I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 297 - Can Starbucks Save Your Life?

Daily Kup (Last Week Redux)
In a stunning homage to last week, Princess Potatohead started the morning barfing in not one, but two, wastebaskets. Keeping that "sunny side up" attitude, it's a wonderful way to remind yourself to wash out your wastebaskets thoroughly.

While cold (DUH!), it's sunny with a startlingly blue sky. Sitting in my non-office this morning and writing a book review, I could hear birds singing. I pounded the side of my head with the heal of my hand and the sound was still there, so it must be so. Right?

Now why couldn't it be so beautiful yesterday when we drove out by the lakes with the camera?

A Cup of Kindness
I read an inspiring book over the weekend, How Starbucks Saved My Life - A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else by Michael Gates Gill. It's not a perfect book but that adds to the main message that some high-falutin' lifestyle may not be the most satisfying cup of tea ... er, coffee.

As a side effect of the espresso-tinged product placement liberally dolloped throughout the book, I also have an uncontrollable desire for a mocha latte. Go figure.

I reviewed the book for Lunch.com, where you can read the review if you want to see a picture of me wearing a hen outfit. http://www.lunch.com/reviews/book/UserReview-How_Starbucks_Saved_My_Life_A_Son_of_Privilege_Learns_to_Live_Like_Everyone_Else-1561610-199519-A_Warm_Beverage_Subtle_Sweet_If_A_Bit_Frothy.html

For those with a paltry poultry interest:

A Warm Beverage -- Subtle, Sweet, If A Bit Frothy

Michael Gates Gill’s memoir might easily be subtitled "A Riches to (Cleaning) Rags Story" in which a patrician advertising executive tumbles from grace and finds himself needing a job – any job – with health insurance and a chance to be gainfully occupied. Through serendipity, he accepts a job at Starbucks and starts the long climb to regaining self-respect. With an extra shot.

Gill was the son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill and was brought up in affluence in the New York social circle. The opulence did not quite overcome his loneliness for his absent parents and his lifelong need for their approval. He is plagued by being not quite enough by one standard or another.

Gill gets a plum corporate job with the help of an acquaintance from Skull & Bones, Yale’s secret society. From there, he rises up the hierarchy for 25 years through single-minded devotion to his career at the expense of his family and his dignity … and a little coattail riding. (Hey, could have been worse. This same career launch could make you President.)

Laid-off in his early 50’s, Gill makes a failed attempt at reemployment, destroys his marriage, uses up his savings, is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and finds himself in a Starbucks with the last of his dignity with the lint in the pocket of his Brooks Brothers suit. The young, female, African-American manager offers him a job. Having no other prospects, he accepts and is grateful to have a chance to show that he has any value at all in the world.

As a "Partner" in a green apron and lone white, older male employee, he scrubs the bathroom, stocks shelves, mops floors, and faces running the much-feared cash register. Caffeine is an eye-opener as Gill learns to let go of his past and appreciate the value of camaraderie, respect, and the dignity of engagement in his life and others’.

The pace of the book is leisurely with many side trips into the past. Gill’s family rubbed elbows with the upper crust of the day and he tells their stories matter-of-factly. After nuggets about Hemingway, James Thurber, and Jackie O, one wouldn’t be surprised to read, "While having dinner with my Dad, the Pope leaned over and said…" Still, the namedropping has a purpose in underscoring both the grandeur of his beginnings and the recognition that the past is, well, past. Gill’s much younger coworkers greet the story of meeting Frank Sinatra with blank stares, but are excited to learn that Gill’s daughter is making a movie with 50 Cent, of whom Gill knows only by name.

Some have questioned the book’s veracity or found it cloying or rambling or both. Keep in mind that a memoir has to contain the truth but it doesn’t have to be an encyclopedia of all the truth. While Gill skips over some details that would seem to be relevant (his first marriage, his failure to finish college, etc.), he is unflinchingly forthright about his weaknesses. His fears, big and small, echo true. So does his joy at finding a place where, unlikely as it seems, he discovers his true passion and learns to fit in.

What’s missing for me, much like a macchiato without milk froth, is an indication of the next step of growth. He learned the joy and satisfaction of tangible work and the importance of attitude and effort. He extols Starbucks and their positive corporate values to the point where the majority of his new life is working at the shop and then returning to his sparsely furnished attic apartment. Even if he overcame his personal snobbery to get to this conclusion, isn’t being the vassal of a coffee chain a lot like misplaced devotion to an advertising agency? Where does he truly make amends with his children, with his ex-wife, with his ex-girlfriend? When does he decide to volunteer at a soup chicken or use his second helping of fame to do some good for someone beyond his own soul or a cheery word to a Starbucks Guest? He wrote complimentary notes to his co-workers but does he sit on a bench in Central Park and enjoy the sunshine?

This is a charming book that reads quickly. Is an ad man always an ad man or can someone really change? I don't know, but the book gives one hope that one can build one's own island of happiness through insight, willingness to take a risk, and —perhaps — desperation.

Michael Gates Gill earned his redemption one latte at a time and he deserves the happiness that it has brought him. Now he needs to go one step farther. He learned that ‘up’ was not a direction that brought satisfaction; let’s hope that he takes his hard-won personal victory and moves it the nest step ‘out’ into the world.

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