Reverend Starbucks 


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“You can leave!” Perucci yells, as the manager shoves him to the door. “You can leave! You can send the money back to the children!”

He leaves. The manager shuts the door behind him. A blond woman peels the paper from a straw for her iced latte. Asked what just happened, she shakes her head and laughs: “Some man was yelling about something.”

—Ben Ehrenreich

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The Mourning After

Gabby, a relentlessly bubbly, party-prone type and perfect dresser, never fails to lift my spirits in uncertain times. It doesn’t hurt our relationship that Gabby is the owner of Bleu on La Brea, my favorite casual-chic boutique north of the 10 freeway — a high-ceilinged urban outpost of pricey but irresistible fashions that is a world of its own, a bubble where time stops and the reigning concern is whether the pants you’re trying on “make your butt look insane,” in Gabby’s inimitable words. As it happens, Gabby has also badmouthed George Bush and backed John Kerry all year with the same gaiety and fierce conviction she expresses about the fabulousness of her merchandise. “Honey, George Bush is going down!” she’d declared to me over the summer more than once as I browsed among sale racks. “When he does, I’m having a margarita party. November 3. Be here.”

On the morning of November 3, however, I lay frozen in bed, not sure what good moving would do. The reality of four more years of war and bloodshed here and abroad, all hastened to their terrifying conclusions by an administration emboldened by victory to be even more heartless and heedless than it has been for the last four years, filled me with something like concrete. I began to wonder: What good have I ever done? What has it ever mattered to raise a voice of black conscience and reason when nobody’s really given a shit since the ’60s, and before that, since Reconstruction? How strange that I was even acting like this election mattered to me at all, since I’ve never really voted for anybody.

Instead, I’d been going to the polls religiously since I came of voting age in 1980 not to vote characters or morals or values — haven’t had that luxury yet — but to vote against the breakdown of the dam that, from where I sat, barely held back redneck, red-meat America. That dam was now groaning audibly against the weight of these red-state barbarians throwing themselves against it and inviting all the good, mostly white but universally gay-averse Christian folk to follow suit like lemmings trotting to their deaths and taking everybody else with them. I felt pained, then annoyed. I did not ask to go over that cliff. All I’d ever wanted or expected from my own punch of the awl during the last 24 years was a little resistance, the plugging up of a few leaks and then staying whatever wobbly course we were on until the next election cycle, when maybe, just maybe, I could vote my heart a little bit. I’d been stood up again, bigtime. I’m 42. This shit is getting old.

Well, then — fuck it. I would not think about this. I would not read the papers today, and I might choose to not read them ever again. I would leave writing and the whole dreary public-awareness jive behind and do something else. I would be an ugly American and concern myself with being beautiful in that leisurely L.A. sort of way, wear flip-flops and a T-shirt and fat diamond stud earrings, and stroll through supermarkets in the afternoon. I would consume and thereby be patriotic and self-serving at the same moment without having to think twice, or even once. I richly deserved the oblivion that the 59 million Bush lemmings took as their God-given right. It was time.

Of course, I needed new outfits for my new outlook. No longer invested in a ridiculously romantic notion of this nation one day becoming America, I headed to Bleu.

I figured there’d be no margaritas today, but there’d be Gabby, and things to buy, preferably at 50 percent off; that’s all I wanted now. I walked toward the back entrance and stopped abruptly. Gabby was sitting on a bench. Her thin shoulders were collapsed, and she was sobbing into a cell phone. She was perfectly dressed — jeans, chiffon tunic with ribbon tie, heels — and far more distraught than I had been hours earlier. Her face was slick with tears, and she looked somewhat older. She was trying to argue with someone about the election, blubbering things like “But how can you say that?” and “No, no, no, A does not equal B here!”

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