Happy Capricorn: increasingly corporate worlds

I started Saturday morning with the alarm on the palm going off in its cradle, on the desk. I was awake enough to realize it was going off for something. I staggered out of bed, fed the noisome cat, and remembered that there was an early meeting for the group of folks putting together a bid for Austin’s group to host the 2003 convention. Since it was at a coffee shop, I skipped making any of my current batch of Raven’s Brew (motto: served in bed, strong enough to wake the dead).

Usual suspects, Pisces, Gemini, Sagittarius, and so on. Ms. Scorpio ran the meeting well. As usual, I couldn’t commit to anything because the next official meeting falls on a date when I’m out of town. Seriously, I’m starting to get paranoid about this. Might just be me, though.

We discussed several topics relating to conventions and such, and I did volunteer to add some text about the transportation in and around Austin, as seen from a tourist point of view. I’ve had so many tourists to deal with, I’m sure I can do an adequate job of that description.

My Pisces friend had her mother in tow – it’s a holiday thing – and I was stuck trying to explain the difference between corporate coffee houses and the independents.

To speak highly of Starbucks isn’t my style, but think about it. Whether I’m in Hawaii, Alaska, Seattle, Utah, Colorado, Midland (TX), Dallas, New York City, Boston, London (UK), or even here in Austin, I know that the furniture is clean. There’s a perky crew behind the counter. The (whatever they call it) super-duper sized caffeine and sugar concoction tastes exactly the same in all locations. No problem. Dependable. Sure thing. Safe.

Now, at the Hideout the other morning, that Virgo barista wasn’t working, so I didn’t bother to have an espresso. Stick to something safe with frothed milk. Can’t go wrong. (For my money, the Sagittarius at Jo’s makes the best latte, but then, that’s just my opinion.) The latte at the Hideout was certainly good (choice of real, 2% or soy milk).

The quality is always good, but it varies from independent to independent. The little coffee shops all offer something on some order of ambiance, too. A special flavor, maybe a gimmick, local color.

Later in the afternoon, just as the winter sun was setting, we were in San Marcos, at the Coffee Pot. My afternoon espresso was certainly good, but not quite as good as that one Virgo’s. Still, as an independent store, it offered a unique, one-of-a-kind coffee cup, a little espresso cup with a symbol that looked a like a Pisces glyph.

Go to a Pizza Hut, anyplace on the planet, and the food’s all about the same. Go to Valentino’s on the square in San Marcos, and like I had, a “Bacon & Ranch” pizza, not a typical menu item outside of a small town in Texas. In fact, I figure it’s about the only place with such an item.

Log onto a corporate, large company website about astrology, and wonder who – or what – really writes the daily scopes. Corporate scopes are a lot like corporate coffee, safe, dependable, but certainly lacking in local color. No style. Homogenized. Which, all in all, isn’t bad. Same safe scope, served up every time.

Between Jo’s on S. Congress and the southern entrance of the State Capitol, there are six coffee shops. Three Starbucks. Then, interspaced, there’s Hideout and Little City. About two blocks west, there’s the old Ruta Maya, now called Halcyon. I’ve been assured there’s also a Bucks in the basement of the capital building, but I haven’t verified that myself.

I’d wager that the coffee concoctions all taste the same in each of those Bucks. And I’ll also suggest that the brand of bean, as well as the quality of the espresso, varies in each of the independents.

Price is all about the same, I’m sure, but it all depends on what you’re looking for. Personally, I prefer a place with some mismatched furniture, maybe a smoking section, or like that one place, with a real humidor tucked into a corner, serving up smores on a cold night.

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