At this tender age of 30, I consider myself to be a mature, responsible adult, but there’s one thing I see all the other adults doing that makes me feel left out. They’re drinking coffee, and they’re loving it. They’re ordering up a Skinny Vente Mocha Latte at Starbucks, or an Espresso Drip from Blue Bottle, or they’re whipping up an individual cup at home with the Keurig.
And I’m sick and tired of being on the outside looking in.
My disdain for anything with the coffee taste is well-documented…a cup of coffee, coffee ice cream, tiramisu, Guinness beer. The slightest hint of that coffee taste usually makes me gag.
But I’m all about being included.
AND, I’ve heard there are actual benefits to drinking coffee. Well, one at least. It gives you energy. I see people wake up as zombies, but the moment a hot cup of coffee hits their lips, they start bouncing around and annoying the shit out of me.
I want that instant energy.
And so Wednesday, August 7th, 2013, will go down as a historic day in the life of Ross.
I drank an entire cup of coffee, and I video-documented the entire thing. Take a look below at the YouTube video.
(Quick Note: The video is six minutes long. I’m not saying it’s going to be the best six minutes of your week, but it definitely won’t be the worst. Give it a watch on the toilet, on your train/bus ride to work, while you’re waiting in line at the store. Just watch it. And since this is my first attempt at a video, things aren’t perfect. Like next time I won’t sit in front of that big window when the sun is coming directly into the apartment because everything looks so dark on the video. Enjoy.)
For those of you who read my football posts, you know I made a New Year’s resolution to write for at least 20 hours per week. Rather than spend most of my day thinking about writing and getting mad at myself for not writing, I decided to buckle down and force myself to actually write. My other New Year’s resolution was to spend time each week thinking about applying for a job. I’m happy to report that four weeks into 2013, these resolutions are going decent. I haven’t gotten to the 20 hour goal every week, but I’m always hovering around it.
A major reason for this spike in writing time is me finally realizing I need to leave my apartment everyday if I want to be productive. No matter how much I tell myself in the morning that I’m going to spend at least five hours at my desk writing, it just never happens. I’ll spend 45 minutes at my desk playing with a Rubik’s Cube (seriously). Then I’ll go “check on Molly” in the living room, which turns into me playing fetch with her for 30 minutes while the NFL Network is on TV in the background. Then I decide it’s best if I move my work area out to the couch so I can keep an eye on the dog while writing. Well now that I’m officially taking a break, I might as well check the DVR to see if anything good taped last night that I should watch. Then a quick search of my most-visited websites for any new content, and all of the sudden it’s 3PM and I’ve done about 30 actual minutes of writing.
So for the last three weeks, Starbucks in downtown Culver City has been my new office. While several distractions still exist—the ability to mindlessly browse the web, the temptation to watch the baristas make drinks in fancy machines—the biggest ones (Molly, TV, my bed) are all gone. Typically I go to Starbucks between 9-10AM and stay for at least four hours, sometimes longer.
When Julie was asking me all about my new daytime life at the coffee shop the other day, she was stunned by my revelation that I never order anything from Starbucks during the entire time I’m there. I’ve been there 15 of the last 21 days and haven’t ordered a thing in that time (it should be noted that I’ve never drank coffee in my life to this point, so this is a bit easier for me than others). I think Julie was actually appalled by this, like what I’m doing is probably a felony or something. I countered that plenty of people go to Starbucks for the sole purpose of doing work, and a lot of those people don’t order a damn thing. Starbucks knows this. They also know that people freeloading off their wi-fi isn’t going to hurt their sales so they might as well let people hang out all day and hope those people eventually order something. Right? Or am I totally crazy? Now if you want to make the argument that my behavior at Starbucks makes me no different from the homeless people who hang out there all day and never order anything, that’s perfectly fair. I’m only about two more jobless months away from officially joining their ranks anyway.
Well until the other day I thought my etiquette at Starbucks was just fine, but now I’m a little unsure. The poll at the bottom of this blog post is for my readers to weigh in on the debate. Please take a look.
