• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You’d Be a Wing In Heaven Blue

Sending huge congratulations to my great friend and mentor Patti Smith on the launch of her new book, M Train. I was on my striped couch when I read the first pages five years ago and knew something extraordinary was happening. There were twenty pages at the time and I’ve had the privilege of a ringside seat to the creation of this masterful work. Hopeful, melancholic, funny, elegiac, canny, frail, sturdy and sublime, M train is a map to an artist’s obsessions and passions including coffee, detective, shows, the graves of iconic poets and writers, the sea, the sky, the pen.

What was or is your favorite cafe to write in?

15 Responses

  1. I have never been a cafe writer.

  2. hob knob cafe in floyds knobs (the ‘s’ on floyds is silent). it’s on the same spot where my dad’s family lived when he was a boy. the building, before it burned down the first time, had two apartments on the 2nd floor. my grandmother & grandfather in one, and my grandmother’s parents across the hall.

    am reading M Train right now – like i just put it down beside me b/c I had to check email one more time before bed b/c i obviously have a problem.

  3. Hungarian Pastry Shop. Now a literary landmark. Coffee’s as bad as it was in 1976. Keith Haring dig a medium size drawing in the bathroom in the early 80s; I knew that in time, with the other graffiti, they’d paint over it, and they did. It never gets precious. Not in the DNA.

  4. About a month ago, at a small cafe in a tiny train station, Swiss Alps just north of Turano, Italy. Sat and wrote while I waited for the train to take me back into Italy. View out my window, a glacier. Never wrote in a (public) cafe before and probably never will again; nothing can top writing at the top of the world.

    Having said that, my favorite (private) cafe, my kitchen table. Coffee is great and never-ending. Atmosphere perfect, music inspirering and the view out my windows woods, lots and lots of blazing colors, life is good.

  5. Café Pamplona.
    A dusty, old, funky café in a basement near Harvard Square. Stringy geraniums barely bloom in the window. No bathroom. A mean grilled cheese sandwich. They say that this is what all of Harvard Square was like in the 60’s. I scribble here… no real writing, but it’s fun to pretend.

  6. I have never written in a cafe, but I’ve thought of it. There’s one here in town, it’s actually a deli, but it has a cafe feel. As my writing life has gone on, I’ve thought of going down there, my knapsack slung over my shoulder. I’d sit in the back where I’d have a view of the door as customers enter. I’d have hot tea. With lemon and sugar.

    I think I could only write there if I wasn’t at some critical point in the WIP. Except. I’m always at a critical point.

    And I’m lazy. What? Make myself presentable to go sit and write when all I have to do here is stay in my pajamas or running clothes with my hair unwashed and crazy looking?

    Also, at this point with so many knowing I write, I would feel pretentious. I still might do it one day. Just to see. Who knows, I might love it.

  7. I learned how to write in the Silk Road Tea House in Chapel Hill, NC. Now defunct. I am still writing, amazingly enough.

  8. Congratulations to Patti Smith!
    I kind of favor The Pallbearer’s Café, more of a state of mind than an actual place, dark and lonely, Flying Dog beer available in the back room, whiskey and vapes allowed, as long as you share….

  9. Good Beans Cafe, Flint, Michigan. Hands down.

  10. The cats and dog would never forgive me if I headed out to a cafe each night after I spent the day at my office. Since I live to serve them, I do most of my writing at home.

    After “Just Kids,” I had exceedingly high expectations for this book. Yet Patti continues to amaze.

    Major bonus: Got to hear her read from the book last week in Ann Arbor (just down the street from that 826 Michigan Workshop). Such a stage presence, even when she’s not singing. Although she did a bit of that, too…

  11. I saw her in Ann Arbor too. Stage presence is not what I would call it. She was so aggressive with the fifteen or so people in line to ask her questions that most of them changed their minds and returned to their seats. I wouldn’t want to be famous–I understand it–but still, be kind to your guests. She says she held her tongue with the woman who stole her seat at the cafe. Why couldn’t she be patient with the full house of fans at the Michigan Theater?

    • There are combinations in life that elude some people. I am always shocked, for example, when I come across a teacher who does not like children. I mean, really??? Celebrity, however, is another thing, altogether. There is no recipe for why someone is hailed as an inspiration and I don’t believe they owe their audience anything other than the work they produce. In no way am I suggesting Ms. Smith is a horrible person but some of my most favorite artists happen to be abominable human beings.

  12. In my garage in western Kentucky, with the overhead door open, looking out into a small neighborhood tucked into a little valley hard by the Cumberland River, and not far from the Tennessee. One road in, one out. An old director’s chair and the laptop on a TV tray. No internet, no television, lousy radio and cell phone reception. Coffee from an old percolator on a hot plate from beans I roasted myself. My old dog wandering around, checking on me now and then.

    I don’t think I write well, but I seem to find my best there, where I wrote my brother’s eulogy.

  13. …and the cover photo isn’t bad either! Who took that, I wonder?

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