Thank you all for the prayers and positive thoughts you sent my sister. They seem to have worked. Karen is finished with the radiation and is now on the road to recovery. In fact, she'll probably get home before I do. I arrived in London this morning -- via Denver, Atlanta and Chicago -- and, even though I'm not a religious person, I've been praying for Karen every step of the way. In Denver, I sent God an e-mail from the runway, while watching a foot of snow accumulate and waiting for my plane to be de-iced. "Dear God," I wrote, "Please help my sister get through this, let her emerge happier and healthier than ever." The mail was returned moments later -- "undeliverable" according to the AOL Postmaster -- but I like to think it got through, nevertheless. And just in case it didn't, I high-tailed it to Saint Paul's Cathedral this morning, where I lit a candle for Karen and climbed more than 300 steps to the top of the dome to have a one-on-one with the Creator. I'm not Christian, but in times like these, I'm sure even Saint Paul would hedge his bets ...!
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I interrupt our regularly scheduled coverage of 7th and Montana with a special request: My sister, Karen, is going to the hospital tomorrow. Doctors are going to treat a tumor on her optic nerve -- benign, thank God -- with intense radiation. If you're the type who prays, please pray. If not, please send warm, happy, healing thoughts her way. She's a beautiful person, inside and out, and we want her in and out of the hospital and back on the road to recovery as quickly as possible. Thank you!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Halloween came early at 7th and Montana today thanks to an Anonymous Bumpkin who decorated his front lawn with an Obscene Scarecrow. "That's some pair of gourds," I said, wondering whether the display -- which seemed to be doing a ghoulish strip tease -- was intended to be a trick or treat. The homeowner caught me taking photos of his front yard. "Don't mind me," I said, "I'm just keeping abreast of the holiday decor." Judging from the other display -- the one by the homeowner's driveway (pictured below) -- I'm lucky he didn't tell me to butt out ...!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
It was out with the old and in with the new at 7th and Montana this morning as a Newbie Barista made the scene. "Sorry, I'm new ... I don't remember what you always order," he said. "No problem," I replied, whipping out my Spycam, "But just for that, I'm putting you in my blog." "The name's Nelson," he said, "N-E-L-S-O-N!" He spelled it out for me in case my brain was closed for business. Speaking of which, it's curtains for the Blockbuster Video across from Our Favorite Starbucks. Inside sources say "everything must go" ... from the DVDs, which are 40 percent off, to the store fixtures that can be yours for a song. So much for the high rent district ...!
Monday, October 26, 2009
It was Hail to the Chief at 7th and Montana yesterday as a dead ringer for President George H.W. Bush made the scene, presumably on the stump against all those "sick puppies" he accused last week of unfairly criticising his son, George W. "Tell me I'm seeing things," I said, as a bi-partisan knot formed in my stomach, "It can't be ... It just can't be!" And, of course, it wasn't. The truth became clear when the look-a-like stood up, put on his baseball cap and walked right into a Eucalyptus Tree. Oh well, at least he didn't run into a Bush ...!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Cheers erupted at 7th and Montana today as word spread that Local Entrepreneur Robert is putting seed money into a new venture on Montana Avenue, Greens-up!, a "sprouting" new business that will serve-up "healthy, crisp, alternative food" right next to Our Favorite Starbucks. The Greens-up concept is simple: Folks will be able to choose from a selection of greens, toppings, meats/proteins, fruits, nuts and dressings or order one of the "chefs selection," a series of signature salads. "There's a real opportunity here," said Robert, a New York transplant, "For whatever reason, there aren't any restaurants around here focusing on salads." That might be because the City of Santa Monica takes great pleasure in burying entrepreneurs like Robert in mountains of fertilizer. Not only that, but he's having a tough time finding good help. "The work ethic around here is terrible," he said, "People don't return phone calls, contractors discuss business while munching on apples ... it's a nightmare." I guess it's true what they say: It's not easy being Green ...!