I am a cafe writer. I love my house, really I do, with the large sunny rooms, the refreshing garden and yes, a studio in the back. But there, I am loading or unloading laundry, looking up a quote by Farruhdin, wiping the counters, checking what's on TCM. No matter how I murmur, it's time to work, I start, then stop, then check my email. I have to write, so I leave.
At least 5 days a week, I line up beside Cal students, bible study groups, gamers, on-line shoppers, and other writers in one of the various $4.00 coffee joints in the Oakland/Berkeley area. I am served my soy capp by baristas of all variety: goth girls/boys/girls, russian emigres, Iranian brothers, a sister artist, post modern punk rockers and the post-graduate-not-ready-for-a-job types. I sit alone, I sit with my girlfriend writers, and always position myself away from the hum of frothing and the speakers. My computer case is filled with the important supplies: at least 4 pair of ear phones, water, a small notebook, my cell on silent and a flashdrive which I lost the tip for.
I go to a differently (privately-owned) joint everyday. The one closest to my house has the best food, the weakest coffee and at any time, a series of well-behaved and attractive dogs tied to a series of parking meters. Outlets are limited. I sit with one foot forward in case the guy near the window doing the chemistry homework leaves. This is an editing place--too many people know me, it's close to my job, and the staff is great. No real composing can be done. The wireless is free--and although I limit myself to the first 30 minutes with internet on, the shadows of arrived messages fades in and out of my page.
In Rockridge, the cafe is deadly quiet. No one meets friends there for a coffee date and if they do, they sit up front away from the seriously invovled and studious customers in the back. I don't need the earphones, the music is good, and the chatter almost non existent. Once in a while I say to Grace, it's not a library, as we try a whispered conversation or her baby cries out for mommie attention. Lots of outlets, food is inexpensive and you get what you pay for. Coffee, ah, excellent, served in cups not paper, stirred with spoons, not sticks.
My Piedmont locale offers me a window seat, free wireless (with purchase) excellent coffee. Music is eclectic. It's a park-the-stroller, lock up the bike situation. This is my smallest cafe, but in the window, my boundaries are intact. The earphones are used against the conversations about the nanny and daycare crisis. The border collie from the bike shop visits and hangs out in the doorway, rising and politely making way for customers whom he thinks he's herding to their coffee. Good job! This one has a sister-joint by the Parkway theater, more action, music and hip folks.
In the Elmwood, I hide out in the back, near the atrium. Coffee is good, staff remembers me no matter how long I've been away, asks how the book is going, if they are mentioned. I have to duck out for food, because it's a pastry only menu. Great coffee. You can froth soy. Outlets galore. After writing, I stroll College with bad intentions.
Right now, I'm down town, 3rd and Jackson in Oakland. Scrambled eggs and soy capp in a cup. I've plugged out the 3 women talking about dating and the fuzzy speakers, the frothing of the milk and grinding (fresh!) coffee). The parking is 4 hours friendly, the crowd is mostly out of school and older. The bests salads around--I always get one to go on the way out. Here i hide behind a counter on the leather couch, balance the rickety table with a folded postcard advertising a house for sale. From my station the view of the room is at my disposal, but i move the tall lamp just enough so i am unseen. Perfect.
Obviously free internet, since i'm writing this entry here. Roy Hargrove blowing soft trumpet in my ears and i've found the ideal Saturday morning. A writer's morning, the hazy sky and cooler temps, no temptation to run in the sun, or grab the bike, I'm sipping slow, planning on starting my rewrite of Chapter nine, right after I get a refill and settle back down.
Some times i wonder how i wrote the other books without these cafes, the new writing studios? Maybe life wasn't so big then, didn't have laundry, didn't have TCM, or cared about internet (or blogs), but here I am re-inventing my practices and grateful that i find a rhythm among the masses. Struck only by the irony that I am paying to get my work done.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports