I had found my perch after a lot of rest, after writing the first necessary bit at home, finally having the bravery, as I did in the old days, to go down to Starbucks. I even pulled out my notepad and began to scribble a few lines after reading what I'd written. People walked by along the main avenue, pretty young women, couples, relaxed people off for a Saturday night. And there in that place of anonymity, a relaxed state, I realized the reasoning behind such roosts, a necessary thing for a writer, letting him be social as he is willing to be. People with new faces walk along, you study them quickly and discreetly, and the thoughts come along. And the thought occurred to me, that there needn't be much shame, that in a way I had stood for what I believed in, and done the best I could at it, creating a space, a bar for a writer. It is an effort, a subtle one, creating a literary atmosphere, and it has to be done discreetly too. An openness to the possibility of literary habits, the main chunk of it. An acceptance of the mental habits peculiar to writers. A touch of Rick's Place out of the movie with Humphrey Bogart.
Pubs are literary, I bet, but few establishments here provide anything like that. The only bar that has a distinct literary quality to it, named after Hemingway's stout fishing yacht, is literary in decoration, to some extent, and the literary presence ends there. To a literary eye, a kind of hip uniformity before bright TV screens. When I added up all I had contributed, creating an atmosphere where people were comfortable talking about the juice of life, maybe even occasionally mentioning a book they'd read or an interesting endeavor that had a poetic aspect, I had done as much as anyone in the town to have a literary salon without pretentious intentions. Never a workshop, but a place people were safe to mull over ideas, though of course they veered off into the hardier social aspect, enduring hail fellows well met, but even with these you could get to talk about life, a lobbyist recalling the last time seeing Tommy Boggs at Cafe Milano, things confided in a barman away from the conversations.
All of these were good Saturday thoughts, and I remembered an old idea about doing an old barman in the way the writer of Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson, had come up with that opening, of an old journalist and his friend an old carpenter, and what it was like to be old, creaky, and to have seen a lot. Yes, you could do an old bartender in a similar fashion, as an introduction, and then let the rest come along in bits and pieces maybe, in an ideal world at least.
Maybe there was an element of a poor man's George Plimpton in my endeavors as a bartender, but that wasn't quite it, and I'd gotten stuck long ago.
And then I got a text from my oldest friends in town: "dinner?" I might have looked down at my notebook, taken in my surroundings a moment, my good quiet spot, the writer's social life, all he needs to do his work and then get up satisfied with having achieved some small progress. Well, what can you do, you do need more of a social life than that, and there would be things to talk about. And so I jumped at the chance, not thinking long at all. My friend's, I'm overdue for a good chat with them.
Over dinner there is talk of therapy sessions. My friend relates the years of therapy, her mother's borderline personality disorder, childhood trauma and amygdala hijack. Is that why I freeze, I might wonder as I find myself making my way home after dropping in to a place of a chef I know, something I didn't need to do, another fifty bucks lighter.
I think of Hemingway, that moment in A Moveable Feast when he sees the Parisienne beauty a cafe table away waiting for someone, and how the weather is like the weather he is writing about in a place up in Michigan, and then looking up, after writing, to find the anonymous young woman gone now, but how he owns her as part of a greater experience. It's poetic, with that almost overdone 19th Century touch, as if he were to speak in 'thee and thou's, and with that tone of his, but it does bring the reader something of the nuts and bolts of the writer's way of things, the natural order, as if from the care and maintenance instruction manual.
One knows he's never going to be able to hang out in Paris in the 1920's at The Dingo with the writers, the luminaries, the poets, the ghosts of Victor Hugo and Turgenev and De Maupassant. In way the literary world has been blown into so many shards, pieces of creativity that no personal individual gravity will ever seem the same as those of the era we great heroic status to, Joyce, Eliot, Hemingway, Pound, Picasso, Apollinaire. A pie cut up now... But along with that, a realization that everyone has something to say, an interesting literary thought, talk of a book perhaps, within, waiting for the proper place for it to come out. And so such places, mystical and the real ones of this earth, have, understandably, their draw.
And today, lazy, not wishing to get up early, and pondering what to talk about with my own therapy sessions, a good part of me wishes I had written more, would have waited out for another hour at the Starbuck's patio on a pleasant mid September late summer night, but next time.