A Moment of Jen
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
posted by Jen at 2/25/2009 12:03:00 PM

Last week, my neighborhood coffee shop closed.

This is, obviously, a very big deal for the people who lost their jobs. It would be a moderately big deal for me under normal circumstances.

But my circumstances are not normal. The coffee shop was where I worked, five days a week, usually from one in the afternoon until five. I’ve been going there for years. I’d wait until the lunch rush was ending, then take a table by the window, convenient to a power outlet, and plug in my laptop, and sit with my salad, or my gigante cup of lemon tea, and write.

Over the years, I've gotten to know all of the baristas, and most of the homeless people, who I could eventually identify by smell alone. It was my office...my home away from home.

Why not just write at home? Technically, I could – there’s an office here and everything. But the office is where my assistant works. If I don’t go through the physical act of packing my bag, checking for my keys and my wallet and cell phone, and actually walking out the door and going somewhere else, it doesn’t feel like the work day has started.

I come by this honestly: I was a newspaper reporter for the ten years before my first book was published, so I got used to writing out in the open, with a certain amount of noise and bustle and distraction around. I don't mind the music, or other peoples' conversations, or the hiss of steaming milk. And the truth is, if I’m home the kids can smell me. They’ll want my attention, and I’ll feel guilty for not giving it to them, or not cleaning the cupboards or scrubbing the fridge or reading one of those freakin’ Fairy books for the umpteenth time, or whatever else needs to be done.

So when the coffee shop closed, I was sad, but not devastated. I had a back-up plan. The other place I wrote – a gourmet grocery store with a little café off to the side – was still available. True, the light wasn’t as great and the music tended to get a little repetitive, but beggars can’t be chosers, and I figured I'd be fine.

Last Thursday my husband looked up from his laptop. “I have bad news,” he said gravely. He sat me down, took my hands, and told me: the grocery store's closing, too (or, rather, re-inventing itself as a catering-only facility).

So now I’m lost. Displaced. Bereft! A captain without a ship! A rabbi without a shul!

My husband insists that there are many fine coffee shops in our neighborhood. But none of them is right. For example:

PROS: Lots of seating, many power outlets
CONS: Southwest-facing floor-to-ceiling windows create impossible glare situation, rendering space suitable only for cloudy or rainy days

PROS: Nearby
CONS: Tiny tables. No power outlets. Dangerous proximity to baklava.

PROS: Nice room, good light, interesting art on walls
CONS: Too long a walk; hipsters

PROS: Nearby
CONS: Small, dark, has hookah out front (I don’t know what that means, but it doesn’t look very conducive to writing).

There was the place that's always too crowded. The place that's mysteriously empty. And that's not even getting into Coffee Shop with Weird Smell, or I am Not Walking Six Blocks to Sit in the Place that Plays the Beatles Nonstop.

So, for the time being, I am writing…in my closet.

Full disclosure: I have a pretty big closet that has turned into a kind of de facto library/used children's clothing storage facility, because I don’t have that many clothes (but my five-year-old does, and my plan is for the little one to wear all of her hand-me-downs), and I do have lots and lots of books.

The closet came complete with a lighted mirror and a little vanity where I think I'm meant to comb my hair and put on my face cream at night. But now I'm writing here.

So far, so good.

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