I’m not sure the exact first time I saw a Bearista Bear in a Starbucks but I think it was sometime around June of 2002. I was in a Starbucks in Lower Manhattan with a friend of mine, Chris, and I was waiting for the drinks to be served up when I noticed a nicely dressed up bear sitting display.

School Bear
He was dressed up in a school uniform of some sort with an "B" on his chest (To contradict, perhaps, anyone who might think that there is nothing worth learning at Starbucks) along with a backpack and a baseball cap.

His face denoted neither sadness nor joy – it could have been described as being contemplative. There were a few things that stopped me from buying that bear that day.

For one, I was short on money. Not that I couldn’t have charged him – but seeing the price put me off just a little bit.

Perhaps if I would have realized at the time that I had been looking at the price in Canadian Dollars, and that the bear was not as expensive as I thought he was, I might have picked him up.

However, this was during the lunch break of my job and I didn’t want to walk into the office with a teddy bear.

I will admit that the bear had a certain quality which called out to me, in a way, almost asking to be picked up and held.

I didn’t buy the bear on that visit, nor on subsequent visits to that or other Starbucks establishments in Manhattan. Soon I found myself caught up with the excitement of moving down out of New York and then, eventually, back up.

By the time I managed to get through the ordeal of living in Monsey for half of a year I was eager to get back to my favorite city in the world. It was therefore appropriate that a Bearista bear at Starbucks should be amongst the first to welcome me back

Yankees Bear
Truth be told, the Yankees Bear was first spotted even before I was thinking about leaving Monsey,Yankees Bear though he could have been a beacon of light, like a signal, indicating that I was going in the wrong direction in life.

Yankees Bear was perhaps looking at me and thinking, who are you kidding with this wanting to be a Rabbi business? Do you think you’re going to be like your own Rabbi, Rabbi Allen Schwartz of Ohab Zedek? Rabbi Schwartz is perhaps the biggest fan of the Yankees that I know of. He also knows more about the Yankees than anyone I know.

Of course, I don’t know too many people who are knowledgeable about the Yankees so I suppose that might not be all too impressive.

Nevertheless, I was so touched by seeing the Yankees Bear and all that he reminded me of that I had to take him home with me.

I think I bought him after the second or third visit to a Starbucks that is no longer with us but was quite close to 88th Street and Broadway.

I took him home with me that day and was comforted a little bit by his being there.

Though much of being in Monsey was uncomfortable and awkward, and I often felt sad and lonely, completely out of touch with the people that were supposed to be my peers (I suspect that this was a product of the environment) I was at least a little bit happy to have one reminder of the most delightful city I knew of.

As I told my friend Joe, I felt that my real home was in New York, which is why I think I always have felt comfortable while here, much more so than my allegedly native New Jersey. (This is not to say that I am at all not fond of the beautiful Princeton, NJ, where I spend much of my youth. I guess I just have never felt as comfortable in the suburbs as I have amongst the taller, better designed buildings.)

Shortly after coming back to New York, I noticed a new plush animal in Starbucks – but he wasn’t a bear. BarkistaRather, it was an adorable dog in its own little dog house. His name was Barkista, and he too was giving me a certain look that made it seem that he wanted to be adopted.

I think it could be something in the air, or maybe it’s just that particular look on the face that is suggestive of this idea.

I picked him up and looked at him but concluded that I was not going to be buying him. Eventually I bought him as well, but only after he went down in price and was on the Clearance area. I don’t think he’s ever going to know about that little factoid, though. You won’t tell him, will you?

Later on, I happened upon one in a different Starbucks who was even cheaper, and so I picked him up for a good friend of mine, Jessica. She has since fallen completely in love with dear little Barkista dog and begged me to always get them whenever I see a new one in Starbucks. Of course, I agreed cheerfully.

The bear that I saw after the Barkista was slightly problematic to me. I have been avoiding, if you will, anything to do with Halloween since I have been more religiously observant. Not that it’s the worst holiday in the world, by any means, but I suppose that when it comes to dressing up in costume I would rather save it for Purim.

As a side note, one of these years for Purim I would really like to get either a short cut blonde wig or just dye my hair and go as Billy from Ally McBeal, from when he suddenly dyed his hair and behaved strangely. (A nice way to put it, really.) That being said, I missed out on the Halloween Bearista. I was able to get a good connection to get a Bearista that is only available at the first Starbucks, which is at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington. I eventually got a second one for a friend of mine that loves bears.

Pike Place Market Starbucks Bear

I can imagine that you might think it a bit odd that, after just describing my conflict about seeing the Halloween Bearista, I am now starting off a paragraph about a Rudolph Bearista. Rudolph, as in one of the reindeers that carried Santa Claus around the world to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve. Well, there were peculiar circumstances. What happened was that I was supposed to have a coffee date at Starbucks, specifically the one on 93rd and Broadway.

(I can’t count how many times I have met women for dates at that Starbucks – perhaps I should pick somewhere else to go. But it surely beats the one time I had a date at the Starbucks near 72nd Street and Broadway and I admitted that somehow, my fly was down. Shortest date ever.) The person had e-mailed me to apologize that she couldn’t make it due to not feeling well. Interestingly enough, I have not heard from this person since then.

Anyhow, that night I was feeling a bit blue even though being sick is a legitimate reason not to go out on a date. I saw the Bearista dressed up in a Rudolph costume and he had that facial expression that really called out to me. (I think this is because most of the Bearistas are the same bear in different costumes.) He came home with me that night.

A couple of nights ago, interestingly enough, I got the matching sma
ll plush magnet – but you can’t complain when the price is reduced from five dollars to just one dollar.

I saw the newest Bearista on eBay when I was doing research for work. I thought he looked absolutely adorable and that I had to see him. By chance, I happened to walk past a Starbucks establishment with a wonderful young woman that I had just had a delightful evening with. I asked her if we could go inside, and we did. After looking around a little bit I saw him. It was the Bearista Bear wearing a frog suit, a crown, with the words “Kiss Me” on him.

Barnes and Noble Bear and Frog Bear

I picked him up and almost did but resisted the urge… I think. I put him down and we left. As we left, I said, “You know, if at some point later you say to me, ‘I had a lovely time but I don’t think this is going to work out’ I am going to have to come back and get that bear.” She responded, and I think this is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me on a date, “I wouldn’t think any less of you if you bought him now.”

I didn’t buy him then, but I have picked him up since then. Speaking of eBay, I finally got to get that Bearista dressed up for school, as someone was selling him. A good buy, indeed and he joined a bear named Goobie Bear I have had since I was nine years old.

Student Bear and Goobie Bear