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Barnacle Bess, the Local Eccentric known for latching onto patrons at Our Favorite Starbucks and never letting go, was in her element this morning at 7th and Montana, thanks to an Unfortunate Young Newcomer who stumbled into her clutches. "You don't know what you're getting yourself into," Bess warned the Newcomer, "This place is Evil. Pure Evil. It might look like the corner of 7th and Montana but it's really the intersection of Nepotism and Greed!" Bess grew increasingly impassioned as she continued, her eyes practically glowing, like the Veronica Cartwright character -- Felicia -- in the 1987 Witches of Eastwick movie. "Don't say you haven't been warned," she rasped. It was at this point that I interjected. "You know she's right," I said, "This place is Hell ... but the good news is, Salvation can be found on Wilshire at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Kathy made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning, renewed, refreshed and brimming with enthusiasm from her recent trip to Ontario. What put that extra spring in her step? She met with an Energy Psychologist in Ontario who literally cleared the negative energies and geopathic stress out of her hotel room with a Sophisticated Laser Device and gave her a gadget called the Safespace 1, a small, rectangular holographic machine designed to remove detrimental influences such as toxic radiation from your immediate surroundings. Too bad Kathy didn't bring it with her to Starbucks this morning. Seated right behind her (on the phone, in the photo above) was the Notorious Mr. Sludge, the man responsible for "inadvertently" filling her apartment with feces earlier this year. If that's not a detrimental influence, I don't know what is ...!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The Unthinkable happened at 7th and Montana this morning: I forgot my Spycam. Yes, it's true. I was in such a rush to get out the door this morning that -- for the first time ever -- I left my Spycam at home. "Oh well," I thought, "I'm just running in and out of Starbucks for a minute. What are the chances I'll miss a photo opp?" That's when I came face-to-face with Mr. Moobs, an Eccentric Exhibitionist (pictured above) who was sitting at the bus stop on 7th Street, quietly undressing himself. "Quick," I said, pressing Kathy into service, "Can you get a shot of that?" She was happy to oblige, but a bit reluctant to move-in for a close-up. I must say, it was strange to be caught without my Spycam ... the whole thing made me feel almost -- err -- naked!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
They say Christmas comes but once a year ... but at 7th and Montana it hardly ever leaves. This morning marked the beginning of the Yuletide Season at Our Favorite Starbucks with the arrival of A Charlie Brown Christmas. "You must be kidding," I said, holding up the CD. "It wasn't me! It wasn't me!," cried Barista Anthony. "It was all Kenisha's idea ... she's the one who put out the Christmas CDs. We had some leftover from last year!" Not to sound like Scrooge, but shouldn't we at least have a week or two with the Great Pumpkin before rolling out the Egg Nog Latte ...?
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Stomachs were turning at 7th and Montana this morning as Barista Tyler announced that he was eating the Breakfast of Chumpions: A package of Expired Starbucks Indulgent Chocolate Cookies. "Look," he said proudly, "They're way past their expiration date ... we were going to throw them out!" The whole thing was enough to make me toss my cookies. "Are you really eating that for breakfast?," I asked. "Sure," he replied, "It tastes just like chicken!" What next ... Sockeye Salmonella for lunch?!?
Monday, October 19, 2009
A Noteworthy Newcomer made the scene at 7th and Montana this morning, intent on taking notes on everything around him. He grabbed the seat next to mine and began scribbling away in his notebook as if his life depended on it. Every so often, he would look up, glance at my table, then quickly return to his Maniacal Scribbling. "Two can play at that game," I said. For the next ten minutes, I had him covered, move-for-move. Every time he looked up from his notebook, I whipped out my Spycam and pointed it in his direction. I might have kept it up all day, but once I saw what he was writing, I rapidly lost interest. It was a shopping list ...!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The Accountant -- known for spreading out his confidential paperwork all over Our Favorite Starbucks -- was present and accounted for at 7th and Montana this morning. In fact, he sat at my table and, moments later, was joined by his wife. "Tell me," I said, "I always see you hard at work with your calculator ... what is it exactly that you do?" "I'm an accountant," he confirmed, "But I work mainly for my wife. She's a Dentist." "Ahh," I said, "It all makes sense." "Yes," he replied, "And if you don't mind my saying so, you need Braces." I ran my tongue over my teeth and flashed back to the years I spent wearing braces as a teenager. "I think your husband is trying to drum-up some business for you," I said, turning to his wife. The two of them exchanged a brief look, then spoke to each other in Armenian. "You look fine," she said, "No need for braces!" I thanked her, then promptly sank my teeth into the Sunday Crossword Puzzle ...!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
It was another sign of the times at 7th and Montana this morning as a man Declared Bankruptcy shortly after leaving Our Favorite Starbucks. I'm not kidding. The man (pictured above) quietly sipped a cappuccino while his lawyer, a woman with a rose in her hair and a voice that sounded like Scrooge McDuck on Helium, counseled him on the ins and outs of avoiding creditors. "Here you go," she said, slipping him what appeared to be a bankruptcy filing, "Just sign and date this form." Then she lowered her voice and -- assuming I was eavesdropping correctly -- started talking about fraud. I couldn't hear the rest of their conversation because they got up and changed tables. The nerve of some people ...!
Heads were turning at 7th and Montana as Barista David found himself a stunt double. The fun began at about 10:30, when David walked past me to get into Our Favorite Starbucks. "Hey, David," I said, as he walked by, "How's it going?" "Can't complain," he replied, as usual. Five minutes later, he walked by again ... but no one saw him leave the building. "Just a cotton pickin' minute," I said, "Didn't you just walk by here a few minutes ago?" "It's a secret Barista trick," he replied, "And I can't tell you about it!" Oh, well, maybe he's working a Double Shift today ...!
Friday, October 16, 2009
It was a sign of the times at 7th and Montana this morning as a small crowd gathered around a "help wanted" sign. "Female Guitarist Wanted," the sign said, "Asian, African American, Latino, mixed race, ANY ETHNICITY welcome to apply as long as you love Country/Rock/Pop and look good ... No Drama Queens, attitudes or Divas." Interested parties are invited to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope whoever posted this sign knows what they're in for. Something tells me they're about to get a visit from Rigolatte in a Fright Wig ...!
It was the Agony of Da Feet yesterday at the Starbucks near Sony Pictures in Culver City as an Anonymous Pig kicked off her shoes and socks and propped her feet up near the table where I was sitting with my colleagues. "Hey," I said loudly to no one in particular, "No Dawgs allowed." She didn't respond. "That's some Feat," I continued, "She should win an Oscar ... Madison, that is." Still no response. Rumor has it this little piggie stayed right where she was until Starbucks closed ... at which point she went wee, wee, wee all the way home ...!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Greetings, all you Groovers and Shakers out there in Cyberspace, it's me -- Barista Tyler -- and I'm interrupting your regularly scheduled "Heard at Starbucks" Blog Coverage with a very Special Announcement: I'm available for Weddings and Bar-Mitzvahs. Yes, it's true, I've branched out beyond my Coffee and Acting roots to offer an all-new Mobile DJ Service where a Fabulous Wedding Awaits You. My goal, quite simply, is to "provide you the wedding entertainment you've always dreamed of" at very affordable prices. Act now and I'll play taps at your divorce for free! Learn more at Tyler Johnson Productions and remember, you heard it first at Heard at Starbucks ...!
