I’m a girl who needs a dive, a hang-out, a haunt, a place. As long as I’ve been writing, I’ve done my best work tucked away in a funky cafe, scribbling longhand on tables that wobble, with Alternative music floating out of the corners. Menus change, the number of piercings and tattoos on the wait-staff change, the music definitely changes, but there’s always a hidey-hole I can call my own somewhere nearby.
So to be without a home away from home is unthinkable, yet, here I am—dive-less. I admit I’m picky about my spots. They can’t be too expensive or too busy: I need to be able to enjoy the faire without sacrificing heat, shoes or one of the cats, and I must be allowed to linger without the staff snorting steam about turning my table for the next customer. The chairs have to be comfortable if I’m to plant my butt there for hours, so booths or padded seats are a must. Conversation, traffic, innocuous music, and espresso machinery actually add to my experience, but loud and opinionated Bible study groups, toddlers in tantrum mode, football games on TV, and fights in the kitchen don’t (though the kitchen fights can be entertaining). The food and drink need to be edible, if simple—no tepid coffee kept for hours in an airpot, no breakfast burritos with mayonnaise guacamole and frozen centers.
One by one, I’ve eliminated all the writing holes my hometown has to offer. Bad food, too expensive, uncomfortable seats, too busy, weird hours, too loud, too prejudiced, bad service. For awhile I tried to rotate through them, putting up with their deficiencies by preparing for them. I brought my own pillows, found the most isolated tables, dug out my old pocket CD player and earphones, brought my own food or ate before I arrived, altered my schedule—anything to make the experience pleasant enough to get some writing done. But all this just gave me cramps from bending so far over backwards.
A new coffee shop has been under construction for over a year a few blocks from my apartment. Each day I drive by and watch it inch toward completion. Could this be The One? Might my Goldilocks snuggle into this dive and find it just right? Maybe, but I can’t stop searching. Right now, I’m driving a half hour to sit in a near-perfect Panera’s. I worry about spending too much money on gas, but my writing is going so well that I’m determined to make it work. After all, it’s the writing that’s important here, not the quality of the lattes or the freshness of the scones. Well… as long as they have blueberry.