Meeting John — A Chat About Traveling Around the United States, Being Outgoing, and Starbucks

It’s called Starbucks Nation, it’s a publication that I recently started. I have six stories so far but I’m going to start publishing them on Monday pretty much.

So definitely, what’s your story?

How I started with Starbucks? How I ended up at Starbucks?

Yeah, just anything really.

Basically just friends that I meet usually here. That’s how I started to come to Starbucks because a lot of them come here. Today I am meeting with somebody. I am not sure if the person is coming or not.

I see.

For the time being I’m taking notes, it’s usually that’s why I come to Starbucks.

To get work done and stuff like that?

Yeah.

I see. What do you do for work?

I’m a researcher and I do a lot of writing, a lot of my own freelance writing. This is a nice place for me to come to, there’s no distractions, and the atmosphere is really great.

And as a writer, how did you get into that career?

Oh I just do it on my own. I didn’t go to school for it, it’s just something that I do on my own: something I enjoy, writing. That kind of thing.

I see. I’m into freelance writing myself and it’s something that I can definitely enjoy. In terms of work that you do, what sort of projects do you work on? Are they creative or more like corporate projects and stuff like that?

Yeah it’s more like both actually. It’s kind of both and it’s okay, sometimes it’s tedious. But at other times I enjoy.

Yeah you definitely must enjoy it if you’re here on the Fourth of July pretty much working like I am.

Absolutely. Like you know, holidays they can come and go, it’s just another day for me. I think it’s great that people celebrate the Fourth but for me it’s another day at work. I’m not a big holiday guy anyway, really. But it’s fun to see everybody come down.

Yeah it definitely is. How long have you been in Portland

I’ve been in Portland a long time, at least twenty years.

I’ve been living here for less than like a year.

Where are you from originally?

I’m originally from Fairfax, Virginia. It’s half an hour away from Washington, DC.

My sister lived there! Fairfax, Virginia.

Really?

Yes, she lived there for three or four years. She went to Georgetown University.

Yeah it’s a great school and it always surprises me that people that come up here are from northern Virginia.

Yeah I meet so many people from Virginia actually. I meet a lot of people from Virginia here at Starbucks because I run into a lot of people. Outgoing people like yourself that have a good head on their shoulders: that know what they want to do.

You have an idea of what you want to do, I actually admire people like yourself that have something like this [publication] going on. It gives a lot of people inspiration to do stuff like this.

Yeah it’s definitely fun getting out here and sharing the stories of people, what they do and stuff like that. And this area is great, I mean… [where do I begin?]

It is! It is. It’s a lot of fun. People are great here, people in Virginia too, but I think this is a good area especially if you want to get into business and this sort of thing. It’s great for doing it up here.

And aside from writing is there anything else that you’re into?

Yeah I love baseball and the Red Sox. I enjoy hanging out with my friend. She’s got a son that has a team that plays baseball so I’m usually around that atmosphere in the summer time. It’s really fun but yeah I do that. And hopefully he’s going to get started after the fourth in the league. Getting involved is a lot of fun and hanging out at games with him.

Yeah the weather is really great.

Yeah the weather is beautiful, thank God.

I was in Georgia for about four months and…

In the summer time?!

No, just recently. And it got to be about eighty [degrees] and I came up here.

It must be awful in the summertime in Georgia. Virginia can get pretty hot in the summer, or even in April. Yeah, my sister had her wedding down in Maryland by this place, Greenbelt. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that.

No, I haven’t heard of it.

And she got married down there. Maybe an hour or so outside of DC, too far from Washington, driving there by car and it’s a hundred and two [degrees].

Yeah and the humidity.

Yeah you know you have to be dressed up for it, and I couldn’t have it, it was awful. It’s probably the worst I’ve ever experienced with the weather. So I’m glad to be up here and that’s why I like it up here too, the change in seasons and that’s always enjoyable for me rather than straight tropical weather.

Have you ever lived or traveled to other places?

I have, I’ve been to New Orleans, I’ve been to Boston, Providence, NYC, a lot of the cities and a lot of farm country in between. Texas, Dallas, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and points in between. So I’ve traveled a little bit in the 90's. I spent a significant amount of time doing that. And that was kind of my thing at the time, I was kind of at that age where I was getting sick of where I was at.

I was working at a hospital for six years and it was starting to get tedious, for my own reasons I had to do it. I sent a couple of weeks’ notice and they were happy to do it because at the time I wanted to get a leave of absence, but the conditions weren’t right at the time for them to do it so I just did it by own.

I had good faith when I left and a good record of work, so I figured he’d be kind enough to do that. So I got to kind of let go of that and then I ended up having odd jobs here and there, at the different places I was at, and then having a lot of fun too. Which I kind of needed, my personal thing at the time was that I was going through some frustration and it was just starting to get tedious. I was doing food service and it was just the same, working the same job. That’s why I needed more than two weeks, extra space and time, you know what I mean? And they were happy to give me that.

So that’s how I got around for a part of the 90's. That was probably the funnest decade I have ever had, was the 90's: in my life. Because I kind of felt more, talking of freelance, I like to be more of a free spirit and independent.

“It was good for me to finally break out of that, break out of that quote unquote box, step out and go explore.”