Monday, October 12, 2009
It was Many Happy Returns today at 7th and Montana as Barista Veronica celebrated her 24th Birthday. "Wow," said Screenwriter Nat, "I remember turning 24!" "I don't ... it was too long ago," I replied. For her birthday, Veronica will have to break-in a new Assistant Manager. Leslie -- who joined the team at Our Favorite Starbucks on August 31 -- is already moving-on to Greener Pastures. It seems like just yesterday I had a delightful conversation with her. "What are you taking a picture of?," she asked, smiling? "The empty space where you usually have decaf," I replied. Rumor has it Leslie has transferred to another Starbucks in the area. I hope it wasn't something I said ...!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
It was a Babfest Gabfest at 7th and Montana this morning as Elyse made the scene fresh from from her recent gig in New York, where she produced a "Once in a Lifetime Concert with Barbra Streisand" at the Village Vanguard, the "Epicenter of the New York Jazz Scene." "Barbra was great," Elyse said, "And the Vanguard was the perfect setting ... it only seated about 100 people." Apparently, even Streisand, who is famous for her on-stage jitters, was perfectly at ease. She took one look at the intimate set-up and said, "Honey, it's hard to get stage fright when there's no stage!" Guests included Bill Clinton, Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker. Elyse was especially charmed by Clinton, but -- before you get any ideas -- Hillary and Chelsea were there, too. Word on the street is that Elyse and Clinton were "close, but no cigars." Streisand's new album, Love is the Answer, is available wherever fine Starbucks is sold ...
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Wheels were spinning at 7th and Montana this morning as an Anonymous High Roller made the scene in a Snazzy New Nissan 370 Z (CA License #5KPR698). The only problem is, he couldn't drive it. He accelerated too quickly on entering the Starbucks parking lot, spun his wheels uselessly, then threw it into reverse, sending pedestrians scurrying for cover. He floored it up 7th Street and settled for a space at the curb. Most people might seem a bit sheepish after such an embarrassing incident, but not the High Roller. He swaggered into Starbucks like he owned the place, wearing dark sunglasses and a shirt suggesting he's a professional poker player. "There's a name for someone like that," said one onlooker, "Doofus!" Speaking of names, congratulations to Howard and Cathy who announced the birth of a beautiful, new granddaughter with an equally beautiful name: Harper. "We almost called her Herpes," Howard said, "but changed it to Harper at the last minute!"
Friday, October 9, 2009
It was Bombs Away at 7th and Montana this morning as Screenwriter Mark shared the details of his latest work-in-progress: A script about a man whose job requires him to routinely makes bombs out of everyday household items. "You'd be surprised what you can use to make a bomb these days," he said. In related news, the LAPD Bomb Squad descended upon 5th and Wilshire this morning in response to reports of a Suspicious Package on the sidewalk. Authorities spent several hours removing the package which -- in the end -- turned out to be filled with "harmless material." Rumor has it the package (pictured below) contained a dozen unsold copies of Ishtar on DVD. Now that's what I call a Bomb ...!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Eyes were popping at 7th and Montana this morning as a frail woman -- known among insiders as "Hattie" -- stood transfixed in front of the Apple Fritters for several minutes. "Don't do it!," I shouted, trying to talk some sense into her. "I just can't resist," she replied. Rumor has it she's on the Apple Fritter Health Plan. I just hope they don't consider Bad Taste in Hats a pre-existing condition ...!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Curious George. What is he so curious about? My blog, that's what! I first learned about him this morning, when Barista Amanda took me aside and whispered, "There's a guy sitting over there who has been asking questions about your blog." "Thanks," I replied, "I'm on it." I quietly walked by his table, careful to maintain a safe distance, and whipped out my Spycam. "Hi there," I said, "I hear you're interested in my Blog." "Yes," he said, "I've heard about it a few times but haven't seen it. How do I find it?" "Just run a Google search on 'Heard at Starbucks,'" I replied, "But try to wait until later in the day. I think you'll find it interesting ...!"
