There was a time in the mid 00’s when there were three Starbucks in the CBD, all located within a 300m radius. Which now, when you look back, feels ridiculous. One of the things I love the most about Cracked City is that the independent cafe is king and we are completely devoid of most of the international food and retail giants that have become the symbol of modern urbanism and gentrification (McD’s, BK, Apple and Starbucks…though we do now have an H&M).

So, yeah, to think we had three of ’em, pre-everything, is positively wild. We were never a raging metropolis, even back then. It feels so gaudy now, but I guess it was just a symptom of the times.

For well over a year (or was it two?), a large portion the CBD was cordoned off. At first it was everything within the four avenues, then slowly diminished month by month until it was just a few final blocks. Eventually it all opened up again and we were allowed back in to explore, in fenced, controlled, moderation. Most of the big things had been cleared by then, but there was still no shortage of abandoned, in limbo, buildings all around us. Our new normal.

The best / worst/ eeriest/ most fascinating were the buildings where it was like time had stood still at 12:51pm on that day – toppled chairs, plates and cups standing on tables, exactly where they had been rested, walls displaying posters advertising gigs and events that were meant to happen later that week, in places that no longer exist. Real Children of Men / 28 Days later vibes.

Down the Eastern-side of Cashel mall, was a large retail building that housed several stores including one of our three CBD Starbucks. For the first year or so of pedestrian access being allowed, these shop fronts were completely obscured with large plywood hoardings, so we’d all walk on past and had no idea what was going on inside, or how much was left.

Then some time in 2014, a good three years after the event, the hoardings lifted and suddenly we could see those stores again, abandoned, time frozen, in that moment.

And there was the Starbucks. If you peered inside it was just how you remembered. The early 00’s chain-coffee, episode of Friends, yuppie dream. Tastefully plush rolled-arm sofas. Pine-effect coffee tables. Plastic pot-plants. Big aluminium milk dispensers. Napkins and little wooden stirring sticks. All covered with a thick layer of grey ashy dust. But still there, instantly recognizable, as what it was.

Pushed up against the plate glass shopfront, was one of those big burgundy arm chairs (now faded to a dusky pink) that are synonymous with Starbucks.

And, then, sandwiched between the sofa and the window, was this little mouse. Splayed. Very dead. But almost perfectly preserved. It’s mouth wide open. Tail hanging down below. His light grey tufty fur all spiked out in every direction.

And so we got Starbucks Mouse. The unofficial Cracked City mascot of 2014.

It was no surprise, or secret, that after that day, the rodents came and bred in the thousands. Infesting our abandoned shops and food outlets. Of course, they would. We left everything, at the middle of lunchtime, for months and months. If you meet the right people, you can still hear some quite astounding horror stories of sights and smells that will put you off eating for the rest of the day. And so, of course,  this Starbucks would have been crawling with mice and rats, going fucking bananas for all of the stale scones and muffins that we left for them. What a bloody time to be a rodent! Our darkest hour was their golden era!

Except for this little guy. he probably got too bloated on all that bread. Took a wrong turn, up though a passage too narrow, on the sofa. And then he was stuck. Forever. Left and preserved, in secret, for who knows how long – weeks? months? years? Until the hoardings got removed and he was finally revealed to us, suspended in his plush little tomb.

I think that those of us who stumbled upon Starbucks Mouse were kinda delighted with this quirky, morbid, lil discovery. We had to find amusement and interesting things where we could, back them. I always felt that Starbucks Mouse resonated and summed up who we were, and how we were feeling, pretty bloody well: insignificant, trappedm hopeless. That little mouse was a dark spectacle indeed, especially as we were all dealing with multiple forms of grief. But it also appealed to the bleak sense of humor and unique outlook on life we had all been forced to develop, against our will.

Starbucks Mouse felt like something of a political symbol too. Against bureaucracy, government agencies, insurance claims, and endless red tape. Our mouse was like our own little Banksy piece of social commentary. In fact, a wee while after he was uncovered, someone came along and glued a gold-gilded picture frame onto the window, turning Starbucks Mouse into a legit piece of street art.

A few weeks later the powers-that-be must’ve been finally been alerted to our social media chatter and realized what was going on. Not a good look for Starbucks nor the building I guess (yeah, like THAT was what was making the CBD look bad!). Our mouse friend suddenly vanished, leaving just the frame on the window. We never got to say goodbye to him. But I guess we never got to say goodbye to anything else either, so it’s kinda fitting.

Eventually new hoardings went up, and stayed up, then last year the building was finally unveiled, as a like-new, totally fixed, shiny, restored, retail block. It’s a clothing chain-store now, selling overpriced and uninspiring garments to people who were probably never around to see our Starbucks Mouse, or aware that he existed. Those Wild West days were only for a brave.

But Starbucks Mouse lives on in the memory of those select few., and, every time I sip on a Pumpkin Spice Latte, I will think of, and pay tribute, to that little guy, and hope that he ate something really bloody delicious before ascending that sofa, one last time.

– Bonjela x

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