Archive for the ‘barista’ Category

Some Baristas

February 27, 2008

Following my last post, I was gmail chatting with my big-balled friend, David over in Lebanon. Our conversation led us to wonder what a typology of baristas would look like following “Some Queens,” David Feinberg’s typology of queens in the sexy-covered novel Eighty-Sixed. David came up with a stream of barista types. He’s much better at it than I am since he knows Italian.

Please feel free to make suggestions and I will edit them into the list.

fareasta barista = an asian barista
baristina = female barista, or girly barista
the starista = the actor-dancer-model-waiter of the 80s
pianista barista = lonely barista

beirutista = a lebanese barista, or otherwise self-destructive barista

barflyistas = club rats who must work the steam to support their p.m. habits
fartistas = secretly love the sound of the hot air
chartistas = the ones who sing pop songs as they prep your cappucino
sous-barista = the trainee, also called startista
smartista = a frustrated intellectual who can’t get another job
bartiste = the 21st century bohemian
barysta = the feminist expresso maker
blasista = the bored stiff, indifferent barista
no hold’s barista = the uncensored, crazy type
millibarista = coffee sommelier in a very low pressure cafe
barbiesta = all she can think is about ken as she is making your macchiato
disbarista = used to be a lawyer
sbarrista = former italian fastfood maker turned coffee expert
gaydarista = lists his station shifts online and cruises through the steam
czarista = coffee professional of russian origin, or spikes the drinks with vodka
sportsbarista = non existent
fubarista = you dont want to drink what he makes
babarista = he can froth the milk with his trunk
proteinbarista = muscle queen coffee sommelier


Educating Barista

February 26, 2008

What an outrage! What if I need a venti cappuccino on my way home tonight? Starbucks is closing its stores at 5:30 tonight for “barista re-education.” Starbucks continues its natural evolution into McDonalds.

Some of my loyal readers have pointed out that I have a fascination with baristas, or the ‘coffee sommelier.’ One went so far as to suggest I have a fetish for them. Disgusting. That reader has some balls to speak to me in such a manner.

This news bulletin from Starbucks puts me in mind of an anecdote I’ve been meaning to share:

Standing in line at cafe Intelligentsia, I risked contamination by de-activating my ipod, silencing Róisín Murphy. I wouldn’t normally break protocol like that, however, I find sometimes find it difficult to modulate the volume of my voice to be heard if I have music playing. I think I was also motivated by anthropological curiosity. After all, I do my best ‘field-work’ on buses and coffee-shops. I felt the need to give the outer-world another chance. Approaching the front of the line, I tuned in impatiently on the conversation between the lady in front of me and the barista. After placing her order, the lady decided to hold up the line with some bullshit chit-chat. She asked, “I’ve been wondering, what does the name ‘Intelligentsia’ mean?” This was the Intelligentsia in Boystown which always has an incredibly long wait, so I could feel myself make a short, impatient, in-take of breath. The barista was delighted to demonstrate his training.

“Intelligentsia refers to a kind of coffee shop you could find in the nineteenth century. It’s where you would find, uhm, different kinds of writers, artists, and …” His co-worker steaming the milk decided to cut-in and show him up by knowingly adding, “… and astronomers.” Beneath the jocularity, you could feel the tension between the barista and the sous-barista ready to burst into open, flagrant, homosexual confrontation.

This incident spurred me to new imaginings. Consider the knowledge that could be shared if all coffee shops, nation-wide, engaged in barista re-education? I look to the Barista Guild of America as well as the World Barista Championships for leadership on this. We could kick-start a new Age of Enlightenment.

Waitress, or Macaroni & Cheese Pie

January 14, 2008

I once dated a guy so neurotically jealous that I couldn’t send an email without him sneaking up behind me with an uneasy smile to try and nab a glimpse of the content from over my shoulder. I used to provoke him by minimizing my screen when I heard the quiet patter of his sneaky little steps, even if I was doing something totally public-sphere like just reading The New York Times Online, which was entertaining except then I’d later have to deal with jealous little fits and crying jags. Since he was not only jealous but an IT guy, I wouldn’t have put it beyond him to have programmed in a keystroke capturing hack on the computer. Don’t believe me? Here’s how he introduced his first “I love you” statement: “I had a dream last night that you slept with another man. I dreamt that I found him and killed him.”

