Depressing Bill Cosby Conversation Over Uplifting Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend Coffee
My neighbor said he felt he’d been assaulted by Bill Cosby.
We were standing out by the dumpster. Propped up next to an empty milk jug and a crushed beer can carton was a glossy poster of the old, beleaguered comedian. I stared deep into his eyes.
“You and a lot of other people. You’d be the first male, though,” I said. “To come forward publicly.” My neighbor is a thirty-something black man, with a wife who seems to enjoy too many baked goods, and a young daughter as cute as they come.
I kicked a tomato soup can. It bounced off the dumpster and clattered over the pavement. “There’s a lot of money to be made with these allegations. I would rock the headlines if I were you. Imagine it,” I said, and ran my hands over a fake banner between us, “COSBY, EQUAL OPPORTUNITY ASSAULT with NEW MALE ALLEGATION?”
He shook his head. “Cosby let me down, man. I liked his squeaky clean routine. No cussing. Just good old family fun comedy.” My neighbor said his home had more than a couple pieces of Cosby memorabilia. “I’m throwing everything out.”
“Was it the Jell-O commercials, do you think? That soured my impression of Cosby since my childhood days. I couldn’t stand his wobbly voice behind that trembling block of chemicals jiggling on the spoon. If I’d had a poster or anything Cosby in my home at that point, it would have been chucked. To think a person would have to stoop to promoting Jell-O to America after being a celebrity superstar.”
My neighbor hefted a box of DVDs into the trash.
I invited him inside for a cup of coffee. It was morning, after all, and his dulled eyes looked like they needed a surge. He was the neighbor not more than a month ago who was fretting about Ebola. I’d given him stern advice. Now he was onto the Cosby catastrophe.
“I bought a pound of Starbucks’ Thanksgiving blend,” I said. “It supposedly enhances the taste of turkey, they say, but I don’t eat turkey so I drink it straight. And drinking it straight is not as pleasant as I’d thought it’d be.”
We took a seat at my kitchen table. Between us was one coffee bean, still oily from being recently roasted. The more I focused on the bean, the more I saw a resemblance to the comedian’s blank facial expression as one woman after another accused him of heinous crimes.
But that’s where the similarity stopped. Thanksgiving blend is deeply savory with bright herbal notes popping through the full body of flavor that lines the tongue and coats the throat. Bill Cosby, it seems, is a blend of bitter and hollow, with tendencies for arrogant bursts, despite his cool, Father-of-the-nation exterior.
Or at least that’s what a dozen or more women want you to believe.
No connection between Starbucks and Bill Cosby
There must be an important disclaimer at this point: A writer in the 21st century has to be cautious not to link world corporations and newly-tarnished reputations of universally admired celebrities. I could potentially do a lot of harm to Starbucks. Viral videos and wicked memes could pop up worldwide. And that maliciousness is not in my nature.
So, let it be known there is nothing other than coincidence that you might be making this connection, especially if you are, in any way, subconsciously transferring your ‘icky’ feelings you might have for Bill Cosby onto the mega coffee company.
It is a stretch to think you can link Cosby’s groping and unwarranted penetration with the overeager and gross invasion of Starbucks as it fingers its way into every tight place of innocent commerce.
“Are you still writing them articles about Starbucks?” my neighbor asked. He’d read from previous years my praises for Thanksgiving blend. He wasn’t surprised when I invited him in for some.
“I quit. I never saw one word of thanks from Howard Schultz. The fascist. I emailed him many times. I made phone calls. I had other people make phone calls. I was incredibly polite. Never a return message of gratitude for all the people I turned on to their yearly triumph called Thanksgiving blend.”
“Those bastards,” he said. “They force themselves onto every strip mall, city block, and supermarket on the planet. Then they can’t even recognize the little guy who goes to bat for them when they really create a knockout blend of coffee.”
“Forget the coffee nonsense,” I said, “let’s get back to Cosby. What breaks your heart about the recent allegations that he’s a serial rapist?”
My neighbor winced. “Doesn’t sexual assault sound better?”
“Sexual assaulter?” I asked him. “I prefer language stripped clean, down to its soiled underwear. Repeat Rapist. That’s how I’d describe him. Assuming Janice Dickinson isn’t telling raunchy stories just for kicks. I wouldn’t want to assume she’s in debt for her latest round of synthetic lip filler — they call it ‘smile fluffer’ in the industry — and she needed some hard cash quick, so she jumped on the creepy Cos bandwagon.”
“Just when you think you can trust someone,” my neighbor said, and hung his head. He took a swallow of coffee and nearly spit it out. Too hot! “They embarrass you. My girl is asking why I ripped down Uncle Bill from her bedroom. To think his eyeballs were right there, watching my daughter.”
“And your wife, too, probably, whenever she bent over to pick up something.” My neighbor didn’t seem to appreciate the thought, but I raised my hands as if to say, Who are we kidding, here?
