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Café, not cubicle!

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
Besides haunting used book stores, cafés are among my favorite places to work. By work I mean write, just like in the old days of Hemingway and Oscar Wilde.

[QUOTE]“The mass believes that it has the right to impose and to give force of law to notions born in the cafe.” - Jose Ortega y Gasset[/QUOTE]

[QUOTE]“In my painting of the 'All -Night Cafe' I've tried to express the idea that the cafe is a place where one can ruin oneself, become crazy and criminal.” - Vincent van Gogh[/QUOTE]

Playwright David Mamet captured something of the obsession in his small book, "Writing in Restaurants.

The photo above is an art installation at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. More importantly, it is next to a cafe at the Museum. Actually, it is in a hallway adjacent to the cafe space, so all I had to do to take the photo was stand up and walk a few paces. The Mass MoCA café is one of my favorite places to hang out. It is nothing fancy, a little bit of an Old World sensation being surrounded by vast walls of brick--it used to be an electronics factory. Also, they have wi-fi, which means I can write and submit articles while having coffee or lunch. With cell phone, digital recorder, camera, and HP iPAQ, I am a mobile news unit, with a footprint that barely fills the space of a small bistro table. It was in that cafe where my profile photo was taken for my column, "On the Marquee".

I mentioned obsessions a minute ago. Another one is collecting notebooks and journals. While those around me are obliviously engrossed in the eerie glow of their notebook computers, and I likewise conduct my work through the tiny screen of a PDA, I prefer the old fashioned paper and pen. My backpack is usually stuffed with various sizes of Moleskine notebooks, and I am forever undecided as to what type of writing should go into which notebook. I also cart around spiral bound notebooks for writing reviews, or town meetings, or novel fragments or more expressionist, creative pieces, short stories and such.

What about pens? I have more than should be legally allowed. Two fountain pens (they seemed like a good idea at the time, and I use them sometimes); a rather deluxe gel pen that I like; an assortment of cheap gel pens that I use often; a set of colored ballpoint pens that are perfect for a rather thick, "bible-sized" journal I write my spiritual and philosophical thoughts in (for diagramming and illustrating the mechanics of spiritual ascent, how to penetrate heaven, and a field and travel guide to the astral plane--you know, that kind of thing).

Yesterday, I had to take a serious look at my backpack and expunge about 10 pounds of notebooks, that I decided no reasonable person would need in the space of an afternoon. As a person who reads a lot, I have recently had to discipline myself that I should do proportionately more writing than reading, otherwise the writing part will not get done. All those books you see at your library or book store, do you think they wrote themselves?

I have a few favorite cafes, and the Mass MoCA café is certainly one of them. It is located cocooned within a huge complex, and for "work" it is really functional. I tend to "work" where I am somewhat anonymous, but not always. The Mocha Maya Cafe and the Coffee Roasters café in the town of Shelburne Falls are two of my favorite cafés, but I am positively not anonymous at either. The upside is that I run into interesting people, and it's a jumping off point for more interpersonal interviews. Mocha Mayas is also a weekend entertainment destination, with frequent second-billing openers who are really good. Not long ago I watched London's The Council at Mocha Maya's. The performers are always accessible, and seem to want my attention, as I often get emails from these small bands letting me know when they are in town and when they are available for interview. Mocha Maya's hosts a whole bunch of special events, community lectures, staged-plays, open mic readings, you name it. Chris and Bruce King are visionaries in the industry.

Coffee Roasters is low profile and basic. Their coffee is some of the best that and indie café can make, and their tables and chairs are no frills but comfortable. They are basically next door to Mocha Maya's, so I have to be careful about forming loyalties.

A few more: The Apollo Grill in the Eastworks complex in Easthampton. The dining area in Thorne's Market, downtown Northampton. Lady Killgrew Café in the Montague Bookmill Complex. Essalon Café on Rte 9 in Hadley. Cup and Saucer on Main St. in North Adams. Outside of the Whole Foods Market in a kind of corporate consumer park (mall) in Hadley. Their wi-fi is free, whereas the wi-fi inside the café at Barnes & Noble at the same mall is $2 an hour. I consider that a money grubbing scam.


  1. 's Avatar
    I've got a few of my own favourite cafes that I like to haunt, you've inspired me to maybe even blog about them
  2. kiz_paws's Avatar
    What you said about notebooks and pens, I really did chuckle at. Though I am certainly not anywhere near the calibre of writer you are, I am a maniac when it comes to buying pens and notebooks, etc. So I was very happy to see that I am not the only one. Yes, I do write using the keyboard, but as you say, the old fashioned way suits just fine. I loved this Blog entry, you make writing sound so delicious, thank you earthboar.
  3. DeathAngel's Avatar
    Starbucts suits me fine,
    screw the fancy wancy stuff.
    nice bloggy,