I have never been able to write at home. I can edit at home, but I cannot create. “Writing at home” is code for doing laundry, watering plants, googling my name, grooming my eyebrows, checking email, researching anti-frizz product, eating chocolate, decoupaging planters and petting the dog. Because of my complete lack of at-home-self-discipline I have always written at a Starbucks. This practice started in 1999 when I lived in Seattle, WA, which makes sense given Seattle is the birthplace of hipster beans at hedge-fund prices.
While in Seattle, I lived in the groovy town of Fremont, home to the Fremont Troll and, in celebration of the Summer Solstice, the Bike Naked Parade (a parade in which yes, grown men and women biked naked; let’s just say not everyone should be naked . . . in public . . . with paint on their balls). Near my apartment there was a small, dingy Starbucks with make-up free, funky smelling baristas with a comfy, if-I-sit-on-this-will-I-catch-something arm chair in the front window. Eighty percent of the time, some indefinable creative energy would take over, and I’d write two pages.
In 2001, for a variety of reasons, I moved to the buttoned-up, pod city of Orange County, CA, a place where the type of car you drive influences your child’s college admission and having your breasts redone every ten years is automatically factored into your retirement plan. In Seattle, if people were petitioning, it was to save the whales or hemp forests or VW buses. In OC, it was to end school funding or deport illegal immigrants (except for the ones who picked fruit, cleaned houses, and cared for the progeny of fancy car owners—those ones could stay).
Lucky for me there was a nearby Starbucks complete with a gas fireplace surrounded by four over-sized pleather armchairs. With the flick of a switch, a gentle yellow glow appeared from within the glass enclosure which, if you sat within two inches of it, emitted heat. I loved this Starbucks. It was my creative haven. Writing can be such a lonely endeavor and there, among the many, I didn’t feel alone. I got to experience being with people without having to really be with people (Jeopardy answer: what is an introvert?) Occasionally, I had conversations that went like this:
Guy with British accent: Got your Christmas tree up?
Me: Well, I’m Jewish, so no.
Guy: Ok, but you put up a Christmas tree, don’t you?
And I befriended the dreadlocked barista who, without asking, regularly supplied me with free morning buns until he had to move back to Montana for drug rehab.
February 2013, my Starbucks got a makeover. “Fire”place? Gone. Pleather chairs? Gone. Morning bun? Still there but now with posted nutritional content: 350 calories, 40% of which were fat! Basically they paved paradise with faux-wood plank flooring and made a larger, more efficient coffee bar, a streamlined food heating station, and for those who wanted to pay even more for coffee, they added the—wait for it (because it takes a while)—single-cup Clover Brewing System.
Why Mr. Starbucks, why? Because you’re sick and tired of people paying $2 to sit around all day in your store filching the WiFi and messing up the restrooms?
Mr. Starbucks: Yes.
Hello, Newport Beach Public Library! One year later, it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I am in the library scribbling (I write longhand and yes, I have plumbing). I am surrounded by students, the homeless, movie watchers, book readers, and those catching up on sleep (often one and the same). This library with its recent 17,000 sq.ft. expansion is pretty swank with it’s mod decor, concrete bunny sculptures, and did I mention, café? Yes, café! So eff you Starbucks. Except for my five-day-a-week morning coffee and spinach feta wrap run, who needs you?
Mr. Starbucks: You do.
Me: Right, sorry.
Laurie Frankel’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in North American Review, Shenandoah, The Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Pedestal Magazine. Read her latest book There’s a Pattern Here & It Ain’t Glen Plaid, about which Kirkus Reviews says: “. . . laugh-out-loud funny . . . great practical suggestions . . . A quirky, earnest guide to regaining self-esteem for the modern woman.” Contact her at LauriesLoveLogic.com
Illustrations done by Jeannie Phan, a full-time freelance illustrator who specializes in conceptual editorial work. Originally hailing from the prairies of Canada, she is now based in a studio in Toronto’s West End.