“Uh huh? I’m glad I survived. So, is that your way of saying that you want to be monogamous?”

“Yes… I think I’m falling in love with you.”

I couldn’t help channeling Postcards From the Edge, and answered, “When will you know for sure?”*

I’ve seen some jealous, needy, codependent sickos in the movies, but nothing compared to this guy. Then, last week, I slid Waitress into the DVD player and encountered Earl (Jeremy Sisto). Holy shit! The thing about visible male need is that it’s simultaneously captivating and disgusting getting a chance to see the hard, definite, phallic body liquefy before your very eyes. Sisto melts twice in the film. The first time, when he discovers that his wife, Jenna (Kerri Russell), is pregnant, he breaks down and makes her swear never to love the baby more than she loves him (she is required to repeat her oaths to him word for word). And the second time when this weasly, possessive, little narcissist discovers that she’s been hiding money around the house, which she intends to use to escape their marriage. There’s something a little too satisfying in watching Kerri Russell trapped with this guy since, as the title character on Felicity, she mind-fucked so many male characters that a kind of vengeful equilibrium has been achieved by this film.

Jenna works at Joe’s House of Pies (Joe is played by Andy Griffith), where she works with Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (played by the tragically deceased Adrienne Shelly who also wrote and directed the film). Jenna’s one gift in life is a talent for making amazing looking pies that correspond to whatever mood she feels on a given day (“I don’t want Earl’s baby pie”). It’s the most delicious looking sublimation I’ve ever seen on screen, and the cinematographer lavishes so much attention on the pie preparation that it breaks my heart that the film wasn’t released in Smell-O-Vision, especially when we get to “I can’t have no affair because it’s wrong and I don’t want Earl to kill me pie … hold the banana.”

Anyway, plot-blah-blah, Becky has a secret, Dawn has self-image issues but manages to find a husband, Andy Griffith is wise, ancient, crotchety, secretive, and Jenna falls in love with her OBGYN, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), eventually leaving her husband at the birth of the baby to go off on her own. For the length and breadth of the movie, Jenna is terrified at the prospect of motherhood, constantly facing visions of impending torture whenever she comes across one mother in particular with her brat of a son. I suppose I’d also find encounters like that intimidating, but the prospect of motherhood absolutely freaks Jenna out since she now perceives her life as completely ruined, stuck with Earl forever. Suspiciously, certain options are foreclosed to allow the plot to move along unimpeded, such as abortion which is shrugged off, as well as the possibility of just giving a bratty kid a benadryl so that the mom can go about her day — which is never broached.

I didn’t love this film as much as Dustin Rowles did, meaning this is one of the few occurrences when my opinion diverges from his. I think part of the problem is that Adrienne Shelly was channeling Hal Hartley (whose films I detest) in the script, so that the actors were often trying to say wise things to one another but aren’t actually playing wise people. Also, the characters’ little tics were a tad inhuman, like Dr. Pomatter who was making too much of an effort to play the dork. Finally, scenes were filmed claustrophobically, lending it a very American playhouse “Our Town” feeling. Everyone was so mid-western and the palette so mid-ranged — blond to light brunette (with few exceptions, such as Sisto) — that the cast began to combine into a dark blond colored mess, as if one was watching talking, walking, macaroni & cheese for two hours.
I think Cheryl Hines may have picked up on this and tried to make something of it in the DVD interview. She points out that for the film she had her hair colored and done up by her sister-in-law “since we wanted Becky to look like the kind of person whose hair was done up by her sister-in-law.” Hines is kind of a genius, and reportedly she’s been asked by Shelly’s husband to direct a script left behind when Shelly died. Since I felt that Hines was being held back in this film, and could have been more “on target” with her lines if she was simply allowed to do as usual and make them up as she goes along, I think a chance to direct the next movie will allow her to temper some of Shelly’s tendencies to cutesiness.

