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Coffee House Rules

For just the price of a cafe latte I can travel my mind, watch the world go by and ensure I keep on track in life

By Joe McAvoyPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Coffee House Rules
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

"The people that I liked and had not met went to the big cafes because they were lost in them and no one noticed them and they could be alone in them and be together." - Ernest Hemingway

There's nothing better than sitting in a cafe. Hold on that one sentence.

Alone, yet together. Lost, yet found.

I have long been a fan of slipping into that otherworldly place. I can read. I can write. I can draw. I can be me. Even when I was a student, I'd use what little cash I had to buy a brown brew at the local cafe and enjoy the scenes unfolding in front of me. Then, as now, the cafe latte was an admission fee for something I couldn't quite get elsewhere.

When I moved to a new country I would go to the local cafe to immerse myself in the language and customs of my new environment. Those visits became a way for me to check in on my progress and to get some sanctuary from the pressures of trying to settle in a foreign country. I knew that I was doing right when I mastered ordering my drink without having to use English.

When I wrote my first TV script I did it in a cafe, settling into a morning routine of coffee and revisions. I'd sit there writing while watching the local workers drift in and out in search of a caffeine fix. Only very occasionally did one of them notice me, I was a glorious ghost in that cafe. I look back on that time with great fondness, like it was carved out of a block of time which has subsequently disappeared for ever.

By Do Nhu on Unsplash

In cafes, I can see versions of me that I no longer am or will eventually become. The thrifty student, eking out his coffee while trying to finish an essay. The backpacker drying his belongings on the back of the chair. The young couple arguing over something probably not too important. The elderly couple trying to appease their grandson with cheesecake. The old guy reading the newspaper who hasn't even bothered to buy a coffee, he's just squatting there. And, me - taking it all in.

Coffee houses are much better than bars. For one thing, the conversation is more lucid. People in bars drink, for the most part, to forget or numb the senses. Alcohol, as F. Scott Fitzgerald might say, gives us rose-colored spectacles. But coffee offers a vision of a different kind. It makes us question things and ask: "Am I happy?"

I've been spending more and more time in cafes recently. Trying to get perspective and clarity. I've read a lot of self-help books that talk about the benefits of writing "Morning Pages", where you drag yourself out of bed and spew out your thoughts and feeling onto the page then forget about the and go about your normal day. It's supposed to clear your thoughts of negativity and self-doubt.

I've never found much traction with morning pages. Instead, I write my "Meltdown Memoirs", which are rambling narratives about the frustrations of life and family and the insouciance of my dreams. And I can only do this writing when I am in a cafe. It's a delectable moment but also a harbinger of something darker brewing. I know what that is: the need to yet again change something in my life that is not quite working out for me.

For Steve Jobs it was looking in the mirror. For me it is looking into a cup of coffee. It is then I ask: "Am I on the right path?"

And the answer never fails.

self help

About the Creator

Joe McAvoy

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