The original point of this blog post was for me to provide insight into what it’s like hanging out all day every day at a Starbucks in Los Angeles. Coffee shops are notorious hangouts for unemployed, wannabe writers, and LA is the wannabe-writer’s capital of the world. So you’d think a Starbucks in LA would be overflowing with douchey delusional fake writers. Turns out no matter what time I’m at this particular Starbucks it is overflowing with people on their laptops. Unfortunately I can’t confirm that the majority of them are writers. Not everyone allows me to creepily stare at their computer screen.
But some of my fellow java house squatters are definitely working on screenplays and scripts like me. It always boosts my morale to think about how bad their scripts probably are. But I also notice a good percentage of those people with laptops doing real work, like filling out sales reports, emailing their employees, designing marketing collateral, etc. So the demographic of laptopers at Starbucks is probably a 50/50 split between gainfully employed people and painfully unemployed people like me.
But of course some of these writers stand out over their peers, and not everyone who hangs out all day at Starbucks has a laptop. So let’s go a layer deeper and explore some of my favorite regulars at the Culver City Starbucks:
SpongeBob SquarePants Guy: This guy may or may not be homeless, but he probably is. I’ve never been to Starbucks and not seen him. He either sits at the outdoor seating if the weather’s good, or he comes inside if the weather’s not good. I call him SpongeBob SquarePants Guy because he’s always wearing a giant yellow hat in the shape of the SpongeBob character, and he’s always drinking out of a plastic travel mug that’s also shaped like Bob. He wears the same bright plaid pants and sweatshirt every day (a detail that leads me to believe he’s homeless), and he always has a mini-DVD player and a case of DVDs with him (a detail that leads me to believe maybe he’s not homeless). If he is homeless, he’s the type of homeless I appreciate…doesn’t bother anyone, never asks for money, minds his own business (this probably means there’s no way he’s homeless, right?)
Homeless Dude Whose Pants Are Always Falling Down: Pretty self-explanatory. He’s the polar opposite of SpongeBob Guy on the homeless spectrum. He’s always asking for money, he’s loud and his pants are always falling most of the way down so you’re forced to see a lot more of him than you ever wanted. I have no idea what type of things he says to people because I’m smart enough to know that you always keep your headphones in your ears at Starbucks. I do know that almost every day of the week, the Culver City Police show up and escort this guy off the Starbucks premises.
Straddling The Fence Between Homeless & Homed Guy: The most confusing guy in the whole place. He often sits at the same table I’m sitting at and spends most of the day doing crossword puzzles. He eats a bag of Cheetos every single day, and every now and then he makes a phone call to someone who seems like his AA sponsor or parole officer. I say that because I often hear him saying things like, “There’s this guy sitting down at another table dressed in SpongeBob SquarePants gear, and it’s taking everything in me not to go over there and hit him.” (Swear to god I heard him have that exact conversation.) So I’m thinking he’s calling some sort of mentor/sponsor person in that case. He also wears very old, ratty clothing, and he seems to know an awful lot about the other homeless people milling about. My best guess is that he’s a former homeless person who’s gotten his shit together and is doing his best to stay out of trouble. I can tell you that he’s very polite and courteous when you move your backpack to free up a chair for him.
Foreign Couple Feeding Each Other in a Very Sexual Way: Speaking of people sitting at a table with me, I should let you know that at this particular Starbucks they have a large table in the middle of the place that fits up to eight people. So if you’re unlucky enough to have to sit there, you’ll be surrounded by strangers. The other day I was sitting there minding my own business when I looked up to see this man and woman literally feeding each other bites of blueberry coffee cake. Like it was their wedding cake…they were putting it in each other’s mouths, wiping it on each other’s cheeks and lips. It was so fucking strange. I hate when people do crazy shit like that and then I hear their foreign accents. Because I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the awkward public-feeding is customary in their homeland.
