Today the world is new for me in Armenia.
No, I'm not talking about the regional neighborhood
now that the United States of Iraq (aka "The
Axis of Diesel") is being established.
Changes in my world do however involve globalization.
And while that is normally a word I embrace with
about the same enthusiasm as having live ferrets
turned loose in my boxer shorts, I am departing
the politic of endemic culture preservation to
announce with caffeinated pleasure, this:
Today I bought Starbucks coffee in Yerevan.
Big, orange-ish bag with a real seal (though
in truth I was afraid to look for a "freshness"
date), the ubiquitous green and white logo that
shares disrepute with GAP in the cross-hairs of
anti-globalizationists. Right there at the corner
of Parpetsi and Tumanyan streets, in a boutique
that only sells coffee, does not serve it, nor
does it offer stainless steel tumblers, stirring
paraphernalia nor does it come within a continent's
distance of anything called "frappe".
There, in a nameless shop from a saleslady to
whom my mono-linguist handicap prohibited explanation
of my unbridled joy, I laid down some drams and
took home a bag of honest-to-Seattle Starbucks
You should know that I like a good thimble full
of the traditional Armenian "soorjch"
as much as the next gringo. However, when the
morning comes too close to the night before, you
just don't get the same comfort from slamming
a shot of the local product as from wrapping your
hands around a mug of the over-priced and politically-incorrect
American eye opener and corporate-greed icon.
Now that I can easily buy triple-ply toilet paper
at nearly any market in town, the only items missing
from my life essentials have been Starbucks beans
and peanut butter. Once I found peanut butter
at a market near my flat, but at $12 for eight
ounces, I curbed the craving.
Now, and perhaps only until the legal department
at Corporate Starbucks reads this, I can get premium
bootlegged beans 100 meters from this newsroom.
I don't want to know how they got there, but I
don't think the process involved franchise rights.
I have a Krups bean crusher bought in Great Britain,
a French-press pot (I've changed the name to "Freedom"
press) given me by a Swiss. I turn on a kettle
imported from Germany and heat water that flows
from Ararat (sorry, but it's in Turkey no matter
how we might wish it otherwise) and invite my
Armenian friends to sample. But only a little.
The bag on the corner was priced at 18,000 drams
for a kilo. That's about $16 a pound. I bought
considerably less than the standard amount.
Armenia is a dang near perfect world today. I
can go into a completely anonymous place and buy
a product that represents all that is wrong with
Western consumption without the fear of being
seen coming out by earnest neo-Hippies whose politics
I share. Except when it comes to coffee.
Let me affirm my wish that Armenia never become
completely westernized. I hope I never see a McDonald's
here. But should a display case of Big Macs suddenly
appear in my local cash and carry, well...