“Let’s take a look in the bathroom, there’ s something I’ve been hanging on to”
I asked my neighbor if he’d like to take a look at my bathroom.
He lifted one eyebrow and sipped his coffee. Staring into the mug, he licked his lips. He tilted it and looked down his nose at his drink. “I’m good right here,” he said.
“You can bring your coffee with you,” I told him, “if it makes you feel better. But I want to show you something I’ve been dealing with.”
My neighbor squirmed in his chair. “I’m not a doctor,” he finally said. “You could ask a family member. That’d be better.”
“It’s not about me,” I told him. “It’s a similar situation you’re facing. I have a giant Woody Allen poster on the wall opposite my toilet. I’ve been struggling with removing it ever since Dylan Farrow came out with her most recent allegations that Woody diddled her in a closet while she played with her toy train.”
My neighbor wanted to speak, but I kept talking.
“Then Moses, Woody’s son, spoke up in his defense, so I kept the poster up. Moses said the claims were absurd and they were planted in the young girl’s mind by her zealous, jealous mother. But then, after a few more days, I thought, anything is possible and we’ll never know. To make such an allegation is a very harmful assault on a person’s character, unless he’s guilty of it, then it needs to be handled. Not by the media, of course, and their constant circus. But by a court, a judge, a jury.”
I stood. “Come on, you’ve got to see it.”
We stepped over to my bathroom, and I asked if he’d like to sit on the toilet. I closed the lid. “I want you to get a full perspective of what I see day by day. You think you don’t mind getting a chuckle out of Woody Allen’s gaze while doing your business, yet you start to wonder if there’s a demonic magnetism behind that gaze, and a devilish pulse in his veins.”
I had to strong arm my neighbor onto the toilet seat. “Just, relax,” I said, “do you want to wrestle?” He finally let me lower him. I closed the door on him to give him the full experience.
“All right,” he said, his voice muffled from behind the door.
But it wasn’t enough time for him to grasp the nuanced concept. I wanted him to be in the floppy shoes of Bill Cosby. I wanted him to imagine what it would be like to have such allegations thrown against him. What if he was innocent? What is the best way to handle such a dilemma? Were the women after Cosby’s fortune? Yet, to ignore a person who has truly been sexually assaulted or raped is a grave mistake.
“All right,” he said again and knocked.
I held the knob tight as he tried to turn it. “I’m disappointed,” I said, as I tried to grip the knob with both hands, “that you’re not taking this exercise more seriously.”
He yanked at the door.
“You’re going to bust it!” I said. “Calm down. Look into Woody’s eyes and ask yourself, are men like him and men like the Cosby guilty! And if so, how should we go about dealing with it? Should we disparage their characters? Should we ignore the media circus and let the proper authorities handle it? What if there are no proper authorities?”
“Let me out!” he shouted.
“These are the questions you should be asking,” I hollered back. “The lack of firm answers should frighten you. You should, just by delving deeply into this issue, see that there are no perfect solutions to cases like Cosby’s. If we don’t have evidence, what shall we do? But if he truly is a monster, we must do something. Do you see the problem?
“It’s like bobbing, unaided, in the middle of the chilly Atlantic ocean. When you call out for help, you don’t hear anything. Just salty water in all directions. Let yourself drown for a moment in the white void of ambiguity and uncertainty, and realize these situations happen in all realms of life every day.
“How should we conduct ourselves in the face of not knowing? And not knowing especially when knowing is so important?”
My neighbor slapped his palms against the door. The scene had turned pathetic. Some people are not primed for teachable moments in life.
“If you’re going to thrash around you can’t possibly be thinking about the situation with any clarity.” I let go of the knob. There was nothing. The door flung open and my neighbor bonked himself on the head and fell backward into the bathtub.
For one second I saw in his eyes the look of a wild animal. And I’ve seen wild animals. I grew up on a farm in North Dakota. I’ve seen the hostile glare of a rabid skunk deciding if he should rush my dog or me. Or the look of a raccoon in a cage, when the animal smells your intentions and intuits its fate. When you strip the social padding and scrape the material fluff from primal humanity, you see a similar spark in a man’s eyes, a manifestation of one shard of multidimensional reality, and it is fierce, and it is chilling.
Of course, Bill Cosby didn’t have to witness that because, if the reports are true, he drugged his victims into a hapless acquiescence.
In a flash my neighbor was on his feet. He blew past me and straight to the front door. I called to him to stop. “I was only trying to help,” I said. “And really, you ought to sleep on the whole Cosby affair overnight. It’s natural to be suffering from feelings of regret and remorse. You’ll feel better in the morning. Hell, lock yourself in your own bathroom if you need a quiet moment. That always helps me.”
He slammed the door behind him.
“Just wait!” I said, “I was going to make espresso!”
[Cosby with Dick van Dyke photo from We hope; Dumb Starbucks photo by Shelby Asistio]