It was an unseasonably cool morning yesterday, but I got a Warm Welcome Home from the most unlikely of sources: The Dignified Walking Lady -- known for wearing Arctic Fashions in 90-degree heat -- smiled at me and waved. She looked the same as always -- floppy hat, heavy woolen coat, scarf, gloves and walking stick -- but something about her seemed different. There was a certain spring in her step. I guess it was because finally, after years of trudging through 80 and 90 degree heat dressed like an Eskimo, she's been vindicated ...!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Ever since 1976, when United Airlines paid a $500,000 licensing fee to George Gershwin's estate, they've been treating passengers to "Rhapsody in Blue" morning, noon and night. They play it when you board every flight; They feature it in every commercial; and they pipe it into airport lounges from L.A. to Tokyo. But, as anyone on United Flight #943 to L.A. today would agree, it's high time United changed its tune. I suggest they consider something more appropriate ... like Patsy Cline's torch song "I Fall to Pieces." Not only was the armrest in my seat (21H) falling apart -- leaving a mass of exposed wires dangling in the aisle -- but shortly before take-off a magazine rack fell off the wall and hit the passenger sitting next to me (pictured below, unconscious).
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Tension was mounting at the Starbucks on Derby Street in Hingham, Massachusetts tonight as I made the scene -- minutes before closing -- intent on taking the VIA Taste Challenge. "I'm not too late for the test, am I?," I asked, "I go to Starbucks nearly every day and, trust me, I can tell the difference between a Genuine Grande Drip and a cup of Instant Coffee." For those who aren't in the loop, the VIA Challenge works as follows: A Starbucks Barista hands you a cup of their regular drip coffee and their new VIA "Coffee in an Instant" and asks you to guess which is which. It's sort of like a cross between the Pepsi Challenge and the classic Folger's commercials where they replaced the coffee in a swank restaurant with Folger's Instant Crystals. The Barista (pictured above) prepared both coffees for me and handed me the cups with much fanfare. I took one sip of each and immediately pronounced my judgment. One of the cups tasted watered down. "There's no question," I said, smugly, "This one is fresh brewed and this one is instant!" "Wrong!," he said, "You've picked the VIA Starbucks Ready Brew!" I gasped in horror. The Barista smiled and handed me a certificate for a Free Tall Brewed Coffee on my next visit but -- to be honest -- I'm not sure I'm going to use it. Afterall, why would anyone bother with Starbucks' brewed coffee anymore, given that it doesn't taste as good as instant crystals ...?!?
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Move over, Bobby McFerrin, there's a new Rastaman in town. My father, well on the road to recovery from his recent heart attack, has adopted a new "Don't Worry, Be Happy" attitude that should be an inspiration to us all. He made the scene at my sister's house today wearing my nephew, Jackson's, favorite new hat, a colorful knit beret with built-in dreadlocks. "It's you," I lied, whipping out my spycam, "Definitely you!" Amazing what a few months of Cardio-Rehab and a little Reggae-lia will do for a person, isn't it ...?
Friday, October 2, 2009
Tongues were wagging in Massachusetts this morning as my new niece, Leah (pictured above) gave her big brother, Jackson, an inadvertent lesson in anatomy. Jackson was watching his father, Doug, change Leah's diaper and couldn't resist chiming in with a few, innocent questions. "Daddy," he said, "Where is Baby Leah's penis?" "Leah doesn't have one because she's a girl," Doug explained. Jackson thought it over for a few minutes and then came up with a solution. "Let's go to the store," he said, "so we can buy Baby Leah a penis!" No one had the heart to tell him there are some things you can't find at Costco ...!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I always knew my nephew, Jackson, had a good head on his shoulders, but today it became official. Moments after I arrived in Massachusetts to visit my family, Jackson -- who just turned two -- led me to a growing collection of skulls he keeps in the dining room and proudly introduced me to his prized possession: A skull he calls "Grammy." "Look," he cried, "It's Grammy Skull!" He flipped a switch and the skull started moaning and shaking. Its namesake -- Grammy Elaine (my mother) -- evidently moaned a bit, too, when she heard that Jackson had named a skull after her. "Maybe he named it after his other Grammy," she said. "No," replied Jackson, emphatically, "It's Grammy Elaine!" Oh, well, you know what they say: Two heads are better than one ...!