Re: cast interviews, someone also needs to warn Nathan Fillion that he has got to stop making such deeply sensitive comments about his films lest he risk being forever cast in Lifetime tee vee movie limbo. He played the nervous schmuck far too earnestly for this viewer’s taste. Fillion actually reminds me of an overenthusiastic barista from the nearby cafe, who always spends an extra ten minutes fussing over my cappuccino — making sure that every grain of coffee is perfectly ground and forms a perfect convex, and in the meantime tells me that by permitting him to use 2% milk I’m allowing him to practice his ‘art’ whereas the soy milk people don’t understand the ‘craft’ — but who then hands me the drink by thumping it down on the counter and shouting “16 oz cappuccino,” as if it’s at all appetizing or artful to know how much my fucking drink weighs! If you want to be a good actor, then just be a good actor and spare the audience the benefit of your deep insight.

What do I think of Waitress? I think it’s a fun time with faults that aren’t terribly alienating. I also think it’s sad that Adrienne Shelly was murdered. Not only was she adorable and talented, a new mother, but she would clearly have made some amazing films down the line. I also think that ‘Earl’ is an important cinematic creation, and though there are plenty of losers to choose from in the movies, few are creepy and familiar enough to start that spine tingling. If I hear from my spine at least once while watching a movie, then it’s worth recommending even with qualifications.

*He never actually had any reason to worry, even when I let him think he did. I loved that imbecile more than I think he was ever capable of understanding. What can I say? I’m a born codependent.

Café con leche

December 27, 2007

David – a grad student I’d taken under my wing years ago – and I had just eaten brunch. He suggested we find some coffee and desert. Intelligentsia was conveniently located. The barista was a cute blond guy. I nodded admiringly at his tip-jar, which had a note on it expressly stating that he was not flirting with the customer. This one knew the drill, and his anti-flirt was sexier than any normal consumer flirt. David ordered a black coffee whereas I picked out a café con leche. The Mexican drink stumped the kid. “I am ashamed to admit this to you, but I can’t promise that this will taste right. I’ve forgotten how to make a café con leche.” “That’s alright,” I magnanimously answered. “I forgot what one tastes like.” David, who studies economic anthropology, correctly pointed out to us that the barista and I had achieved market equilibrium.

Such a state is both refreshing and satisfying to achieve. The barista and I discussed Antonioni’s films for a few minutes after I explained what the drink is made of, and I thought how nice it was that he had been honest and had a brain. Sure, the folks at Intelligentsia do have the annoying habit of asking “paper or ceramic,” instead of asking “for here or to go?” But the coffee tastes pretty good, and is worth the pretentiousness. The meta tip-jar was icing on the cake. Their website states that for their new Silver Lake branch many of the baristas “moved to Los Angeles from around the country specifically to work with Intelligentsia,” which is a kind of hilarious thing to write. Do they have recruitment drives? Do they send people to college job fairs to snap up hungry film students? I’ve got David on the case. These questions are exactly what I’ve trained him to answer. When he learns their secret, my faithful readers will share it as well.

A Warning to Gay Boys

November 7, 2007

If you’ve ever been to a Starbucks you know what I’m talking about. Namely, it’s the barista opening his googly eyes wide and serving the guy behind you before getting to your drink. It’s because the guy behind you is either a banker with a fat wallet or a med student with H.E.P. (High Earning Potential). Shaking his ass while thinking he’ll use it to get ahead in the world, the barista is the modern day equivalent of the 1930s shop girl; a whore. I have no problem with prostitution in theory. My problem is with prostitutes who let their own sex drive and lust for authority / advancement / money / prestige get in the way of business. The fantasy of self-interest, of climbing the ladder, is acceptable in the moral order of capitalism and screens something less savory — sex addiction.

If you know anything about Alexyss Taylor, you know she shares my view of people who get so addicted to people who can fuck them well that they lose the faculty of judgment meant to steer them through a sexual economy. Here’s what she says in her warning of men who can fuck well but aren’t good for anything else: “He won’t even buy you a plate of shrimp from Long John Silver’s. And what that plate only $2.99?” On a similar note, friend of mine once said, in reference to his fellow Asian boys looking for white boyfriends at Los Angeles’ Buddha Lounge, that “if you’re going to whore yourself out, at least make sure it’s for a meal at Spagos instead of a burger at McDonalds.” He is Taylor’s ideal gay boy — someone who can look out for both the sex and self-interest, whereas the boys Taylor discusses are so addicted to “penis power” that they’ll do it for free, “selling their bodies for a crystal snack and a hamburger.” I’ve personally met plenty of boys who would do it for a rice crispie snack. That’s class based sexual servility, and its perverse ‘sex for sex’s sake’ fetishism totally undermines the nature of the sexual economy. Taylor knows what she’s talking about as, “I have a masters degree in being played by men.”

