June 8, 2004

Back in Madison.

Ah! I'm back in Madison! No matter where I travel, I'm always happy to come home. I'm happy to hear so many birds singing this morning, to know there will be cafés on every block (great little cafés where you can get a big cappucino and sit down at a little table and read or blog for a long time), and to be in easy range of so many huge, fully-stocked bookstores. I don't want to complain about New York City, but the only real bookstore I ran into was a shabby Barnes & Noble that was laid out like a mall Waldenbooks. And where are the cafés? The reviewers in the Zagat guide bitch about Starbucks being "on every corner," but the guide only lists ten locations. I think there are that many in Madison (along with numerous nonStarbucks places). On the Upper East Side, there aren't any unless you go as far east as Lexington. So let's say you're staying in a hotel on 5th Avenue, going to museums on 5th and Madison, shopping on Madison Avenue over a range of 20 blocks: you will not see a single Starbucks! There are restaurants, but nowhere to buy a coffee and just hang out and read. And nowhere to buy books! So I'm happy to be back in this place of the books and cafés that are so much a part of everyday life.

By the way, I picked the hotel in NY--the Stanhope Park Hyatt--in part because of its beautiful sidewalk café. But why aren't there sidewalk cafés on every corner? Probably because they aren't profitable enough to meet the high rents. The hotel's café probably makes economic sense because it draws people, like me, to the hotel, where money will be extracted in other ways (e.g., $17 a day for internet access).

UPDATE: Chris emails to say there are a lot more than 10 Starbucks stores in NYC and points to this official store locator. There are 142 (but still only 10 listed in Zagats, which refers to other locations). But note that within the big East Side rectangle bordered by Central Park on the west, 57th Street on the south, Park Avenue on the east, and the end of the island on the north, there is not a single Starbucks! In other words, you have to leave the nice part of the East Side and get over to Lexington before you'll find a Starbucks! Oh, and don't try to find a Starbucks anywhere--east or west--above 81st Street! And there are 7 in the Madison area. Actually, in proportion to the population, the numbers are pretty similar. The difference is that in the areas in Madison where you'd be out walking along, shopping or taking a break from work, the stores would be very available. And there would be many other cafés as well. ADDED: And as Nina notes in email, the city Starbucks stores really don't offer the best atmosphere for sitting around and reading or working. People who think they do have not been exposed to enough cafés.

AND ANOTHER THING: I refer to the many "huge, fully-stocked bookstores" in Madison, but there are also a lot of small, specialized bookstores in Madison, both used and new.

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