Coffee, Quiet, and Cards (ENGL 304 Creative Nonfiction Writing Blog #1: A Scene)

It’s quiet tonight in this little mom and pop-themed coffee shop nestled between Starbucks and a New York-style pizzeria.

The 50s rock music murmurs softly through the speakers in a sort of half-hearted attempt to set the mood for a Friday night, but to no avail. The coffee connoisseur next to me pitter-patters between her iPhone and laptop, while the older woman to my left traces each line of her paperback. An elderly couple on the couch sits closely to each other, yet somehow distanced by their respective reading material. Even the two baristas sense the placidness of the place, alternating from updating their Twitter accounts to spiritedly debating over whose beard is the superior one.

A woman at the counter taps on the glass display, pointing to the cookie she wants. A different barista quickly takes her order, seeming relieved to have something to do other than rearrange the boxed salads for the umpteenth time.

Two decorative street signs painted with the names “Montecito” and “Baldwin” loom overhead. Perhaps they point to better days, when the threat of Ebola didn’t grace the inside of the Los Angeles Times like the one resting on my coffee table.

Underneath the vintage Coca-Cola sign, fresh pots of organic coffee replace the old. Can you really taste the difference between organic and non-organic? I don’t ask. Across the room, I notice a shelf filled with a generous assortment of board games – Scrabble, Stratego, and Sorry! – that have probably gone untouched for awhile. A young girl, possibly in third grade sits at a table with her back to the games, eyes glued to her phone screen.

Another vintage sign reads, “HELP WANTED: Men & Women for Essential War Work – Inquire 41 Goodell St.” A 20-something young man and his girlfriend who have just sauntered in now occupy the table under the sign, setting up a game of Black Jack. A man at the adjacent table smiles occasionally, overhearing the girlfriend playfully argue the rules when it’s evident beginner’s luck will not be making an appearance in this card game.

“Oh fine!” she sighs, relinquishing her cards to her boyfriend. A few more shuffles of the deck, and a rematch is in order. The shop won’t close for another two hours – sufficient time for her to garner a win.

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Another Hiatus(?)

Another Hiatus pic

Four weeks always seemed like a ridiculously long time to break from school for the holidays, but the moment I arrived back for spring term, I didn’t think it was enough. I believe idle hands are indeed the devil’s playthings, but for that time, I kind of liked being under the radar, with few expectations to meet.

This is probably my third blogging “hiatus” (quotation marks because I’ll probably compose blogs to procrastinate) I’ve initiated since starting this whole thing. While talking frantically on the phone with my sister earlier this week, I verbally weighed all the responsibilities I had in front of me for the semester, and which one(s) I might need to consider dropping altogether in order to keep myself from going insane.

Out of the Three Cornerstone S’s of Sanity – School, Social Life, and Sleep – I’ve been told since high school I could only choose two.

What dear sis told me is that during her final semester, one of her psych classes took the backseat when it came down to it. She put more of her energy into her other classes and friendships and didn’t regret it.

I like this idea of not eliminating an important aspect of one’s life entirely because of something as non-trivial as a class. I’ve turned down a lot of “playtime” within the last few years in favor of working ahead on something else. My college experience has been good for the most part, but I often wonder how some of the outcomes might have been different had I put less weight on the “more important” stuff.

In between writing-intensive classes, a directed research opportunity, my Conan internship, my editorial job, tuition and bill payments, the pre-graduation job hunt, my strangely increasing love for anything and everything journalistic-related, and general pretending that I’m cool as a cucumber in the midst of it all, I would like to think that I can learn to be okay if I don’t perform perfectly in all these areas.

In some respects, perhaps I consider these last 14 weeks a final marathon. I’ve run a steady course prior to the break, and slipped off my running shoes and put on some cozy slippers during the last few weeks. I may not always have been the best runner, but I never stopped. And now it’s time to lace up again.

It’s also time to swap the teas for coffee. Time to welcome back the back pains that accompany my having to hunch over a laptop while working on multiple things at once. Time to reset my morning alarm to 6AM instead of the 8AM I enjoyed over break, as to fit in a morning workout before joining the rest of the world’s routine. Time to set aside my book list in favor of a more comprehensive to-do list, and time to go all in for the home stretch. And then finally, FINALLY I can rest easy after graduation.

Just kidding, then I have to be an actual adult.