Thursday, September 2, 2010

Predicament in a Paper Cup

Aug’10 – Beirut, Lebanon. Starbucks in Sassine Square, Ashrafieh.

8 August 2010 – Beirut, Lebanon.

I’m sitting in the Starbucks at Sassine Square drinking cappuccino out of a paper cup. A paper cup? It completely disoriented me when the barista handed me the flimsy to-go cup. I had forgotten they even exist. [bxA]

There was a time in my life when mornings were defined by coffee to-go. It was in London circa 2006 when I was handed my first cup of morning coffee in a giant glass coffee mug. It weighed down my hand like an anchor, tethering me to the coffee shop until I was finished. Couldn’t they see I was in a hurry?

Today I wondered can’t they see I’m not?

Waiting for my cappuccino, I perused the bin filled with those gigantic Starbucks mugs– the ones with enormous letters emblazoning country names. The first one I picked up said Kuwait, the next was Oman. Starbucks all over the world.

It reminded me of the new construction site at the opening of my tropical paradise neighborhood in Phuket. We eventually learned the massive bulldozed patch of dirt would soon be home to a shopping strip center.

Jul’10 – Phuket, Thailand. My neighborhood.

One of my neighbors was devastated. I tried to appreciate the devastation but offered the bright side, “who knows, maybe they’ll open a Starbucks – there’s not one on this side of the island.” There’s a Black Canyon Coffee a stone’s throw down Chao Fah West, but it keeps Thai time and opens when the staff is ready for the 9am shift. This is sometimes as late as 9:20am. Mai pen rai.

Jul’10 – Phuket, Thailand. Entrance to my neighborhood.

Another temporary bright side to the paving of paradise was the band of stray dogs that played in the dirt every evening at sunset.

But I’m here now, sitting in Beirut having the same cappuccino I could order in Houston, London, Phuket, Kuwait or Oman. I could be anywhere.

Aug’10 – Beirut, Lebanon. Ashrafieh.

Bob Marley is playing on the Starbucks sound system which conjures memories of Ska Bar on Kata Beach where I drank pina coladas with Fiona after the King’s Cup races and had cocktails with the Hucksteps traveling from London back in June. Is Phuket really so far away?

Phuket, Thailand. Ska Bar on Kata Beach (Photo from Lonely Planet)

I sip my cappuccino and read Eckert Tolle’s ‘A New Earth,’ which I’ve borrowed from the bookshelf at my friend’s flat. Tolle says this on page 131:

“Franz Kafka, T.S. Elliot, Albert Camus and James Joyce recognized alienation as the universal dilemma of human existence, probably felt it deeply within themselves and so were able to express it brilliantly in their works. They don’t offer solution. Their contribution is to show us a reflection of the human predicament so that we can see it more clearly. To see one’s predicament clearly is the first step toward going beyond it.”

I wonder if the camel with my karma is cool with this?