Taylor takes that economy for granted and seeks to create sex-aware agents, both gay and female, who stop succumbing masochistically to “penis power.” There’s something incredibly Kantian about the way she discusses sex. It’s about an ontological form being created by the sheer force of someone who knows how to fuck well (how to “work the middle” and get to “the root of the vagina”). Penis has the capacity to somehow force its target into a new shape, and the men driving the penis “ejaculated all into your brain.” In reference to the women Taylor discusses, a man is “screwing her into slavery by using the penis as a weapon to break her ass down.” For women, the consequences are unwanted pregnancy and/or allowing a “dog” to draw her out of a stable relationship with a man who isn’t so great at sex. For gay adolescents who say they “will fuck for food” but who in truth “just like to suck cock,” the consequences are probably STDs (or being killed) but Taylor is more concerned with the immediacy of their “busting their asshole out” (note: the E.R. can stitch it back in) and having to wear pampers. Her mother, sitting behind her, is, for some reason, deeply threatened by the pampers comment and thinks that’s reason enough to “back off” from being gay.


Deontology, or duty-based ethics, as Immanuel Kant formulated them, posit a categorical imperative that grounds judgments; one that binds people together into a moral order. For Kant, our intentions make us, moreso than the consequences of any of our actions. But, practically, there are other ways that people come together and become who they are, such as fucking. Kant would be appalled at that statement. He dispenses with desire as something heterogeneous and disorganizing to the self. An intentionalist, it would also disgust Kant to be told that it doesn’t always matter how good you intend to be at fucking if you “can’t bring it.”

That being said, for practical reasons fucking not only brings us into the world but it also facilitates our becoming who we are. I guess that’s why I’m drawn to psychoanalysis; at least Freudian psychoanalysis. With Freud there’s no higher moral order that leads one away from dealing with our affections as they really are in the world. Analysis of our fantasies reveals the way in which we posit ongoing images of ourselves for ourselves — the imaginings that keep us going from day to day even though every day might totally suck, otherwise known as continuity.

Taylor is entertaining (in a racist way), but she’s not stupid and she’s not incorrect. Her main thesis, that women and black gay boys need to be wary of penis power (to be “aware of the dog inside of the god”) doesn’t mean she is necessarily sex phobic. When she talks about men “not hitting the walls and working the middle” and “hitting the root of the vagina,” there is clearly an interest in educating people to have good sex. On another video, she discusses the jackrabbit style vibrator and its usefulness for women who want to train themselves in what pleases them. Unfortunately, this discussion is interrupted by her mother’s reverie of having grown up with jack rabbits. What Taylor wants is for people to find out what’s going on behind sexual servility. She’s performing an amateur analysis on herself, and her mother’s Alzheimer’s induced reveries provide as good a backboard as any classical psychoanalyst.

What I’ve gathered from watching a few of her videos is that penis power is great insofar as it’s about being in your body but having someone screw the subjectivity out of you so that you can find your place in the scene of domination. Taylor finds the scene of domination to be degrading since, for the most part, it literalizes itself in unwise decisions or gets muddled up with other cultural fantasies of coupledom (basically, he’s fucking me into a Disney fairytale). People hate this kind of observation since it presumes that you can be injured without you knowing it; in fact, you can be harmed even when you think you’re experiencing pleasure. However, as infantalizing as it is to have someone come in and instruct you to stop being self-destructive and shatter your fantasy of autonomy, that doesn’t necessarily change the truth of the observation. It’s a fantasy of autonomy if you think you’re better off not knowing what’s good for you.

I do think she does fairly acknowledge the power fucking actually has over people — the relief we have in our subjectivity being temporarily erased by something bigger than it. That’s what the addiction to “he wanna give you a mouthful of sperm and a rectumful of sperm” is about. She just thinks, a la Freud, that we need to take a step back from these fantasies and consider what they allow. These public access videos have been circulating the net for a while, and though I’ve seen most of them, I think I need to read her book to get a handle on what else she’s saying, so please expect more on the subject.