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Tag Archives: reflection

Final Reflection

1 Jan

365 Days | 212 Starbucks | 1 Great City

December Starbucks

On this day last year, I sat down at the Starbucks on 52nd street and 8th avenue and committed to a rather odd new year’s resolution. I decided that I would visit every single Starbucks on the island of Manhattan and blog about each one. I had been thinking about this for quite sometime, and it seemed liked the perfect solution to combine my desire to explore my new home and my commitment to write more in the year of 2013. And that is exactly what I did.

When I started this blog, there were 202 Starbucks in Manhattan, according to a report by the Center for an Urban Future. Now, both according to my records and the Center’s 2013 report, there are 212 Starbucks in Manhattan, New York — 208 of which are available to the general public. For easy reference, I’ve assembled a complete List of all the Starbucks I encountered on my journey. I also created a Map using Google Maps Engine that will give anyone interested a guided tour of some of the best (and worst) Starbucks in Manhattan.

So one year, 208 Starbucks and 224 blog entries later, I am back at the Starbucks on 52nd & 8th to collect my thoughts and reflect on the many, many things I’ve discovered in the highly caffeinated year of 2013. This Starbucks hasn’t changed at all from what I remember of it. The chairs are still a mismatched combination of wood and metal, and the crowd is still heavy and touristy. But the person that sat at this Starbucks on January 1st, 2013 has gone through more changes in a year than most go through in five. I live in a new apartment in a new neighborhood. I’ve held four different jobs and changed career paths entirely. I’ve traveled north, west and south. I even found a boyfriend along the way. But, most substantially, I’ve found a home in New York City — which probably means I’ve also become significantly less patient. Oh well, no time to lose sleep over that one.

Someone once told me that it takes at least five years of living in the city for someone to truly be considered a New Yorker. I’ve also heard that it’s at that time that you decided whether you will stay in the city or move on. Well, I can’t say I know every nook of every neighborhood or completely identify as a New Yorker, but perhaps my journey this year has shaved a year or two off that time.

If I had to sum up my year’s exploration into one fact, it is that the Starbucks of New York City represent more than just the neighborhoods where they are located. They represent the ever-changing state of urban life and the people that are attracted to it. Some may call this gentrification. I also think the term McDonaldization fits quite nicely. So am I saying New York is beginning to resemble one giant fast food chain? Well, partly yes I am. But I don’t see this as a societal problem which needs to be combated, rewound or snuffed out. It’s just a side effect of our collective culture’s desire for speed, consistency and familiarity. And what brand fits that description more than Starbucks.

Where some people view Starbucks — and similar corporate chains — as an encroaching threat to all things unique and significant in New York, I see it as only the supply for society’s demand for a familiar cup of coffee — or maybe a frozen espresso beverage topped with whipped cream. And if you go into a New York City Starbucks — whether it be in the East Village or the Upper West Side — you won’t see robotic baristas or Stepford men and women in line. You’ll catch a short glimpse of the characteristics and idiosyncrasies that are unique to that neighborhood. That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

Happy New Year!

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Reflection: The Four That Got Away

27 Dec

NYC Starbucks

In this marvelous city of 212 Starbucks, there is one thing that surprised me more than most: there are some Starbucks in NYC that are not open to the public. Some are easier to access than others, such as the ones within universities like FIT and Pace. But there are others within private businesses and office buildings that I simply could not pay a visit to. Four, to be exact:

  • The Starbucks inside the Limited Brands building at 1740 Broadway
  • The Starbucks inside the Burlington House building at 1345 Sixth Avenue
  • The Starbucks inside the JP Morgan Chase building at 270 Park Avenue
  • The Starbucks within the New York Stock Exchange at 11 Wall Street

Each of these buildings have posted security on site during operating hours and entrance is not permitted without a pass to the building or an invitation from one of the businesses within — trust me, I tried. I think it’s fair to say I confused several doormen when declaring the only reason I wanted access to their building was to see the Starbucks inside. No doubt they thought I was crazy, but I wanted to be thorough. I especially wanted to see the Starbucks within the New York Stock Exchange, since it’s such an important part of this country’s economy. I even wrote to the owners of the building, but no luck.

