Saturday, October 25, 2014


I don’t normally go to Starbucks.

Far from a coffee snob, I actually don’t drink coffee. Starbucks is fine for what it does, but there are so many great coffee shops around where I live that Starbucks really never crosses my mind.

Across from where I work is a Starbucks, and it opens early. Really early. My schedule and my hyper-vigilance disorder mean I arrive to work far earlier than needed. This has always been the case for me. I hate to be late.

This morning it was cold. Starbucks! It was so nice to find a place I could sit and read or journal, waiting to begin my formal day. I was also a bit hungry, and all I could afford was a banana for a buck. I asked for a cup of water. The barrista behind the counter was cheery and full of smiles. She welcomed me, remarking she’d never seen me before. True enough. This was my first time. I had nothing to say. I was tired and just wanted to sit and be alone. She lost her smile at my not answering, and she handed me my water and banana in continued silence.

Before I took two complete steps, she said, I didn’t get your name. I don’t know what your name is.

It was such an odd request. I had my drink already, and so the Starbucks procedure for writing names on lids was, at this point, moot.

I stopped, lifting up my sunglasses, What do you think my name is?  

She leaned back a little, and she shot her guess, Nathan!

Without really confirming, I smiled and went to sit down. In a nearby news article was an announcement the old heavy metal group Van Halen reformed with its original lead singer, David Lee Roth. I read excitedly. Van Halen is all about excess and debauchery. They’ve tried at various points to be about a cause or politics, but they failed miserably. They’re good at guy rock, waxing nostalgic about whole lots of nothing. Chicks. Tits. Blow jobs. Repeat. It appears they’re going to tour widely, and they’re releasing a new album. It’s not that I am a big fan or anything, it’s just good to know they’re out there. I dunno. Comforting, I guess.

As I tossed my cup in the designated do-gooder trash receptacle, the barrista asked if I was leaving. Yeah, I said, but my day was just made!  She looked at me perplexed and a little nervous. I explained the Van Halen reunion in a kind of immediate excitement. She retained her perplexed look and asked, Who is Van Halen?  Holy shit! I was speechless. Poor girl. I think I laughed or snickered. I’ll google them tonight! she offered, generously. The other worker behind the counter perked up, and he and I discussed the pros and cons of such bands taking up past glories.

I am officially too old for this shit. HOW could this chick not know who Van Halen is? The only answer is our generation gap. That’s it. She listened very attentively as her coworker and I discussed the difference between the two Van Halen lead singers, the perennial debate between Sammy versus Dave. She seemed delighted to be peeking-in on a world she never knew. I caught her smiling for no good reason a couple of times during the give and take.

Taking an ear bud line, I shoved it at her face.

She held it while I scrolled to Dance the Night Away.


She bobbed her head approvingly. I let the sample continue enough to wet her appetite a bit, and then I playfully pulled for the line’s return. She frowned in response.

More? I mouthed silently. She nodded.  

Jamie’s Crying I clicked next, turning up the volume. Big smile on her end. I was gaining speed.

Click, pause, You Really Got Me (The Kinks cover). Now her body was involuntarily grooving. Nice.

Click, pause, and to finish the medley, I found a representative sample of the Sammy era, Summer Nights. She twisted her face, noticing the difference. Then she came around, the way we all did, reluctantly accepting some Van Halen is better than no Van Halen. 

It was finally time for me to leave. 

She courteously wiped her borrowed bud, and handed it back. Her smile was positively beaming at this point, and even her coworker commented on her enthusiasm. You really enjoyed that, didn’t you? he rhetorically asked. She smiled and smiled.    

Do you think you’ll be a regular now? she asked before I was out the door.

I laughed and told her I wasn’t prepared to make a commitment to Starbucks. She smiled awkwardly, something I evoke in younger women frequently as the years wear on. They don’t quite know what to make of me.

My work here was done.

Good-bye Nathan Van Halen!, she almost yelled at me before the door shut.

And as I walked to the job, Running with the Devil’s car horn blared, Alex’s high hats hissed, and Roth screamed the legendary intro.

Now it was me who smiled widely.

And I mean it.


 Craig Edward Kelso is the author of Anarcho-Capitalism (2014), a primer on the philosophy of peaceful, stateless cooperation. His curriculum vitae include a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from San Diego State University, and a Post-Baccalaureate secondary education credential in both Social Science and English Language Arts. Kelso taught for nearly a decade in the American public school system, and was voted by colleagues Teacher of the Year, twice in his short tenure, earning numerous accolades from chambers of commerce, mayors, state assembly persons, governors, congresspersons, senators, and even Wal-Mart. Currently he struggles to earn an opportunity to be employed, working as a laborer, dishwasher. He is deliriously happily married to Myra Kelso, living in Southern California with their adorable children.

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