Sweatpants Movie Writer Who’s Always Creeping Me Out: This guy I’ve seen a few times. He’s obviously working on a movie script (I base that on the fact that I’ve totally looked at his computer screen and notebook when he goes to the bathroom, and he is in fact writing a pretty bad-looking script). He always wears sweatpants and a sweatshirt, always the same color. And I swear he spends the entire time staring at other people. And usually it feels like he’s just staring at me. I’m not positive that he really is, but all I know is every time I look up from my computer screen, there he is, looking directly at me. Buddy, that screenplay isn’t gonna fix itself. You might think about spending less time giving everyone the creeps and more time developing your protagonist.
The Guy With Terrible Spatial Senses: You know the guy. Of course you do. Because he doesn’t only exist at this Starbucks. He’s the guy who treats a small public space as if he’s alone in his study at his Beverly Hills mansion. He’s sitting at a table with three chairs. Two of the chairs are covered in his belongings. The chair he’s sitting in is pushed all the way back to the point where it’s touching the table behind him…so no one can walk by without having to tell him every fucking time to push his chair in. He’s got computer cords everywhere. He’s basically running a military command center out of a crowded public space and he doesn’t give a shit about anyone else.
The Guy Who’s Way Too Excited About Being a Regular: Anyone who’s worked in the food service industry knows this guy. He’s a regular and he knows it, and loves it. He does everything short of giving each Starbucks employee the wink & the gun as he enters. Prior to ordering his coffee, he talks to the cashier about whatever’s on his mind for 15 minutes, and then after they hand him his coffee he proceeds to stand as close to the barista as possible to continue his conversation. Only the barista has like 325 drinks to make so he’s super annoyed by the regular. My advice for you: Never be the first person this regular makes eye contact with after he realizes the barista is blowing him off…because he will transfer that conversation to you. He obviously wants to talk and he doesn’t care who’s on the other end of that conversation, just as long as it’s another person. Don’t let yourself be that person.
The Woman Who Tries To Be the “Mom” of Starbucks: I don’t even know if that’s a good description for this lady, but she definitely reminds me of an overly-concerned mom. I’ve only seen her at Starbucks three times, but each time, after about an hour of her being there, she stands up and announces to the entire place that “sitting for too long is really bad for you. So I’m gonna stand up for a few minutes.” Again, I’m not lying or exaggerating. She makes that PSA loud enough for everyone to hear. I think she’s always hoping people will stand up with her. She’s looking for companions in the fight against sitting for too long. But when everyone ignores her, she proceeds to shake her head and make a “pfffff” sound under her breath, just so we all know how disappointed she is in us. And just like the regular guy, if you accidentally lock eyes with this woman, she will give you a one-on-one talking to about the dangers of all us fatso’s sitting down for too long. When I’m in a bad mood and she’s there, I always catch myself hoping she eventually dies from a heart attack or clogged arteries. That’ll teach her.
Douchey Red Sox Hat-Wearing Weirdo Who Brings His Own Sandwich and Water to Starbucks:Wait, that’s me. Hopefully my 17-inch MacBook helps people realize that even though I bring the same sandwich packaged in saran wrap every day, I’m not homeless. Yet.
I’m wondering if anyone else has recently had a conversation like the one Julie and I had while driving home from San Francisco last weekend:
Me:“So we’ve got Eamon’s wedding in March and Mike’s in July.”
Julie:“Yep, and Jen’s is in August so we’ll go back to Boston for a week for that. And now BLANK[name omitted because she’s not engaged yet but is already planning her wedding] might be getting married in September so we’ll be up in San Francisco for that…”
Me:“Great, so that takes us through the end of 2013. Maybe we’ll be able to take a vacation for ourselves some time in 2014?”
Keep in mind that it’s currently November of 2012, and already we’re hoping for our calendar to open up enough in 2014 to go away somewhere.
Is there acceptable etiquette for telling all of your friends that you’re declining the invite to their weddings because you might want to take a vacation for yourself once in the next two years?
Does this post come off as me complaining about having too many friends? It shouldn’t…I’m merely pointing out that people in my age range tend to get invited to a lot of weddings, and if you’re unlucky enough, they all come rapid-fire over an 18-month span.
