Casting the First Stone

“Life is an adventure in forgiveness. “-Norman Cousins

Gen Y isn’t exactly known for being a generation that puts a lot of faith in words. We learned early on that talk isn’t cheap at all, but can be bought and traded easily. We learned that “sorry” really is the most pathetic of platitudes and is baseless without change. We learned that our words are in fact daggers. Our wit is our shield, our tongues play the part of sword.

I can have a very sardonic tongue, one I’ve come to keep in better check with maturity. Perfected over years and finely honed, I can duel with the best of them. I keep company with other cynics and together like the rabble of French Poets in the 19th century (I assume I’m playing the part of Charles Baudelaire), we joust. We seldom say sorry. In fact, we’ve picked up the phrase:

“Sorry does nothing.”

This is not to say we don’t apologize to each other when an offense occurs, but we often do so with a very basic:

“You cool?” or grand gestures including baked goods, alcohol or offerings of tears.

Recently, I was faced with an incident that left me a little  shaken at my core. Someone very close to me apologized to me sort of out of the blue. It was in fact a very blanket apology and I’m sure if I inquired further, this person would not ever be able to pinpoint exactly why they were apologizing. But, that didn’t suddenly make this very emotional exchange meaningless.

That apology then became a standin for any of the slights, ills or pains I had against this person. Even if they didn’t know, feel or believe they had done anything wrong.

What a marvel idea.
Now, I will add one caveat, I would prefer if any apology made to have some truth, logic and reason to it. In a perfect world, an apology is a humbling experience and one meant to grow and help a person learn for the next time. But this isn’t a perfect world that we live in.

What if we all just took a moment to admit that there are things that we’ve done that were not okay for whatever reason and then apologize for them. Just to finally say we’re sorry.

At times, we brush people the wrong way, we hurt each other without intention, we maim and tear with our words and sometimes employ weapons more powerful. We invoke silence or other cruel tactics to express our disdain. Many shoulder this pain; they accept it. They know sorry is cheap and they go about their lives with the burden of that interaction. It leaves at times wounds and scars on those affected, having to constantly carry the weight of their unacknowledged slights.

I was amazed how soothing of a balm that baseless apology was and realized its importance. Sometimes, we all just have to say sorry. Even for things we didn’t know we did. Even if we have no reason to apologize, sometimes it’s just good to say “I hope I haven’t recently done anything to offend or upset you. Forgive me?”

It doesn’t help that most of the people I know can say “sorry” in at least 3 different languages. We really have no excuse.

Take a little time out today to say you’re sorry, even if you have no idea why. Maybe that sorry means everything but I’m sorry. That’s the beauty of language. An “I’m sorry.” can easily become an “I love you.” “I treasure you.” “Thank you.”

Cheating on the Local Coffee Shop

Two coffee shops, both alike in dignity.
On fair Houston Street, where we lay our scene.

Okay, well maybe this isn’t quite like Romeo and Juliet. There really is no epic battle between these two, but this is in fact the story of two coffee houses and the choice I make every day to have one or the other.

If you happen to visit Houston Street in wonderful downtown San Antonio and find yourself upon a certain corner of Houston Street, you will find 2 wonderful establishments: Starbucks and Sip. Both serve coffee, baked goods and other various treats and both have some of the nicest baristas I have encountered. Both are in the same “too damn high but I’m willing to pay for it.” -range when it comes to coffee houses. Both are speedy, relatively speaking. But there’s a key difference: One is a big corporation, the other is the local coffeehouse of legend.

This isn’t a review of either establishment, I honestly visit both with varying frequency depending on how I feel. For instance Sip sometimes will have these heavenly glazed croissants and I will visit them more often to get my fix. At times Starbucks will be running a promotion and I will visit them more often. I’m not exactly a brand loyalist when it comes to my coffee. I’m a writer. This is fuel and unlike a car’s fickle engine, I’m not always the most particular. Lately I’ve been on a kick of visiting Sip more often, but I’m not sure this post has anything to do with that.

But there are some mornings when I choose Starbucks, that I can’t help but look over across the street to Sip. I see their often times empty lines, open doors and welcoming, eclectic staff and wonder Why am I here? I could have gone across the street.

As a writer and general gourmand, the local coffee shop is a Holy Grail. A place to be treasured, a place to flock, to gather, to see and be seen. So why was I in the line of the big corporate monster?

The truth is, I don’t know. I didn’t notice how conflicted I was about the whole ordeal until I was standing in line at Starbucks realizing how lucky I am to have a local coffee shop to call my own. Sadly, as the art of coffee becomes easier and easier to master at home, the local coffee house is likely going to become a wonderful but trendy relic.

As much as I love cafes, I just don’t have the time I used to for them. I’m now one of the rushed masses I railed against in my youth. I don’t have time to just sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee, which is what Sip wants you to do. I can grab and go at Starbucks, as much as I hate it. I’ve even seen the manager of Sip at Starbucks occasionally. That’s basically like if you saw the owner of Sprinkles visiting H-E-B to pick up a party tray of mini cupcakes.

What I didn’t expect out of this whole adventure was the immense feeling of guilt I had when I visited Starbucks over Sip. I felt like my lack of business would in the end be what put the final nail in Sip’s coffin if it were to ever fail (which I hope it doesn’t). It’d be my fault. I felt bad because this local coffee house had it all. And I should cherish it, but here I was in the line waiting to pay my homage to the PSL Goddess. 

I want to see Sip last and I think it will. It has a great staff and a San Antonio favorite running the show. They specialize in exactly what I miss at Starbucks, great espresso drinks; while Starbucks has exactly what I’m still missing from Sip, sweeter drinks that I feel shameful about later. Sip excels in espresso, an art and mastery I adore and came to appreciate further watching the baristas in Rome, though I prefer my barista to actually look me in the eye and not mutter “American” after each painful sip of tar-like espresso. Starbucks still has far superior drip coffee, something I came to love in Seattle all with the summer I learned of a magical pastry known as a Butter Horn. Drip coffee is something I often need more than I like admitting. Like two pieces of the exact same coin that is my heady addiction to caffeine, I need them both. 

So I’m in a complex relationship with the local coffee house. Hopefully they won’t catch me cheating.