Part of me was — and still is — a little disappointed that there are four Starbucks in this city that I cannot easily pay a visit to. But I’ve sat on this for a while, and come to the conclusion that missing these four locations may be for the best. After all, only those who work there can access them. So even if they are wonderful and spacious, neither me nor anyone else could easily pay them a second visit. I guess it just goes to show you that in a city that thrives on caffeine, a coffee house like Starbucks can easily survive without opening its doors to the public at large.

With four days to spare, this leaves just three Starbucks left for me to visit in Manhattan. Although I’m terribly excited to finish this adventure, part of me is also wondering: where did the year go?

Reflection: November

30 Nov

November Starbucks

Holiday season is in full swing. Thanksgiving has just passed, Black Friday weekend madness is currently underway, and minds everywhere turn toward Christmas and all its treasures and troubles. In New York terms, this means Christmas trees are popping up on sidewalks everywhere, tourists are invading Midtown — avoid 5th & 6th avenue altogether! — and bubble jackets and winter hats can be seen everywhere. In terms of Starbucks, this means that red cups are back, holiday drinks are a-brewin’, and iced beverages are few and far between.

During November, I saw 18 new Starbucks across the city: from 168th street in Washington Heights to Water street in South Ferry. And obviously, there were a lot of Midtown Starbucks in-between. I spent a good amount of time in Times Square; I visited Starbucks that serve both Columbia and Pace universities; and I even made my way out to the Starbucks that caters to the conventioneers at the Javits Center.

Although I saw some well-designed and decorated stores over the past 30-days, not one earned a 5-Cup rating. In fact, exactly half were rated 2-Cup or under — with a whopping 3 Starbucks getting the lowest rating of all. I swear I didn’t intentionally save some of the worst for last! I’m hoping there’s still an undiscovered 5-Cup out there somewhere. And with only 20 — or so — Starbucks left to visit, the chances are seeming kind of slim.

As I prepare to enter my last month of coffee blogging — is that a real thing? — I’m also looking back at where I was a year ago and how much 11 months in NYC can change a person. More on that soon to come! In the meantime, there’s still another round of Starbucks to go, and I’m pretty darn excited for my next stop. I’ll even give you a hint: four distinct Starbucks can be found in this 10-story NYC landmark.

Reflection: October

1 Nov

October Starbucks

 

October was an exciting month for me. Not only did I get to visit more Starbucks this month than any before — a whopping 25! — but I also was able to visit 22 of those within the first 20 days of the month. Is my newfound blogging rapidity all because the year is coming to a close? No I wouldn’t say that’s entirely the reason. Yes — I’m well aware that I’ve only 60 days left to visit the remaining Starbucks in Manhattan. But also, I’m growing more and more excited to hunt down the remaining thirty-some-odd Starbucks I’ve yet to see. Each one brings a new element of surprise and brings me that much closer to completing my goal.

Another reason this month was exciting is because of Starbucks began to actively engage in a political debate over the government shutdown. While normally I avoid politics like I would a sniffling colleague, Starbucks involvement truly intrigued me. In fact, its presence was so pervasive in my blog that I was interviewed and then quoted in an NBC news article on the Starbucks petition to end the shutdown. Clearly I’m no political pundit, but it felt great to be included in a news story that was so familiar and prevalent in my life.

As for the quality of these 25 Starbucks, only one received a 5-Cup rating; seven were 4-Cup; nine were 3-Cup; five were 2-Cup; and three were 1-Cup stores. Which means that I visited just as many good Starbucks as I did bad ones. My favorite was a towering two-story location on 88th & Broadway in the Upper West Side, while my least favorite were — not surprisingly — in Midtown and the Financial District.

Another fact I found out this month that’s worth mentioning is there are some Starbucks here in Manhattan that are only accessible to a select group of people. A great example of that is the Starbucks at the New York Stock Exchange. Without security clearance to enter 11 Wall Street, you cannot visit the Starbucks within. And I discovered a few Midtown locations that have the same policy. This is something I probably should have guessed at earlier — I mean it is logical — but I just assumed that any Starbucks in NYC was open to the public. Clearly, that’s not the case. Now I find myself asking exactly how will I get to see that handful of unique limited-access Starbucks, or will I end the year regretting those few locations that got slipped through the cracks?

There are only two months left in the year of 2013. I’ve visited 170 Starbucks so far. And my appetite for Starbucks is still just as strong as when I started.

