Archive for the ‘SAN CAFÉ’ Category

FACT FOLLOWS FICTION

Is Starbucks ripping me off? Is a giant corporation picking on—or more accurately, picking the brains of—a little guy? Is the announcement made by Starbucks last Tuesday—which turns fiction into fact—just a coincidence?

Fact: Starbucks will launch its first store in Colombia, the South American coffee-growing nation that gave us Juan Valdez. They’ll open in Bogotá in 2014.

Fact: My last novel, San Café, tells the satiric story of a retail coffee giant, Mobys. It’s pure fiction. But what does that mean? Fiction—even fantasy—reflects the world in which we live and particularly human nature. As it happens, Mobys enters its one-hundredth country by opening a store in the Republic of San Cristo, a coffee-dominated nation nicknamed San Café. Moreover, Mobys has major interests in San Cristo, just as Starbucks is involved in Colombia’s coffee industry.

Fact: I was first with the concept of a giant coffee company finally opening a store in a nation, which supplies many of its beans.

Fact: Starbucks’ marketing staff hasn’t thanked me for the inspiration—or even offered a token of its appreciation. Cash would be nice. A gift card would do. Of course, selling San Café in all its stores would really show good faith.

I’m not saying that I’ll sue. But the parallels are, shall we say, interesting. As of 2012, Starbucks had 18,000 locations worldwide with 200,000-plus employees. Revenues totaled $13.3 billion. Mobys? I quote San Café: “Mobys’ operations, even after a modest restructuring, included 15,000 owned or licensed stores, kiosks and in-home dispensaries. If [Chairman Whitman] Scharq was proud of anything, it was soccer moms, stay-home dads and stuck-in-the-job-search unemployed of all demographics hustling a little extra cash by selling coffee out of their garages and living rooms.”

Alas, I’m not at liberty to reveal Mobys’ number of employees, revenues or the status of its Yo Mobys! and ¡Mobys Aquí! handcarts promoting capitalism in the nation’s ghettos and barrios. Even fictional corporations have their secrets.

Fact: Starbucks sells a variety of products and owns Tazo Tea, Seattle’s Best Coffee and the La Boulange bakery chain. Mobys licenses logo-imprinted jewelry, school supplies, underwear, children’s toys and auto accessories. It also offers religious items to mega-church gift shops.

But wait. This Mobys information isn’t fact. It’s fiction. It just feels like fact. Because fact and fiction tend to merge—in either direction.

So maybe I’m being a little dramatic. Maybe Starbucks’ Chairman Howard Schultz bears no resemblance to Whitman “The Great Whit” Scharq. Maybe Starbucks doesn’t run the government of Colombia. Maybe no bodies will show up in and around Bogotá as a response to Starbucks’ looming presence.

But, if Starbucks sends a retired Special Forces officer to honcho the security of the new store… if a leftist revolutionary who loves gourmet cooking announces he’s seeking the nation’s presidency… if Starbucks is cooking up an alternative energy source based on coffee… and if Schultz announces that the Pope will cut the ribbon at the Bogotá grand opening… the graffiti is on the wall. That’s my story.

And I’m sticking to it.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

To all of you observing the Jewish High Holy Days, I wish you a New Year (5774) of health, fulfillment and peace.

Read the first three chapters of SAN CAFÉ and of SLICK!, named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the 25 Best Indie Novels of 2012, at davidperlstein.com. Order at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com or bn.com. 

CHAVEZ, DETROIT AND ME

The late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, the city of Detroit and I all share a common link.

Chavez and me? In my novel San Café, the would-be socialist strongman of fictional San Cristo, Jesús Garcia-Vega, idolizes Chavez. Both reject the accumulation of private wealth. Chavez redistributed much wealth to the poor. In doing so, he virtually eliminated illiteracy and vastly improved healthcare. Yet he left Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy in a shambles. And no leader who embraces Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will ever play a constructive role on the world stage.

Detroit and me? My youngest son Aaron spent his first year as a professional dancer there—in the suburbs. I made three trips to Detroit, including downtown visits and a pilgrimage to the old Motown studios on West Grand.

The Chavez-Detroit connection? Government can and should play a role in improving the lives of people left out of a nation’s economic advances. But government control on the scale of Venezuela’s can warp an economy and stunt its growth. Venezuela now faces a choice. It can use Chavez’ positive accomplishments as a platform for establishing a responsible market economy or it can continue carrying its people on the government’s back—and sink under its bloated weight.