And I needed that for me. It was healthy because I wasn’t happy being still for more than six years. So yeah, of course I could have stopped at any Starbucks on my ways around the country. Of course there’s Starbucks everywhere around the states, and I probably went to every one of them in every city. Or a lot of Starbucks in every city I was at.

That’s the other thing about Starbucks, is that you know there’s one in every community.

Yeah! There’s like three within half a mile radius right here.

“Right, you can always find them which is nice. You like the coffee so you know it’s always going to be there and it’s convenient to find it. It’s the same every where you go, same kind of coffee, most of the time I just get black coffee. “

A couple of times I’ve gotten a latte here but most of the time I just get a basic dark-roast, black coffee. I don’t get food, I’ve had a couple of sandwiches here and there but usually it’s just a couple cups of coffee.

I see. And it’s funny how it works out, getting tired of something that you’re doing. Just yesterday I was speaking to someone that was living in Hawaii and basically they were getting free sushi working in a sushi bar and living on a plantation.

Which is wonderful.

It is wonderful, but uh… She got tired of it after a while.

Right! Because she’s sitting in the same place. I mean, if you’re just doing it temporarily it’s good but if you do for like, six years, she would be like me, she would be ready to give a two weeks notice and set out freely. But it’s good that she got to at least go to Hawaii. I’ve not been out there yet and obviously that’s a place I would love to go.

Yeah, neither have I.

I’ve been to about 35, 36 cities across the United States and all the country towns in between, etc. Mostly did that by bus. I mostly go on Greyhound buses, mostly that way, I didn’t do it by car. Maybe I had a little bit of car transportation here and there but it was mostly buses.

I had places to go and stay, people that I would meet at certain points. I had planned to meet them and I would stay at their places, they kind of let me have free room pretty much. Do what you want to do, and some days we’ll show you around if we’ve got time.

Sometimes they had to work and on other days they had off and they were able to show me around their city, their town, where I was staying.

That’s awesome! It sounds like this journey in itself, not even the destination, was pretty great.

Yeah it wasn’t so much exactly me needing to be in any specific spot, or anything, it was spontaneous. A lot of it. I had ideas of where I wanted to go, but when I got there it wasn’t like I was necessarily targeting a particular thing to go to. Like when I was in Seattle, I wasn’t targeting to go to wherever, I would just have them show me all the places around and do it that way. Because they all knew what the tourist places were, and whatever it was, I was there. It was a lot of fun and it is something I would like to do again.

I went to Seattle and I saw the original Starbucks. You know the one that was opened in Seattle.

Oh you did? How was it?

Cool, very cool. The original, that was the first one before they became as big as they are now. They just had that one store at the time and that was the original Starbucks. Really cool.

“Kind of cool to know you’ve been somewhere that became this one store one time and then it became an empire. It’s amazing how it’s grown.”

I think they’ve got one in Dubai now. I was looking at their website or something. I think they’ve got one there.

Oh really?

I think so. I think I saw it in there, one of the middle eastern towns. Because the writing was Arabic.

I see. Do you have any particular favorite cities in mind?

San Fransisco. It’s definitely at the top of my list and I went to Toronto, Canada. And Toronto was probably my next favorite [place] that I went to. San Fransisco and Toronto would be my two top cities.

I understand that San Fransisco is very similar to Portland?

It is. Very much, very much. Very down to earth people like you’ve got here, good variety of community, and it’s huge. San Fransisco is huge. It’s spread out, like you wouldn’t believe. In a week, I was there for like a week and a half. Luckily out there I got to stay with my cousins, which was nice because I had a place to stay and it was good.

And I just went and took the, they call it the BART system down there. Just traveled about. Usually a lot of that I did myself, they would just kind of give me different places to go every day and I would just kind of follow what they wrote down.

Yeah, they wrote it down for me and what gate to get out. And I just kind of looked at it so I knew where I was going so I wouldn’t get lost. That was a lot of fun, just those couple of weeks that I had in San Fransisco.

And I noticed that you’re wearing this Camp North Star [hat]? What is that?

I got this at the Good Will, so I’m sure exactly where this is located or what they are.

I think that’s how I remembered you from the other day because I saw you wearing that.

Yeah, I think I saw you the other day. You’ve been here before. I remember your face, you were sitting over here actually.

So yeah, that was a lot of fun. Those days were good. I hope to maybe do that again if I’m able to travel about, and travel around. Maybe go overseas.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to go again, but I’d like to. Money is always a problem.

Yeah, if you ever do let me know and I’ll make it out there. We’ll meet at a Starbucks.

Oh that would be cool!

It really would be.

I would love it. I think we should. I’d like to plan to do that actually.

Yeah and I stick to my word, so if you’re in some crazy place like Seattle or San Fransisco it would be pretty awesome.

Yeah! Have you traveled about?

Other than living in Georgia for a little bit-

Were you in Atlanta?

Yeah, about thirty minutes from there.

I’ve been through Atalanta. I didn’t stay there for any specific amount of time but that was one of the cities that I had been through. I didn’t see it, I basically just went through. It wasn’t one of those that I stopped at but I really wanted to. It looked like there was a lot going on.

Yeah, it’s beautiful there. It’s a beautiful place.

It is beautiful. It is. And maybe we could do that sometime, show me Atlanta.

Yeah! And what was your name by the way?

My name’s John.

Nice meeting you John, I’m Octavian.


If you enjoyed this piece, follow us and subscribe to letters for our weekly stories feed.