This might sound extremely selfish, but if you want me at your wedding, don’t have it in 2014. And if you can’t help yourself because your fiancee is forcing you to get married in 2014, expect a nice $20 Starbuck’s gift card in the mail from me.
Have you ever seen someone so ready to rock their UCLA Extension writing class? Me neither. So what if the class was from 7-10pm…nothing was going to stop me from bringing my brown bagged lunch on day one (If you’re curious, the bag contained m&m’s, grapes and a lollipop. If only I would have stopped at Starbuck’s on my way to class to grab a hot chocolate, then my classmates would have really known they were dealing with a mature adult).
Since it was my first time in a classroom in more than seven years, I decided to actually pay attention and observe my surroundings. Here’s what I learned in week one:
-It was a strange sensation to sit in a three-hour class and not have my mind wandering to every topic besides what was being taught. Out of 32 undergrad classes at BU, I can’t recall more than four or five where I was actually paying attention to the content being discussed. That gives me hope that I’m finally enrolled in the right class.
-When I was last in school, Smartphones didn’t exist. Waiting for class to begin back in the old days of 2005, your only option for entertainment was to actually talk to people. Scary stuff. I feel bad for teachers mostly because it’s gotta be nearly impossible to hold 20 students’ attention for even an hour when every one of them has their iphone right next to their notebooks. Or it could be even worse, like the girl next to me who was using her laptop to “take notes,” but really was just doing silent video conferencing with her husband the whole time.
-But I did discover one huge benefit to having an iphone in this setting. Halfway through class, the teacher asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves, including where we were from, what writing experience we have, what our favorite TV shows are, and why we decided to take the class. Of course you all know that in a group of 20, there’s going to be a couple people who decide to hijack the conversation, stretching their time to speak from two minutes to 10 minutes, deciding instead of answering the teacher’s questions to focus on their whole life story (if you don’t think you’ve been in a group of people where someone is doing this—whether it be school or work—then I’m happy to tell you that you are that person, and you should shut the fuck up sometimes). Anyway, to show these people that I was just about done with their story, I combined a shameless “whip out my iphone and pretend to be playing games” move with a loud throat clear, ensuring even the dumbest person understood the social cue.
-After hearing all these boring stories from my classmates, I was a little shocked to learn I was the only one who purposely quit his job, became unemployed and expected to make it as a writer before money runs out. Most people in the class think they’re going to have to work hard for years just to get noticed in the entertainment industry. Boy, are they clueless…
-The three-hour night class felt a little strange in that I was sober and it was a real class. The only night class I ever had at BU was called “Sports Management” where the most difficult task over an entire semester was creating a practice schedule for the fictitious sports team I was pretending to manage. And we usually went to the BU Pub and pounded beers before class. Now I show up sober with grapes and a canteen of water. So sad.
-The teacher totally validated himself in week one by showing us a New Girl episode at the end of class and then promptly tearing it to pieces. That’s how you get on my good side, which I’m sure was his goal all along.
-I hate to predict failure for any of my classmates, but I wonder if the woman who doesn’t own a TV, hasn’t watched a TV show in over 10 years, and claims not to have any time to practice writing is going to do well in a Television Writing course?
-If karma has a sense of humor, my teacher will pair me up with that woman for some kind of important project.
-Oh, and just for a comparison so everyone knows I haven’t changed a bit since the last picture of me going to school was taken, here you go:
I guess by now I was supposed to have explored a lot of Los Angeles, considering I moved three weeks ago. The girlfriend arrives on Friday, and she’s probably gonna ask me all sorts of questions I don’t have answers for, like, “Where’s the nicest beach?” and, “Where do you like to get your hair done?”
Only problem is I haven’t been to the beach, and I definitely haven’t gone to the salon since I’ve been in LA. The first 10 days were a waste because I was laid up on the couch with a herniated disc in my back that was caused by three straight days of moving (OK, it wasn’t anything nearly as severe as a herniated disc; it was actually just a stiff neck, but a really stiff neck!).
