Starbucks announces plans to close 15 more stores in the Inland Empire—including one location each in Riverside, San Bernardino, Murrieta and Temecula, with three in Ontario and two in Rialto—and pardon me if I decline to dance on their graves. Starbucks used to be synonymous with the anonymizing of American culture—a corporate force that crowded the quirk out of coffee houses and drove so many funky places out of business. Now it’s become so symbolic of the crashing of the American economy that I’m getting a little bit sentimental about the downfall of what was not-so-recently a ubiquitous example of our overindulgence—luxury caffeine. Besides, I’ve seen a Starbucks fall, and it isn’t pretty. It happened last fall as I wandered into a store on what just happened to be its last day. Watching its dismantling made me melancholy, somehow like the modern equivalent of the auctions they held during the Great Depression when farms were repossessed. Near the end of the morning, the barista came out from behind the counter. A couple more workers emerged from the back. The store manager exited her office. They all convened in the center of the skeletal store and stood in a semi-circle, shoulder to shoulder, a few linked arm in arm. A district manager joined them, carrying a sort of certificate. Eavesdropping, it was difficult to hear everything, but the district manager used words like “contributions” and “dedication” and “customers” and “colleagues.” At one point I heard the phrase “made a difference,” and another time I heard “everything you did,” and it wrapped up with words like “appreciation” and “thanks.” The district manager also said that every one of the employees would be placed in other Starbucks stores. That undoubtedly pleased them all, but at this moment they seemed most aware—and saddened—by the fact that they’d no longer be working together. When the district manager handed the certificate to the assistant manager, everybody grinned and applauded through watery eyes. It was pretty obvious they loved each other.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15
It’s tax day. Have you filed for your extension?
THURSDAY, APRIL 16
FRIDAY, APRIL 17
Paul McCartney plays Coachella, and though it’s uncertain whether the aging Beatle really knows where he is—“We come from many miles away to rock your roof tonight Coachella,” McCartney tells the crowd gathered under the roofless night sky—we’ve been more apt to be forgiving since his appearance on The Colbert Report back in January. In that interview, Sir Paul left unanswered the question: “What is the most tender cut of the McCartney?” Tonight he suggests it’s the part that misses his late wife, Linda. He announces it’s the anniversary of her death, talks about how much she loved the desert and pays her tribute with “My Love.” Sad. Yet could anyone who had ever heard her sing really be wishing she was on stage with him? A prayer of sadness for McCartney’s loss and a prayer of gratitude for our gain. Or did you never hear how badly sweet Linda sang?
SATURDAY, APRIL 18
Big Bear’s Ryan Hall—the United States’ best marathoner and an Olympian at the distance last summer—is in Boston to realize a lifelong dream. He throws out the first pitch of today’s game between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles at historic Fenway Park. He says he may do a little running while he’s here, too.
SUNDAY, APRIL 19
The Press-Enterprise’s long, detailed story on the resurgence of bed bugs—complete with photos—gets the slow-and-lazy out of my Sunday morning. I typically like to enjoy the paper and sip coffee until close to noon, but the P-E’s comprehensive report—sample passage: “They often emerge in the early morning hours to feed on human blood. Sometimes people don’t know they’ve been bitten, but others have an allergic reaction that causes swelling, redness and itching”—gets my day off to an early start.
MONDAY, APRIL 20
Ryan Hall shows up in the town of Hopkinton—along with 26,385 others—to begin the 26-mile, 385-yard run to Boston. He sets a blistering pace and is shoulder-to-shoulder with the leaders as they pass from Wellesley into Newton, with about 10 miles to go. Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga—who led the Olympic Marathon until fading to fourth in the final mile—wins the 113th Boston Marathon in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 42 seconds, followed by Kenya’s Daniel Rono (2:09:32). Hall finishes third in 2:09:40, leaving the U.S. winless in the event since 1983. “I’ve never experienced anything like this,” says Hall in awe, “and I’ve been in the Rose Parade. So that’s a pretty big deal.” He immediately announces plans to run a sub-four-minute mile this summer. I turn off the TV and take a nap.