Stronger (Stark Ink 4) will be released either late July or the first week in August. I don’t have a firm date yet as it needs to be edited and formatted before release.

On Coffee Shops

Today was another day in my tour of the city to find places to write. I generally don’t venture to coffee shops, primarily because, well, I don’t like coffee. I want to like coffee. Every time I go somewhere where they sell coffee I take a big whiff and think to myself, “Check out all this amazing coffee!” and then I order one and my face contorts in unattractive way. “This coffee tastes like coffee!” I grumble. I do this a few times every year. See Lewis Black and candy corn for reference.

I wandered into the coffee shop near my kid’s school because I was there anyway and the place always looks intriguing when I go by it. Coffee shops make sense in a way. When you think of writers, you often picture a grizzled man in a threadbare shirt sitting the corner working tirelessly despite the noise around him. Or at least I do.

So this is a nice coffee shop, I think, as far as coffee shops go. Or at least as far as my experience with coffee shops go, which is virtually nil.

Most of the culture of coffee confuses me, though.

“Do you want a ceramic cup or a paper cup?”

“Um. Do I want to drink out of a cup that someone else drank out of and that you may not have properly washed considering I don’t even see a sink around here? Is this a trick question? Paper, thanks.” (I am a polite person by nature and the only thing I actually said was, “Paper, thanks.”)

I’ll recycle it. But NO! It’s not recyclable; it’s compostable.

“I’ll compost it,” I say.

“You can’t compost it in a backyard compost.”

“Where, then?”

“A commercial composting site.”


Apparently no one knows for sure.

Strange. But anyway…

The place segregates itself almost naturally. The Macbook Hipsters congregate almost exclusively indoors at the few seating areas available there, as though going outside might cause them to burst into flames. They braver ones will venture out, begrudgingly, if all the indoor seats are taken, but they look angry about it and slightly confused by the bright dot in the sky. I imagine they are all working on their screenplays and they require the ambience of brick walls and threadbare thrift store furniture for insipiration.

The other more mainstream people pick the outdoor seats. They are a range, from people in scrubs to a man playing the violin. They almost all have laptops. I don’t know what they drink, but they do it slowly because they are doing actual work.

One younger male is having a conversation on his cellphone (do people do that anymore?) about his goals of becoming an investment banker. I’d take him for a budding Republican, but his khakis have teal plaid lining on the back pockets and I don’t know what to make of that.

Some Europeans show up and though they were speaking English, I guess they can’t read the signs posted everywhere because all three of them lit up as soon as they sit down. I’m not against smoking, having recently taken up the habit myself actually, but I am a goody two shoes and so had I desired a smoke I would have skulked to the back of the building where the pariahs are supposed to go.

No one said anything to the Europeans, though. Maybe the No Smoking signs are there for irony.

People should smoke in coffee shops. My God man, that’s the WAY IT’S DONE! Do none of you watch movies? They should just give you an ashtray along with your cup. This is destroying my romanticized vision of writing in a coffee shop.

I know there are underground restaurants where four and five star chefs secretly prepare gastronomic feats of wonder for small groups of select people. I wonder if there are underground coffee shops where people smoke Galouises (or Camel Turkish Golds like me) and scribble furiously into tattered notebooks (also like me- not because I shun technology but because this is Dirty Durham** and I don’t want to get jacked for my bag while walking back to my Jeep).

I can replace a notebook easier than a laptop.

Where can I smoke and pretend I like coffee while scribbling in notebooks? Nowhere anymore.

I am a woman out of time. This is the story of my life. See also: Art Deco interior design, Vincent Price movies, travel via ocean liner, and letter writing with fountain pens. All things I love.

I only managed about 250 words today (not including this writing exercise). The place was too fascinating and I also forgot my iPod to help drown out the noise. I think I’ll go back, though, another day this week. I’ll take my secret smokes (another thing my family doesn’t know about) and see if I can strike up interesting conversations with the people hovering next to the compost buckets.

Onward and upward.

** Durham’s slogan actually is “Keep Durham Dirty.” I didn’t make that up. See also: Keep Austin Weird.