But where will I find vegan support groups now?!

Kiva Han is closing in February.

I don’t go there very often anymore because I no longer live directly around the corner, but I try to stop by as often as I’m in the neighborhood, and sadly, I was greeted by a sign on the counter announcing that due to a raise in the rates of their lease and “stalled growth due to competition,” (damn you Starbucks) they would be closing next month.

Kiva Han may not be my most frequented coffee shop, but it is my favorite. I am not a coffee snob, so I can’t tell you if they have the best coffee (plus I almost always order a froofy latte anyway), but they always get my order right, it is always ready quickly, and the staff is competent while still interesting.

Beyond the actual consumables, though, Kiva Han has emotional and cultural significance in my life.

Kiva Han was everything I romantically imagined a coffee shop to be when I was growing up in the 90’s. Northeast Philly is weirdly devoid of coffee shops (and Indian food). Certainly, they exist in droves in the cooler parts of town, and I always made sure to frequent them when I could, but in my mind, the ideal coffee shop was an extension of your livingroom, somewhere you could probably see from your house. To me, Kiva Han was the platonic ideal of the mythical coffee shop. There was always an acoustic guitar on the schedule, baristas with impressive but regrettable piercings, and at least one mysterious, brooding writer. ‘Zines scattered about. Kiva Han was the Empire Records of coffee shops.

And what will happen to the staff? They are not the same baristas we knew when we frequented the place. Not literally. But they are the same. The hot skateboard rider guy. The not-hot skateboard rider guy. The Missed Connection. The bald girl. The one-who-cries (in the back but you can still hear it). The Insanely Hot Girl Who Seems Approachable Because She Listens To That Band You Like. Won’t someone think of the baristas?

In college, when my current group of friends was coalescing into the urban tribe we became, Kiva Han was our Central Perk. Many of us lived in Forbes-Craig, the Pitt on-campus apartments for nerds. When making plans to meet for evening outings, it often made sense to bring everyone to a central location first and while it was a pain in the ass to let all of the non-FC residents into the building, it was very easy to meet them downstairs and around the corner in the coffee shop. We spent an enormous amount of time dicking around in there, probably making ourselves late for movies because we wouldn’t stop talking.

I met my birthmother for the first time at Kiva Han.

Nothing lasts forever, of course. Farewell Kiva Han. You will be missed. Especially if they put another freakin Razzy Fresh in your place.


Who Did We Love and Who Did We Hate: Critic’s Choice Edition

Once upon a livejournal, I used to write Red Carpet recaps for the Oscars, so I figured I’d continue that tradition and expand it a little to other Red Carpet events.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Michelle Williams

Image from Just Jared
 I think Michelle pretty much killed it in this dress. If you hit both classy and interesting (without wandering into boring or garish), it’s pretty easy to make it into my “liked” column. This dress, with its dreamy ivory satin, has a hint of the bedroom without looking like a nightie and a taste of Gatsby without looking like a costume.

Chloe Moretz

Image from Just Jared
Is she a LARP-er now? Sorry, Princess Ravenstone of the Chanel Clan, but I hate this.

Mindy Kaling

Image from Just Jared
I have mixed feelings about this dress. On one hand, it flaunts her rocking figure. On the other, it’s a little snoozy, especially coming from someone I know loves fashion so much. I suspect up close, the fabric is a lot more interesting, but in photos, it comes across a little bit like a yoga dress. On the other hand: SHOES! Behold them and know that their very sight turns me into an outdated meme. They’re so sparkly! Covet.

Diane Kruger

Image by The Mirror
If you squint your eyes a little, it looks like someone screen printed Sailor Moon’s hair onto Diane’s grey dress. And that isn’t my main problem with this dress! Mostly, I cannot get over how weird it makes her boobs look. DK is not one of ample bosom, but it looks less like she has a modest chest and more the top half of each breast is actually missing. Or like her breasts have phases like the moon and they’re currently in waxing crescent.

That’s probably enough for a show like the Critic’s Choice awards. Stay tuned – it’s awards season.

Never Gonna Give BNY Mellon Park Up

Occupy Pittsburgh to cops: prepare to be rickrolled

When faced with eviction from BNY Mellon’s greenspace, the protesters are going to…meme them? An outdated meme? Really?

Good thing the Occupy Movement doesn’t have a PR problem being taken seriously… 

Honestly, this is the first time I have rolled my eyes at the Occupy Movement. I get that it’s a joke. It’s just not a good one.

How Customer Service Ruined America

I appreciate good customer service. I also give good customer service.

But good customer service turns people into assholes. Hear me out.

Much as we like to believe in maturity, at heart, humans are toddlers. We learn behaviors* based on positive or negative reinforcement. As anyone who has dealt with the voice on the other end of a customer service line can tell you, bad behavior is encouraged when dealing with customer service reps. Speaking calmly and reasonably generally gets a response of “we’re so sorry you were inconvenienced, but…” It’s the screamers who get refunds.

I was working in Development for a company that also had a sales department (I’m being intentionally vague, though my 15 readers probably know what I’m talking about). There was a large sale one day, but purchases had to be made in person, not on the phone or online. A Patron pulls up, parks her car uber-illegally, and gets in line to make a purchase. A number of staff members note the illegally parked car and suggest, then cajole, and finally beg her to move it, lest it get towed. She refuses. It (surprise!) gets towed. And that woman raised such hell about it that my former company paid for the impound fees and ticket. You read that correctly. They paid her impound fees.That was the moment I realized that customer service was ruining society. That woman was not only not punished for being an absolute, maniacal asshat, but she was rewarded. Handsomely.

It becomes a cycle. We see it work for someone else. We try it once (I’m guilty! I admit it!). It works! Suddenly everyone is a jerk because, well, it gets things accomplished.

There has to be a middle ground between waiting patiently on hold for 5 hours and screaming your way to free cable. There must be a way to serve your customers without creating monsters. Address the reasonable requests with reasonable solutions and take the loss of a customer now and then when the occasional screaming lunatic rolls through demanding the world. Normal customers will feel less screwed because they aren’t seeing their crazier counterparts walk away with free loot and companies will feel less screwed because they aren’t paying ludicrous “fines” to spoiled nutballs. Thereby being kinder to their reasonable customers? Oh, I’m giving corporations way too much credit, aren’t I? There’s no going back now, huh. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

*Not trying to spark a Nature v. Nurture debate. My opinion lies somewhere in the middle, both inherited and learned.