Detroit also faces a choice. America’s poster child for failed cities is witnessing impressive changes. True, most of the city remains poor and blighted. Yet three of its four major league sports teams play downtown. The opera house draws crowds. The Big Three automakers are thriving. And Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, as well as ambitious entrepreneurs are buying run-down buildings, refurbishing them and filling them with businesses. They’re developing new living spaces, too. Enclave though it is, downtown is coming back even as Michigan governor Rick Snyder plans to appoint a manager over the city’s finances.

Critics decry the downtown surge. They say Detroit’s poor aren’t riding this economic wave. They’re right. But most productive jobs get created when companies and entrepreneurs identify markets, invest money and sweat then take on employees. In the process, they hire contractors and their subs, janitors, IT consultants and security personnel. More workers and residents boost sales at nearby restaurants, coffee houses, drugstores and dry cleaners.

Momentum builds. Enterprising individuals open new small businesses or seek work. The tax base expands. Optimism grows. Business, community and government organizations devote more resources to helping local residents acquire job skills. Give a man a fish and eats for a day, the saying goes. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.

Detroit won’t become an overnight success. But it can make progress—and ultimately spread it to neighborhoods—if citizens and politicians see downtown development not as a racial or class barrier but as a springboard to a better future. The marketplace is imperfect. But it offers more hope than a government-controlled economy that insists that “the people” all be equally poor.

Hugo Chavez would have been exactly the wrong mayor for the Motor City.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.

SAHARA DRY

When it comes to humor, there’s dry and there’s Sahara dry. A writer can craft a piece so tongue-in-cheek it flies over readers’ heads. I plead—maybe—guilty.  Several readers thought “An Affront to Humanity” (November 23) concerned a real woman’s real experience on a San Francisco Muni bus. Nope. As I wrote in a postscript last week, it was all about Israel and Hamas.

True, dry humor can be rewarding. The novelist Claudia Long wrote about my first novel, a geopolitical satire set in the Persian Gulf: “SLICK! is filled with action and atmosphere so deftly drawn that we don’t realize until a moment later that David Perlstein is pulling our leg.” (No cash changed hands.) Claudia must be right. Kirkus Reviews gave SLICK! a star as a “book of remarkable merit” and featured me in a column in their April 15 issue. (More big news in two weeks.)

So will readers “get” my new novel, SAN CAFÉ? Set—except for two scenes in the Bay Area—in the fictional Central American nation of San Cristo, SAN CAFÉ is anything but dry. When the novel begins, it’s raining like hell. Moreover, SAN CAFÉ has lots of dark moments. Kirkus—bless ‘em—cites “a no-holds-barred willingness to examine some considerably dark terrain.” (Let’s also not forget Kirkus’ comment about the “whip-smart prose.”) Yet the satire often is broader than in SLICK! To be on the safe side, I offer an author’s guide to understanding several of the main characters.

Jesús Garcia-Vega is an ardent leftist. His name combines the obvious with that of a brand of cigars my father smoked when I was a kid—Garcia y Vega (four for a quarter). Silly? Heck no. Garcia-Vega admires Fidel Castro. Fidel’s nickname? The Big Cigar.

Capitán Enrique Hauptmann-Hall is a Cristano but doesn’t have a Spanish name. No, his grandparents weren’t Nazis who fled the Allies’ wrath. Like many of the wealthy in Latin America, his family descended from powerful European colonialists who, in their Christian-mercantilist fervor, took the natives to the cleaners. No wonder he has an attitude. He also flips out. See chapter one.
Whitman Scharq is founder, chairman and CEO of Mobys Inc., the world’s largest coffee retailer. And yes, he’s left a lot of blood in the water. But what can you expect from the head of a company pioneering Yo Mobys! And ¡Mobys Aquí¡ pushcarts to keep people in America’s ghettos and barrios alert while generating extra corporate revenue?

Maria Skavronsky is an exotic beauty, half Cristano (mom) and half Russian (dad). An alumna of Stanford and of Harvard Law, she’s also a former modern dancer and a devoted single mom. No wonder she’s so damned dangerous.

Easy, right? Although we haven’t even discussed the Italian media diva Adella Rozen (what’s wrong with purple hair?) and Bobby Gatling, my hero—kind of—with nerves of steel, a heart of gold and a right knee resembling papier maché.

As a former hockey-mom vice-residential candidate from the state with the nation’s largest landmass likes to say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Or am I being Sahara dry?

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at davidperlstein.com. SAN CAFÉ is available in soft cover and digital format at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.