It’s raining again so I duck in to my favorite morning coffee place. My barista, Dan, is a wiry Dominican kid from the Bronx. I come here most mornings after I drop the kids off at their overpriced kiddie college. He is by far the most talented foam jockey in the city. He can literarily create any animal from Noah’s Arc with a stir stick and some steamed milk. He hands me my latte. Floating on a frothy cloud is a smiling unicorn. Wow! I’m sure that creature wasn’t on the arc but who cares… it’s a unicorn!
I usually sit at the bar where Dan and I take turns talking about our lives. As a single gay dude, his life is full of late nights down in the west village not finding love in all the wrong places. As a hetro dad, mine is riding scooters to the park and apologizing to unsuspecting tourists as my girls run over their feet. Despite this, I really believe he thinks of me as the accepting older brother he never had. As a result, I like to give him advice on things I know nothing about, like dating. This morning I’m telling him to act more straight. He asks me what planet I lived on when I was single. I explain to him that most men, gay or straight, are goal orientated. For straight men, the ultimate goal is bedding the unattainable woman. For gay men, it’s to turn a straight guy. My theory is if he appears to be straight at predominately gay gatherings, he will differentiate himself…duh! marketing 101! Dan mocks a look of someone having an epiphany and says he’ll visit a Banana Republic right after his shift to purchase a disguise for the weekend. Now, of course I know he’s screwing with me but at least he’s thinking strategically.
Dan is also worried about his career so we start working on that next. He doesn’t know what he wants to do beyond his current job at the coffee shop and his other role as a part-time dog walker. He likes all the CSI shows and thinks he should be a forensic lab technician. I tell him to forget about that and concentrate on triangulating his talent, passion and work. “Christ Dan!”, I start, “You’re the best damn barista in the city, so can we please just focus on skills we can leverage now?”
After a few minutes of brain-storming, we decide he should collaborate with a writer friend of his on a children’s book that loosely retells the Chronicles of Narnia with illustrations of his crema creations. He’s still a little stuck on the CSI concept so we decide the book should include a hard-to-solve murder. He’s excited now and to prove it whips out a lion, a bear, a warthog and a rat for his next five customers. He asks me where I learned all this stuff about careers. I tell him I once attained a Tony Robbins weekend where, in-between walking on hot coals and hugging a lot of people, I picked up a thing or two about following your bliss. Oddly, that seems to be enough validation for him.
The rain is letting up outside so I decide to make a dash for the office. I tip him a little extra today because the dog he usually walks had some kind of mental breakdown and won’t be leaving his crate today.