I'm sitting in Caribou Coffee, listening to a John Mayer song that is playing. I call this particular Caribou "my NC Mirasol's, formerly known as Uncle Jon's." The former UJs was my MA hangout. In fact, I was there so much that one time, when a student was looking for me, a faculty member joked to try there, and sure enough, he found me... (I asked my colleagues to refrain from giving up my oasis in the future...)
I used to take my stacks of student essays, stake out one of the comfy purple-fabric reading chairs, and, w/ vanilla chai latte (iced or warm) and choc chip muffin in tow (I haven't a decent vanilla chai since), would spend hours there, immersed in grading. I somehow could get more done there than my office (still can), despite the background music and chatter and grinding. When I wasn't grading, I was reading Richard Russo's Straight Man and laughing out loud, or entertaining my friends by reciting a David Sedaris essay. UJs was a place to be enjoyed in numbers as much as in solitude. There was even a period of time when I had organized a gathering every other Friday -- we'd have ten-fifteen TAs, adjuncts, and tenured professors from the English department taking over three or four tables w/ raucous laughter.
I had first dates there. I had last dates there. I ran into present and former students there, sometimes awkward, sometimes not. I ran into my ex. The staff knew me, knew my order by heart. I knew all their names as well. I discovered John Mayer at UJs. I wrote most of Faking It there, too. Or, rather, revised much of it there.
One day I spent eight hours there. Eight hours. It started w/ a stack of papers, likely, then turned into one friend after another, walking in, staying at my table for a lengthy visit, and my inability to leave simply because that day it was the only place I belonged. Did I have no life otherwise? Was I pathetic? Perhaps. But I didn't want another life. I loved my habitat.
I don't know what it is about coffeeshops that foster such reading and writing atmospheres, such grounds for inspiration and creativity and community. The kicker is that I don't drink coffee! Never have. And at one time, I hated the smell that lingered on my clothes and in my hair. It takes a special place, a place that has a certain something. Starbucks never had it for me. And not many Caribous have it either. And I've never found an equivalent on Long Island. And, truth be told, even this Caribou doesn't fully hold up to my former place.
If there's anything I miss about MA, though, it's my place, my Mirasol's, formerly my UJs. Right now, I miss it dearly. I'm sure that I'd be writing this post from there right now otherwise. Or working on my manuscript. Or running into old friends and loves. I'd be writing. I'd be reading. I'd be home.