Reflection: Starbucks Asks Americans to Come Together

11 Oct

ComeTogether

I woke up this morning to a few interesting emails. The first was from Starbucks. Anyone subscribed to receive their promotions and updates also woke up to an email somewhat out of the norm. Starting today, Starbucks has placed paper petitions at all of their stores across the country and is asking its patrons to send a message to lawmakers. The message? In short… get it together and do what’s right for this country (see above for details).

The second interesting email was from a CNBC reporter asking for a quick interview on the petition and Starbucks’ recent delve into politics. Obviously, I had missed a lot in the hours between midnight and 8am.

So, I splashed some water on my face and headed down to the nearest Starbucks to see what exactly was going on. While there, not only did I sign the petition, but I also was able to successfully Pay-It-Forward and buy the woman in line behind me her morning coffee. Unlike yesterday’s experience at the Starbucks on 45th & Park, these baristas new exactly what I was talking about and easily rang me up for the both of us. I knew it could work!

Soon after, I was on the phone talking to the CNBC reporter about Howard Schultz’s recent statements and Starbucks’ political involvement over the past few weeks. You can read the full NBC News article here.

All in all, I’m really proud of Starbucks. Some people may see this as a PR stunt, but I see it more as a powerful and widely-known American company voicing its concern for the American people and the economy. Businesses usually go through lobbyists to get what they want from the government, but Starbucks is going straight to the people. Will it be affective? Is Starbucks going to end this government shutdown and keep the economy in good shape before we default? No, probably not.

But they’re the first company to try, and for that I’m proud to call myself a loyal Starbucks patron.

Reflection: September

1 Oct

NYC Starbucks_September

 

18 Starbucks in one month! No this isn’t the most I’ve visited since starting this blog; however it is probably my biggest achievement. Why? Because I visited all 18 of these Starbucks in the first month of the fall semester of grad school at NYU. This wasn’t winter break, summer break or any other reprieve. This was just pure time management skills. Or maybe it’s because the month of September has had the best weather of the year. Not too hot, not too cold.

Also this month, instead of strictly blogging about Starbucks after Starbucks with the narrowest of vision, I decided to act more like a blogger within a community and read and write on other blogs as well. You can read my Reflection: On Blogging post for the full details. But — just know — it’s been going well. I had no idea other people were so interesting! … a joke (mostly).

As  far as the quality is concerned, this month was kind of a downer. I couldn’t find any 5-Cup rated Starbucks, but I did stumble upon five 1-Cup rated locations. And of course, the majority of them were in Midtown.

So this brings me to 145 Starbucks and counting with just three months left in the year. Can I average 20 Starbucks each month going forward to finish the year off in victory? Stay tuned.

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Reflection: On Blogging

22 Sep

John on Blogging

I have to admit. I haven’t really considered myself a part of the blogging community — or blogosphere — until recently. Since I started this blog on January 1st, I have been mostly concerned with getting to all these Starbucks in 365 days. I’m here to write, not to read. That’s been my mindset since the onset.

And looking at the whole picture here, this self-removed tendency of mine can be found in most aspects of my life: school, work, when meeting new people and even within the gay community. It’s time to break the chain.

Recently, a fellow blogger — thanks Kayla Krantz! — nominated me for The Liebster Award. Basically, this award is given to an up & coming blogger, from an up & coming blogger who thought their writing was worth sharing. In true chain letter format, those nominated are asked to pass the torch to 11 other worthy bloggers. Some may see this as an honor, others a hassle. Me? I see it as my opportunity to participate more in the blogging world and break the chain of self-isolation.

Below are 11 facts about me, 11 questions that I was asked to answer, the 11 blogs I’d like to nominate and the 11 questions I’d like them to answer.

liebster-award

11 Facts About Me:

1.  I’m a gay man.

2. I live in NYC.

3. I drink a lot of Starbucks (but those 3 things kind of go without saying).

4. I’m in my second year of studies at NYU’s grad program in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.

5. I received my B.S. in English Language Arts Education at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

6. If I wasn’t studying PR, I’d be studying Astrology. I’m an Aquarius with Leo rising.

7. Now — besides this blog — I mostly write emails and press releases.

8. I really, really want a dog, like a big dog — boxer or great dane — but it would be way to inhumane to keep one in my small NYC apartment.

9. Twitter is starting to take over my life. Follow me at @harlequinboy.

10. I’m equal parts extraverted and anti-social. So basically I talk to myself sometimes.

11. The first thing I ever wrote down was a Street Fighter fan fiction when I was 6 years old. I haven’t stopped since.

A Quick Q&A:

1. Milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips?

Definitely milk chocolate.

