This Unholy Mess


A Thank-You Note to Howard Schultz

Hi Howard—
First of all, I think congratulations are in order. I never got a chance, before you retired from your position as Starbucks CEO, to pat you on the back for selling so much coffee. Sure, lots of other people have sold that famously legal drug, but you managed to sell it not just in much greater quantities than anyone else, but in more locations. Brilliant.
It was a master stroke to choose coffee as your product, too, since if you had decided to try the same program with liquor, hoo boy, the government would have been down on your sweet little behind like a ton of scalding Caramel Macchiato. Anyway, you’re clearly a genius. And on a personal note I owe you big time for coming up with the Low-Foam Pumpkin Spice Soy Latte with Extra Chia Seeds that’s made my life worth living since DQ stopped offering its Cranberry and Turkey Gizzard Blizzard. How can I ever thank you.
And I’m not the only one who loves your work. Think of all the people who are grateful to you for doing away with most of that fancy coffee–you know, the stuff that is pure and distinctive and unique—and supplying them instead with a rich array of confectionary marvels like Cinnamon Shortbread Latte and the ever-popular Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha. Who wouldn’t lavish you with praise for inventing an archetypal heavily-caffeinated soda fountain? One-stop shopping for sugar and fat and caffeine!
But enough of the frothy stuff. What I really want to talk to you about is this presidential run you’re thinking about. I want to say up front that I get it: You’re rich. And you’re bored. That has to be a much tougher gig than anyone realizes. It has to be the worst feeling to get out of a limo and have the bystanders on the sidewalk take a look at you, shrug, and ask each other, “Hey, is that guy Somebody? Nah, probably not. Never seen him before.”
What a nightmare.
From that point of view, sure, a run for the presidency makes sense. In one leap, you might just go from a posh but anonymous lifestyle to having your picture on the front page of the New York Times four or five times a week, and scoring digs at the Davos Conference in Switzerland that you could only dream about when you were a common billionaire businessman holed up in a hotel room next to the elevator and the ice machine. Just ask the current occupant of the White House—he’ll tell you. Everybody who matters knows that fame is the absolute best thing to counter the blahs that go along with absurd wealth. (Did I say “absurd”? Sorry, I meant “obscene.”)
So I understand that you’re hankering to join the ranks of those with national reputations for game-changing, bold moves. Like Ralph Nader, for example. Or Jill Stein. People who have plowed into the political arena armed with nothing more than raw courage and a finely-honed messiah complex. These are the brave figures who have made a difference in recent American history, whether it was by ensuring that we ended up with an executive willing to plunge us into the worst international catastrophe since Vietnam, (that would be the Iraq invasion, if you’re keeping score. Thanks, Ralph!) or being the righteous stalwart who gave us, as current “Commander-in-Chief,” a crude, self-absorbed fourteen-year-old insult artist with shady finances and a very loose allegiance to the truth. (Thanks again, Jill!) It would be easy for you to join their number, and not one voter would blame you for doing it. Well okay, maybe seventy or eighty million, give or take. But that’s tops.
You have appeared on various news interview shows, spouting statistics meant to support the notion that the nation needs you, that you are exactly the independent candidate Americans have been waiting for. Forty-two percent of American voters identify as independents, not aligned with either party, you say. You can garner their votes, you tell us, whereas other candidates cannot. You will do this not with an offer of free Cold Foam Cappuccinos, but with a vast understanding of government policymaking rivalled only by that of the current “president,” and a common decency that no other candidate could possibly match. You want to step in and restore dignity to the office of the Presidency, not as a tawdry, flawed Democrat, but as The Chosen One you see yourself as.
But Howard? Before you get hopped up on some concoction from one of your own soda fountains and declare your candidacy, let me just paraphrase Monty Python, from their classic film, “Life of Brian”: You’re not the Messiah, you’re a very naughty boy.”

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