Friday, December 09, 2022

The Nude Cafe

I’m at The Naked Bean this morning, working on my book. If you’ve been around here for a while, you know about the Bean, about how I used to always forget what its actual name was and refer to it as The Nude Cafe instead, which makes it sound like a very different business than it is, and about how I used to come here every single Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM to write. 

Sully was a baby when I started doing this. He was a baby who didn’t sleep unless you were holding him, and he didn’t much like being awake unless you were holding him either. So, like, I got a lot of snuggles in that era, but typing? Words? On a laptop? 


At some point in that hazy season, a friend invited me out for a 6:30 AM coffee date before she went to work one day, and when I got to the coffee shop and saw that it was quiet and dimly lit and, most importantly, that my sweet loud baby was not there, I saw that it could be a good place to clear my head and get some words down. My father-in-law started coming for breakfast on Wednesday mornings; he held Sully and visited with Barclay and I began to faithfully sneak out of my house to write at the Bean. I’d listen to The Zolas in my Skull Candy earbuds and eat my ProBar and drink my small medium roast coffee. There was a couple, who I affectionately referred to as the Loud Talkers, who consistently showed up at the same time as I did and sat at the table directly beside me (somehow I never found them distracting; they were the brand of outrageous that I found to be a constant source of inspiration). I became a Regular, something I had never been before. The barista knew what I was going to order before I ordered it, even though she didn’t know my name. It was all perfect.

I wrote pretty much all of Valencia and Valentine in that season. I remember sitting down on that first morning and opening my laptop, not a baby in sight, and looking out the window in front of me. There was an empty lot across the street, just a plain old square of grass and dirt. It felt significant and magical and meaningful that as I opened the document and began my story, they broke ground across the street and began a building. 

I started writing from scratch, because if you don’t start a book from scratch it’s plagiarism and I don’t do that, and they started building from scratch too, and so it was that I watched my book go up at the same time as the building went up. They put up the framework, I put up the framework. They added bricks, I added adjectives. They put windows in the holes where windows were meant to go and I put plot in the holes where things didn’t add up yet. We put our finishing touches on our respective projects at the same time and my book was published around the time the first few businesses set up shop in that building. 

Cute, right?

And then, because we had such a good thing going, I wrote most of my second book there too. Sully grew up a bit but then Scarlett joined the family and Wednesday mornings at the Bean went from a necessity to a luxury and back to a necessity again. More businesses moved into the building across the street and the coffee shop got busier, but nothing else really changed.

When the pandemic hit and things shut down, the Naked Bean was one of the places I missed the most. I missed the barista who poured the coffee, I missed the Loud Talkers, I missed the building across the street, which now felt weirdly connected to my writing process. It all felt connected to my writing process, actually. And then it was just gone, very suddenly, closed to the public for our own good. I had to write in my bedroom with the door closed, and for some reason the sound of my kids fighting in the kitchen was not conducive to creativity in quite the same way that the Loud Talkers at the next table had always been.

(I remember one day early on in the pandemic, probably April 2020, driving down Albert Street and seeing the Loud Talkers standing at a bus stop. He was wearing that green fleece jacket that had become so familiar to me and her hair was in her usual low ponytail. They were smoking and I felt surprised, because I had never seen them smoke before—and then I was like, Suzy, you don’t know these people from a hole in the ground, you only ever see them in a coffee shop, of course you have never seen them smoke. But it was weird! It was like seeing long-lost relatives and I felt like I should at the very least roll down my window and call out to them (I didn’t). I was like, how and when did THEY become important to me? I would like, please, a scientific study on the invisible ties created between people who are in regular proximity to one another but who never officially meet. I think this would be interesting. But I digress.)

I don’t even know where I was. 

Right: everything shut down. What a strange, surreal thing that was, hey? To just suddenly, on such a grand scale, lose a whole bunch of places and people that you had always thought of as kind of peripheral and realize that, nope, they were important and special. 

But I guess—I guess it’s not so strange. It’s a normal life thing, losing things and then realizing what those things meant to you. It’s such a normal thing that Joni Mitchell wrote a song about it years before COVID was ever a thing. 

I guess the actual strange, surreal thing is that we were lucky enough to get some of those things back. 

I know—not everything came back. Some things aren't back yet, some aren't coming back period. And a lot of the things came back different than they had been before. But I’m revelling, right now, in this one thing. 

I have my small medium roast coffee and my ProBar. I turned on my Spotify Liked playlist and, of all the possible songs to come on first, Ancient Mars by the Zolas was the one that came on first today. Victoria poured my coffee and the only thing that’s different about that is that we know each other’s names now, which is a Better Different. The Loud Talkers aren’t here right now, but there is a different Loud Talker sitting behind me talking about—not lying—butt cheeks, and this is an acceptable substitute for today. (I have seen the Loud Talkers recently, smoking on Albert Street, so I have no doubt I’ll see them another day.)

What’s the point of all this? If you’ve been here long enough to know about the Naked Bean, you know that I never really blog with a point in mind. But if I had to think of one, maybe it would be that if you lost something in the past few years but then you got it back, now might be a good time to notice it and be happy about it. 

That’s all. :)

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