2. What is your dream job and why?

My dream job is a little obscure. I want to be an influencer in the LGBT community. Like the anti-Perez Hilton. I want to write books, give speeches and be a positive example of the modern day gay man. Of course — this is the dream. The realist sees in my future a career working in event coordinating or marketing for an LGBT non-profit.

3. What is your favorite drink? Any drink.

Oh, that’s easy. Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee.

In all seriousness, if it weren’t for Starbucks coffee (in all its glorious forms) I wouldn’t make it through the day.

4. Would you rather live in the city or in a more rural country setting?

My life up to this point has been a continuous journey from small town to big city. I was born in a teeny tiny town in rural Pennsylvania. Grew up in the small city of Palm Bay, Florida. Spent two years in Tallahassee, Florida — a college town that also functions as the state capitol. I lived in Orlando for three years, where I got my first taste of urban living. And I moved to the Big Apple just last year. I’m now certain that city life is meant for me, and I can’t imagine turning back to anything less than honking horns, crowded streets and towering apartment complexes.

5. Is this your first blog?

Yes. Unless you count the LiveJournal that I kept in high school.

6. What is currently your favorite song?

That would be a three-way tie between Lady Gaga’s Applause, Avicii’s Wake Me Up and Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

7. Best dessert you’ve ever had?

Chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirls.

8. What is your favorite thing about your blog?

The one aspect about this blog that gives me the most pleasure is that it is forcing me to explore the nooks and crannies of Manhattan in one year. Believe it our not, but I don’t have Starbucks tunnel vision. Each time I go to a new Starbucks — even if it is in a neighborhood I’ve walked through hundreds of time — I feel like I’m discovering some new corner of the city that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

9. If there was a natural disaster who would be the first person you’d look for?

My boyfriend, Jeremy. He lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and I suffered through enough storms growing up in Florida, so I think we’d make a pretty good team in any kind of natural disaster.

10. Who is going to see Catching Fire in the theater when it comes out?

This guy!

11. What is your favorite store to shop at?

Target. It’s your one-stop-shop for anything you could possibly need. I worked for the company for five years, and it’s been difficult living in Manhattan without a convenient Target in my neighborhood. Bring on the City Targets!

The 11 Blogs I nominate:

Borough of Lost Boys

Muffy Runs

Synonyms for Starbucks

Coffee and Cardigans

Life, Army Wife Style

S.Martins Photography

Confessions of a Pseudo-Gaysian Suburban Dad

20b430

Style Over Stress

Trading Oranges for Apples

Central Sweat

11 Questions to Answer:

1. Coffee or tea?

2. Why did you start your blog?

3. When you’re not blogging, what are you doing?

4. LA, SF or NYC?

5. What is your favorite book? And why?

6. What is your favorite website? And why?

7. Snow angels or sand castles?

8. When you go out to a bar, what’s your drink of choice?

9. What are you going to be for Halloween?

10. Where do you want to be in 10 years?

11. How are you going to get there?

Reflection: August

2 Sep

NYC Starbucks August

 

Labor Day is here, and August has run out. I guess it’s time to retire those white shoes and tank tops.

For me, August was a month of travel — either I was traveling or had someone visiting. This made for a fun and exciting month — for sure — but it also staggered my blogging a bit. Still, I must admit it was worth it. I actually spent the last six days in California with my boyfriend celebrating one year of being together. We arrived in Los Angeles, made the leisurely trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, and spent a few days in San Francisco. And, yes — of course — I was very observant of the west coast Starbucks and how they compared to those in NYC. In fact, while sitting in the Castro district of San Francisco, I was able to take pause, snap some photos and write out my thoughts:

Castro and 18th

I’m currently sitting in the gayest Starbucks in the country.

No, I’m not using gay in a derogatory way. And no, I’m not even in New York. At this very moment, I’m sipping my iced coffee on a bench outside the San Francisco Starbucks on the corner of 18th and Castro.

If I had to rate this Starbucks, geography aside, it would certainly get a 5-Cup rating. It’s clean. Spacious. Cozy. And adorned with rainbow flags! The baristas are super friendly, and — not going to lie — really cute. All in all, this is the epitome of a gay man’s dream Starbucks.

