy and the thief. LOL

I gotta tell ya, I was watching this doc that featured the Baha'i faith and one of the largest worship centers in the world. It was nuts! (The center, that is.) I really dug what the faith was about (and I agree with the fundamental truth/collective perspective thing).

LMAO @ ZZ Top Beard. Girl, I love the way you tell a story. And the whole "are you f*cking kidding me?" thought is exactly what ran through my mind before I read it right there on your page. These are the types of stories my girlfriend and I leave on each other's voicemails as entertainment for the day.
I'm so glad you had a delightful day with family, and it's always a delight for me when you go to Starbucks. Many great and entertaining posts have come of your soy chai latte habit!

I think generally speaking, if they're nutty enough and don't like the cold in San Francisco, they live in L.A.

And the barista deserves a raise.

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