But once I was out of the ICU, you’d think I’d start exploring my new city, right? Am I allowed to say that exploring LA completely on my own never sounded like fun? That I’m not in the same mindset I was when I traveled by myself through Europe and Australia three years ago, willing to go anywhere and meet anyone? Also I knew that once Julie got down here she was going to want to explore all the popular places anyway, no matter how lame I tell her they are. So I’m waiting.
But before I moved down here, LA experts told me that I better live in an area that had everything I’d need close by…restaurants, bars, grocery store, hospital, homeless shelter, and any friends you actually want to keep up with. Obviously this is because of the ridiculous traffic and how spread out the city is.
So if I couldn’t explore all of LA in my first three weeks, the least I could do is explore the five-block radius around my apartment. I wanted to know what’s within walking distance, hoping to minimize how often my car leaves the garage.
Here’s what I’ve discovered is within reasonable walking distance of my apartment:
-Essential fast food: In-n-Out Burger, Rally’s Burgers, Wendy’s…In hot weather, I typically average nine milkshakes per week. All three of these restaurants meet my requirements of proximity and shake thickness.
-Essential fast casual Mexican: Chipotle…How I haven’t eaten here for 20 straight days is a mystery.
-Restaurants: Millions of them, an abundance of Thai places, Harrison Ford’s son’s restaurant, no big deal
-Bars: My biggest concern moving to Culver City was a perceived lack of dive bars in the area, places I could get a $2 PBR and the only food they serve is the three bags of chips hanging in the corner. I still haven’t found any true dive bars in walking distance to my apartment, but I have found a couple decent sports bars. They’ll each go through try outs in August to see which one turns into my Sunday football bar.
-Grocery Stores: Trader Joe’s, Albertson’s, Smart & Final. The S&F is so close I could go purchase something right now and get back before you finish reading this sentence.
-Cosmetic Surgery Facility: For the ass implants I’m planning to get eventually.
-Hospital/ER: For future slipped disc issues
-Starbuck’s: I still don’t drink coffee, but I can suck down a hot cocoa like a champ.
-Farmer’s Market: Tuesday afternoons, meaning if you live in Culver City, you have to choose between having a job or getting fresh vegetables.
-Movie Theater: Apparently it’s a good thing this is so close because my go-to activity for when I’m bored and by myself is seeing a movie. I’ve seen four and counting since I’ve been down here on my own.
-Frozen Yogurt: For when I’ve overdone it on milkshakes.
-Dry Cleaners: Assuming one day I come out of retirement and look for a job, might have to get the suits that currently sit in a ball in my closet dry-cleaned.
-Brazilian Steakhouse: Already bought a Groupon deal to eat here soon. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a brazilian steakhouse, slap yourself in the face and then go find the nearest one now.
-Sony Studios: People have suggested I should sit outside the Sony buildings and write movie scripts all day, theorizing that someone who works for Sony might see me and offer me a job. More likely someone will see me there day after day and call the Cops.
-City Hall & Police Department: No idea what the benefit is to having these things close to me, but it can’t be a bad thing, right?
-Culver City Park: A pretty decent park that includes basketball courts, baseball fields and a skate park (three things I will never use), running/hiking areas (which I will use), and a pretty sweet dog park (debatable whether I’ll ever use this or not):
-Balona Creek: Sure, there’s nothing pretty or scenic about it (see picture below), but it’s a four-mile bike and running trail that goes to the beach, meaning you can run or bike to the beach and back and never have to deal with cars or traffic lights. Even if some of the Yelp reviews told stories about women getting attacked by homeless people along the creek, well, good thing I’m not a woman (if Julie ever has to be on the trail alone at night, I’ll arm her with a butter knife or water gun).
-Flower Shop: Obviously good to have right next to my apartment for when I piss Julie off by suggesting she ride her bike alone along Balona Creek.
Basically what I’m saying through this long-winded blog is good luck getting me to leave Culver City once I do the obligatory one month of LA exploring in July.