Something I did in October when I was in Vancouver was to tell everyone I know that I’d be at Caffe Calabria in the mornings, writing if I had the place to myself, and socializing if anyone cared to show. I met Barb there. Badger came, as did Emily from our old condo. I figured I’d see some of the cafe regulars, but it turned out there are a shocking number of them: I saw both Toms, for example, the alternate-energy physicist and the religious studies professor. An aspiring YA author, Jenny, was there both mornings. I caught Adita and Harry, the snowbirds whose daughter is a poet, on their last day in Canada. Oscar was there (what I know about Oscar is TMI for the Internet), and Yespat the engineer. I even exchanged friendly hellos with a trio of people I think of (not that this reflects well on me, but their voices carry and all they do is bitch bitch bitch some more) as the Friday Snark Club.
The sheer number of people I had a “Hey, how are ya?” relationship with and the delight that came with seeing them made me realize how many connections I’d built up just by going to work at dawn in the same place, 6-7 days a week, 2 hours a day. It drove home that I hadn’t even begun to do that particular kind of in-community root-growing here.
This lack of effort was no accident–in fact, I had it scheduled for November. I didn’t put much effort into a cafe hunt in May when we first moved to our new building. I knew there’d be guests coming and then travel and more guests and more travel, and the publicity push for Child of a Hidden Sea and then the film festival and more travel atop that. It was a thoroughly awesome summer and autumn, but I wasn’t keeping to the sort of schedule that makes it possible for me to settle into a routine.
Of course it was impossible I’d score another place quite as perfect as Calabria. It was 300 meters from my door, it opened at six in the morning, and Frank Murdocco’s eclectic curation of 20th century music is uniquely delightful, irreplaceable.
But! Now that October and all those trips are in the rearview, I’ve been going to a recently opened cafe called Portland Variety. The coffee is excellent, the atmosphere is right, the staff is lovely, tables are plentiful and the music leans to jazz (which is easier to tune out than pop, satellite radio’s litest hits or the go-to choice at Jimmy’s Cafe, the Doors.) I’m comfortable working here for hours on end, and there are starting to be other morning regulars. It’s not obscenely close to home, but the route back to the condo leads past the grocery, and that’s a significant plus.
It’s promising, in other words. I have high hopes that at last I’ve found this particular piece of my workaday puzzle.
When we moved to Toronto I got more diligent about checking in using Yelp, using the app to track the various cafes and restaurants Kelly and I have been trying out. It’s less true now than it was, but in our first few weeks here I was often sitting in a perfectly nice joint with no real clue as to where I was.
photo by Kelly Robson
And then, when I would get the I wanna go back to that place, where was that place? itch, I didn’t have to try to remember its address–which would be impossible. Or even its name–honestly, that’d be pretty unlikely. The incomparable Sense Appeal was, until I looked it up, “that place with the black and white bags that I posted on Instagram.” But I didn’t have to know! I just scrolled through my check-ins until the answer turned up, in red and white, complete with map. Turns out it was less than a kilometer from the house.
I am apparently the only Yelper currently active in the West Queen West area, though. Eight weeks of trying to track my own movements has netted me a handful of Dukedoms, on just about every place I’ve been more than twice. True, I’d been auditioning a lot of coffee houses, looking for the all important remote work site, but still!
Speaking of apps, the one that counts the number of days I’ve been here would also like you all to know it’s 160 days until December 25th.
Toronto seems to have more work-at-cafe culture than Vancouver. A lot of places are jammed with computer-using busy people by as early as ten, and there’s a very serious air about it.
Also, they seem to think you should be tall. One of the reason for all the auditioning was I kept finding perfectly nice places whose tabletops were too high for me to either write long hand or safely type.
Seriously! In the end, I had to go to MEC and buy an inflatable camping pillow. Which I now carry in my portable office along with all my other carp! How crazed is that?
My dreamed-of WiFi workathon with view got a bit of a trim this morning: I was going to hop aboard an Amtrack train at the crack of dawn and write about seven billion things by the time I got to Portland. However, the train gods decreed that something was wrong with the track. Amtrak told us mudslides in Everett. CBC says protesters in White Rock. Anyway, they herded us onto buses and cleverly filtered us as we went: the peeps going on from Seattle got an express bus, while the folks going to a zillion points between Vancouver and King Station got a slow boat.
The best part of this development was that I got to Seattle an hour earlier than expected, with plenty of time to go to Zeitgeist Coffee. Kelly and I had been here in 2009 when we went on the Tucker Family Cruise-o-rama and we love love loved it. They have boiled eggs and fruit along with caffeine and bready things and Intrawebs.
The bus was completely full and though the guy next to me was nice enough, and also mostly comatose, he was taking up his entire seat, which meant I didn’t have the extra elbow room I’d have needed to break out the keyboard even if there’d been somewhere to put it. So I spent the first half of trip making myself just a leetle bit carsick by reading a book. It was a good book, and enjoyable enough to justify the nausea.
Oh! And I got a very jolly border guard.
After the coffee I got on the train, had no seatmate, and yay, the WiFi was working. Prose ensued. I got to pause thoughtfully and admire the view several times, and took many questionable pictures of same. I fancy this one is quite arty. I’m probably wrong.
The train got in and I walked to my hotel, which is all of three blocks from Powell’s downtown. After nine continuous hours of sitting, I desperately needed a real walk, so I hoofed off in the direction of the bookstore. What I didn’t know was that the Powell’s is right next to a Doc Marten’s outlet.
Some of you know I’d generally rather have arrows shoved through my cheeks than go into a shoe store, but I’ve been thinking about summer footwear lately. Thinking lots. There’s stuff about my heels, and stuff about my toes, and the general Shoe Law of Me states that all shoes must be good for at least a five kilometer walk, at the end of which they must look presentable enough to pass for girly grownup work shoes. Being shoe picky is fine if you like shopping for the things, but in my case it’s rather ridiculous.
But, having now gotten myself a pair of Docs that’ll do a 10K day and a pair of Fluvogs that’ll go that far, too, I’ve decided I prefer the Docs. So in I went, and what did I find but these?
Pretty, huh? They have the not-open back that my heel needs, and the holes in front that mean stretch–I wanted this so my toes can spread out, ducklike, in the front. And they’re pink! Pink pink Barbie camper pink!
I had other adventures, and much fun just walking around downtown Portland, a city I’m so very fond of visiting, and a pretty decent supper, but I think I’ll shelve those for now. Tomorrow I will have more adventures, with wonderful lovely people, and there will be even more pictures. Some will almost certainly be of Xerxes. How lucky am I?