Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Starbucks I Don't Drink In

Evanston is gebentsched, blessed in having, not one, not two but six Starbucks. I refuse to go to five of them. Here’s my reasoning. The one downtown has lots of students who make lots of noise. And they’re college kids… who can go there? The one near me is full of soccer moms with their little darling kids who make even more noise and are messy. The soccer moms talk as if God is about to turn them into a pillar of salt at any second. Can’t go there. Then there’s one in North Evanston near the Skokie-Wlmette border. It doubles as a, can you believe this, drive-thru Starbucks. So every second minute they’re yelling, “SOY, NO FOAM, VENTI CARAMEL MACCHIATO, DOUBLE CUP!” Three down…three to go.

There’s one in North Evanston that’s okay, I mean, it's quiet enough, but I would have to deal with North Evanston people, which I refuse to do. North Evanston people are “bessera mentschen”, a better class of people than us regular Evanstonians. They think of themselves as really living in Wilmette, but by accident their address happens to be in Evanston. But they think they are not Evanstonians…they are really Wilmette people caught in an Evanston address. How can you sit and drink coffee with people like that?

There’s a nice Starbucks on Main Street, but I can’t drink there either. There are too many schizophrenics in the place. Now, I’m a liberal guy. I’m happy to drink with any ethnicity or class, even with a rich person, but I refuse to drink with schizophrenics. They sit down at my table and they start talking. It’s never really clear if they’re talking at you, to you, or just talking. In Evanston there are two or maybe three insane asylums. Being a liberal town, the residents are free to roam the street during the day, and like everyone else these people would like a cup of coffee. In fact, in Evanston, we are so liberal we have a dedicated park, two square blocks, to schizophrenics. No one goes to the park except people who live in the insane asylum. Each schizophrenic sits on a separate bench jabbering away, surrounded by his inner friends, not talking to anyone else. Sounds a bit like jihadists.

I’m left with the Starbucks I do drink in which is terrific. It’s the Starbucks for middle-aged people who want to read without being interrupted. It’s the Starbucks where the Yiddish club of Evanston meets every other week. There are even frum women with long skirts and sneakers who show up after their power walk. It’s racially integrated, which is a big positive. It has a big Slavic section, which enables me to sharpen my nonexistent skills in Ukranian, Serbo-Croatian, and Russian. There even are Israeli yordim who show up with two phones, one in each hand, and a cigarette. Fortunately, they drink alfresco at the tables outside. This Starbucks is such a nice place they remember to put out water for the dogs.

Starbucks to me is an example of a self-organizing totality. Mr. Schultz did not send a directive from Seattle. There was no rabbi or apparatchik who said,” Soccer moms here, students there.” Over time, everyone found their place without anyone saying who should go where. (The same occurred with the parks.) I am a big fan of these kinds of solutions to allocation problems. Free markets are the best example of how this works. No one dictates the price, no one dictates whether to buy or sell. It all works itself out. Ideally, the solution to Jewish problems should occur in this “invisible hand” sort of way. The idea is to devise policies where everyone can do what they want and we still end up with a good solution.

Policies that require Jews to change their beliefs or their places of residence require endless ideological reinforcement. There’s been a hundred years of Zionist teaching and persuasion, yet it is a commonplace for people to say that Zionism is dead. In my view, one reason is that Zionism required constant top-down reinforcement. Same problem exists with Orthodoxy. In order to keep secularism at bay, there’s a constant need for teaching, preaching and censorship. An ideal form of Zionism would be one where people aren’t Zionist ideologues. They live in Israel because they believe it’s the best life they could possibly live. In this day and age, the best form of Orthodoxy should have a similar feature. People should feel that it’s hands down the best way to live. The same should apply to all the other denominations.

Ideally people should reject exogamous marriage because they feel their chances for happiness are best if they remain in the Jewish world. Chizuk, strengthening Jews in achieving their life plans has an invisible hand feature that causes Jews to want to remain inside Jewish life. Chizuk takes each individual’s conception of ‘the good’ as given, and tries to enable the person to achieve his goals. If done properly it should make no difference if the individual ends up charedi or secular, he should want autonomously to remain a Jew. Why? I believe because we tend to love those who have shown us love, whether it is a community or an individual. If young Jews are helped along their life path over an extended period of time by other Jews, there arises in a natural way a hakaras hatov, a recognition of gratitude for the attention and kindness shown along the way. In time people come to understand who are their brethren, who are their real friends. They become connected through bonds of affection and fellowship to their family and community.


At 11:01 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>People should feel that it’s hands down the best way to live. The same should apply to all the other denominations.

But of course by your logic if a person finds a community/religion that is more appeal to himself/herself than Judaism then they should go that way. If a person finds Judaism to be lacking should they try to explore Judaism and adapt it to their own needs or should they just try to look a better community?

The answer I think is that a person should first look and explore where they are because it is harder to make a transition than to stay where they are. If after exploring it to their satisfaction they still feel that Judaism doesn't give them satisfaction, they should look elsewhere.

It's also helpful to remember that no community/religion will match a person’s individual nature completely and some give and take is necessary

At 1:05 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

I agree with what you said and would put it this way:The transportation costs are frequently so high that it usually ends up that there is no gain. I also think one would have to take into account the guilt of having deserted one's people. Baseball fans don't switch teams just because their team is having a bad season. Chicago fans don't switch even if their team is having a bad century.

At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Ten Jew Very Much said...

Another excellent post in a series of excellent posts.

Keep it up.

Moadim l'simchah.

At 1:15 PM, Blogger SephardiLady said...

I'm enjoying reading your posts. You have a unique outlook and it is fun to have an inside look.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Neil Harris said...

And also a Starbuck drinker...Howard Schultz's book details the creation of a 'third space' not work and not home.

At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

by the way, if you only use chalav yisroel, you should know that the soymilk in Starbucks is OUDE (OU dairy equipment) - equivalent to Chalav Akum.
Just a sidepoint.


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