a commonplace book
When I’m down, and when I’m up, I go to a cafe. I’ve gone to write, to read, to see friends or to get away from friends, to have strong feelings and to escape strong feelings, to pursue a crush or because of loneliness, because of inertia, because of dependency. I’ve gone because I liked people, or because I was trying very hard to like people. And of course, I’ve gone for coffee itself, but it is interesting how quickly that can drop out of the reckoning. I’ve gone to be in public, and I’ve gone to be alone in public. Cafes have formed a through-line in my life, holding me stable across several coast-to-coast movies, protean writing projects, and different visions of who I wanted to become.
Benjamen Aldes Wurgaft, “Writing in Cafes: A Personal History,” LARB, Sept. 9, 2015
There’s a real mythos surrounding the modern writer and cafes of all types (though especially the coffee shop). Of course, as the essayist goes on to say, cafes are not of themselves primed for good writing spaces (at least in terms of productivity). I can myself attest to this fact. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel the urge to partake of the tradition, to dip my feet into the mystic river of comings and goings that is the coffee shop, with its anonymous people, the regulars with their habitual movements and broadcasts, and the feeling that I–a writer, alone–am caught up in the rush of humanity itself, no longer alone. An illusion, merely. To write is to be alone. Anyone who is a writer knows this. Even if you’re in the midst of friends, as soon as you begin to write, you become a vapor.