But now I’m back in NYC, and it’s time to reflect on the 14 NYC Starbucks I made it to in the month of August.

With summer coming to an end, I knew I wanted to explore some of the more obscure Starbucks before the inevitable temperature drop. So I packed a bag and headed north — to the most northern Starbucks in Manhattan, that is. Although there was nothing particularly special about that Starbucks, it was a great experience to walk around north Manhattan for the first time. This is such a diverse city, with something for everyone in any of the hundreds of neighborhoods within.

All in all, it was a pretty good month. I even found two 5-Cup Starbucks and only one 1-Cup location. I’ve now visited 127 Starbucks in total this year, and my urge for caffeine is not quite yet satiated.

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Reflection: July

1 Aug

NYC Starbucks_July

 

July was a doozy of a month. And by ‘doozy’ I mean hot, sweaty, sultry and drippy kind of month. At times, Manhattan felt like a concrete oven, but it wasn’t the smell of cookies that was emanating from the streets.

I visited more Starbucks this month than any other before it, rating 23 individual locations. I also surpassed 100 different Starbucks this month, and bringing my total so far to 113. One could say that July was the month of odd, oblique and randomly placed Starbucks. One thing I learned this month: they’ll squeeze a Starbucks anywhere they can in this city. I visited Starbucks inside banks, office buildings, train stations, bus stations, shopping malls and retail stores. I’m sure I’ll continue to find randomly placed Starbucks locations as my journey continues, and I’m excited to see where else a Starbucks can fit.

The end of July also signifies a personal triumph for me. As of today, I’ve been living in NYC for one complete year. On the morning of August 1st of last year, I boarded a plane to JFK with only a suitcase, a carry-on and a laptop bag. I had sold my car, my bike, all my furniture and 80 percent of my personal items; I had said goodbye to all my friends and family; and I had absolutely no idea what would be in-store for me. One year later, and I’ve made New York my home. I can barely believe that a year has already come and gone. I once heard that 1 year spent in NYC is the equivalent of 3 years spent anywhere else. And maybe that’s why time has flown by so fast; I’ve been busy!

And Starbucks is only part of that. Check out the gallery of the 23 Starbucks locations I rated in July and stay tuned to see how many I can rack up in the month of August.

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Reflection: June

1 Jul

NYC Starbucks_June

 

Half the year has come and gone. I woke up this morning and starred July in the face with groggy eyes and disbelief. My caffeinated journey through the streets of Manhattan is at its midpoint. Half the time I feel like I just started this blog and the other half I it seems like I’ve been doing this thing all my life.

The month of June has been one of my favorite months in NYC, and it was also one of the most productive. The two most noteworthy occurrences: the creation of CitiBike and NYC Gay Pride.

CitiBike officially rolled out in the beginning of June. For those of you that aren’t familiar, it is a commuter bike service that now exists in Manhattan from 59th street down. There are tons and tons of locations and it allows you access to a bike for a certain period of time (30 or 45 minutes) so you can travel from one spot in the city to another. It’s perfect for getting across town. I tested the service with a week pass and then caved and bought a year’s membership. Although it has it’s kinks (broken stations, empty stations, and overall poor computer technology), I love the fact that I can get around the city swiftly without having to go underground. Plus I get a little bit more fitness in my day.

June — if you didn’t know — is Pride Month. And the last weekend of the month, NYC celebrates with a huge parade that puts all others to shame. This year’s was exceptionally special because not only was it my first time seeing it, but it also took place the same week that the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and found Prop 8 in California to be unconstitutional. The parade was roughly 5 hours of high energy, pride-filled joy. My boyfriend and I gathered at a friend’s party on the corner of Christopher and Gay streets and watched out the windows the entire time as the parade passed by. I couldn’t have asked for a better view. Later that evening a bunch of us went to a pier dance party where Whoopi Goldberg introduced Cher, and she sang her new single. All in all, it was the most proud I’ve felt in years.

June was also a big month for this blog. I was able to visit 20 different NYC Starbucks locations. That’s the most I’ve ever gotten to in 1 month! While I did visit 3 different Starbucks that earned a rating of 1-Cup, I also found another 5-Cup location at the corner of 58th & Madison. I also decided to get the blog its own Facebook page. So if you’re reading this you should totally check it out and ‘like’ it.

Check out the gallery of the 20 Starbucks locations I rated in June and stay tuned for the July Starbucks to start rolling in.

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