Trying to write at a coffee shop: This nomadic lifestyle of mine is slowly taking a toll on me.
The joint that I’ve chosen is not on the beach, but it carries the name of one. And it comes with a specific array of noises. Noises and egos.
They aren’t corporate egos, thank goodness. They belong to life-long outcasts and beautiful, quirky kids who are stubborn and mad enough — to keep at their stories: At their art.
Like this tatted-up boy right here, with bleached hair: He is smaller than me. He walks in through the glass back door, smiles sheepishly; grabs the handle before the door slams and shuts it, slowly. Quietly. He knows there are others here — stubborn and mad enough to keep at their stories. To keep at their art.
Just look at him! I betcha he’s got a story or two, and he’s most likely figured out his medium by now. So, he’s certainly gotten himself a hefty ego. And that ego nags — until each story is told: on paper or on his skin, or braided in between the strings of his guitar.
The boy leaves. I notice that the bleached hair is actually brushed into a well-sculpted mohawk. He does the handle thing again, looks at me, from the other side of the glass door; smiles sheepishly. Thank goodness — for his specificity!
Shit! I’ve gotta focus. I still haven’t written, this morning.
I walk over to the counter. I can tell by the way one barista is bickering at the other, under her breath, that the two ladies aren’t really getting along. This one: brown, pretty, with striking gray eyes is yanking the handle of the espresso grinder like she means it. I catch myself wondering if her wrist hurts at night, and if that shoulder of hers needs healing. Does it makes her moan, at times, about “her fucking day job”? Does it fuel her stubborn madness — to keep at her stories? To keep at her art?
Just look at her! By the way she arches her eyebrows and tightens her mouth, I know she’s been doing this gig for a while. And she’s really good at it. There is a routine in her movements:
Yank, yank, yank, yank. Swipe across with a single forefinger. Press down the tamper, tap the side with it. Press down again. Brush away the loose grinds. Get ready to brew.
This girl is a virtuoso! She’s found art in the most mundane of occupations.
Okay. Shit. Focus. I still haven’t written, this morning.
The girl taking my order is also the one working the milk steamer. She is a bit bossy. Some may even call her “bitchy”. “Tightly wound”. “With prickly temperament”. (I would know: I get called those things — all the fucking time!) I watch her maneuvering each pot of steaming milk above a paper cup.
She reminds me of a woman conductor who has once taught me music: That older creature of grace was an untypical occurrence, an exception in the world of classical music. This one — must be some sort of an artist as well. And I wonder if she’s got the balls to be a pioneer, in her very specific thing.
“Hey, now!” she says to a young skater boy who struts into the joint, through the glass back door. He has a headful of African curls tamed with a backward turned cap.
The counter girl lights up: She still knows how to adore…
Shit! Focus, focus, focus! Still haven’t written! And it’s already — an after-fuckin’-noon.
I wait for my latte: It’s being made, with such specificity. They never serve watered down coffee here, with an aftertaste of burnt espresso grinds. Timing is very important. So is taking the time.
I pass a row of tables. Each is occupied by a youth at work. The girl at an aluminum table is wearing orange earplugs: This joint comes with a specific array of noises. Noises and egos.
“Yank, yank, yank, yank,” — is coming from behind the bar. “Tap. Pause. Tap.”
And on top of that, there is a hysterical rockstar screaming over the radio speakers. I’ve been in enough of these joints, over the course of my nomadic lifestyle, to have learned good music. This — is not good.
The radio goes silent. I look back: The bossy counter girl is messing with the radio stations. A sweet reggae beat takes over.
The boy in a hoodie, at the table next to mine, starts nodding his messy head. His face is wrinkly with pillow marks, but it’s intense. He is so young, yet already so specific.
Just look at him!
The tatted-up boy with bleached out hair returns to use the bathroom. He does the handle thing.
The bathroom door opens: A youth of about twenty rolls out of it, in a wheel-chair. Damn!
He passes me. His face is kind. He smiles.
The girl with earplugs gets up, packs up quietly. Leaves through the glass back door. Does the handle thing.
A Mexican stunner walks in: Long black hair, butterflies instead of eyelashes. She smiles at me, full heartedly. Does the handle thing.
There is so much beauty in specificity! There is so much beauty in compassion! And it makes it so much easier — to keep at my art.
“Shit! Let me get this for you!” I leap out of my seat, to help a lovely young mother who’s trying to get through the glass back door, with her hands full.
I smile, hold the door; say: “No problem!” And quietly — do the handle thing.