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Unable to Connect

bad connection

There are few moments that stand out as pivotal when it comes to my developing self. Today I experienced a disconnect clearly, and it was extremely unsettling.

How many special people change?
How many lives are living strange?
Where were you while we were getting high?

My go-to for writing is usually a Starbucks. Not original, I know, but it has worked for me for a long time; the chill music at just the right volume, people sauntering in cooly giving orders for extra-hot-no-whip-soy-double-shot beverages, while trying to look like they’re not checking out who looks more saucv than them while dredging out their phones to connect to the free wifi and talk at a volume just loud enough to feel important, about their co-workers’ annoying habits to their pal with the great hair who just ran through the door, out of breath and ready to talk about just how damn busy their life is.

Slowly walking down the hall
Faster than a cannonball
Where were you while we were getting high?

So, today I walked into the Starbucks in Unionville, which offered all of the above.  A special beverage juste pour moi, and enough noise to give me something to work against.

I wasn’t aware of why, but I felt it. At the the counter, I suddenly felt dumb (as in gobsmacked). The atmosphere around me buzzed with an energy that made me totally uncomfortable.  I fumbled to figure out what I wanted (normally a latte or a tall, full-bodied brew in a grande cup with lots of room for cream, or maybe even an iced chai latte with very light ice and non-fat milk), so I just ordered English breakfast tea, my simple go-to-comfort drink.

I juggled my laptop and milky tea to the middle of the shop and looked for a seat. I chose the one next to the Spanish looking fellow who was plugged into his phone, singing Oasis at the top of his lungs and making everyone else feel more than slightly uncomfortable. It was either him, some guy in a button-down and tie trying to look like he was working, and an  Asian lady looking anxiously at the guy singing, like he might suddenly jump up and mug her right there in the middle of an upper-middle-class afternoon.

The crazy guy seemed like the only reasonable, and sane choice. Everyone else was wearing a mask – you know what I mean, looking but trying not to. Caring what everyone else thinks, but enjoying being on show. They hugged their paper cups like cocktails in a 1940’s thriller. The crazy guy was more my speed.

Someday you will find me
Caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova in the sky
Someday you will find me
Caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova
A champagne supernova in the sky

He turned his head and looked right at me. We were just inches apart. I looked right back and stared into his eyes, “Hello” I said. He turned away  and kept on singing.

Wake up the dawn and ask her why
A dreamer dreams she never dies
Wipe that tear away now from your eye

For some reason I could not connect. My laptop froze in the ether of this moment of self-discovery.  I’d connected at Starbucks a zillion times all over the world without a problem, but today it just wasn’t happening.

Realizing that I was just wasting my time trying to plug in to the rest of the world via my 12″ screen,  I decided to spread out at the bar if front of the floor to ceiling window that lines Main Street.  A plastic-enhanced woman in a white jacket swooned that she could not believe that I was leaving a corner seat as she slid over and let me know that she was expecting an important client (the crazy dude had already left).

Important clients deserve more than in indiscreet conversation in a public, brand-name coffee shop, but for some reason they settle for it. I moved and let her have the corner office.

Having just come back from a vacation where there is an overtly open relationship regarding the energy exchange of buying and selling, engaging or disengaging from those around you, I suddenly realized that this aloof, dare I say, apathetic environment no longer serves me.  It’s just more distilled in places like Starbucks where everyone thinks they’re special because they’re not at the Tim Horton’s Drive Thru.

I wrote, people came and went, and I missed  simple, authentic interaction with other human beings.

This was not the environment I wanted or needed. I packed up my kit, and strode back to my car, hair blowing in the wind, yellow jacket shining against the overcast skies of a colder than usual spring.

Zipping past the boutiques that line this picturesque little part of my community, I noticed another cafe – Chee Organic Cafe, and I made an note to drop in tomorrow. Maybe I can connect there.

How many special people change?
How many lives are living strange?

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When the Community Board is Empty

Most of you know that I have recently moved. I live in a very strange community that has come to make me appreciate the effects of foreign property investment on our ‘communities’.  In effect, all of the empty grand homes in our neighbourhood  are mostly empty, with lights on timers, regular professional landscaping, and someone who clears the local newspaper and flyer delivery from their front porch. There is no neighbourhood here, only bank accounts in the form of houses.

It robs us of community. It robs us of mom and pop shops able to keep their doors open to provide goods and services for the neighbourhood.

Yesterday I popped in to a local  Starbucks for a delightfully refreshing iced drink, and while I was waiting for my sweetie’s pour-over, I turn to the community board as I’m often want to do.

This is what I saw;

A picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing. There is regularly nothing related to community posted on this board. Despite there being a steady stream of people in line to buy their caffeinated bevvies at all hours through the weekdays and on the weekends, there is little if any sense of community.

I’m a writer, and admittedly, I’ve spent way too much time in coffee shops picking away at my keyboard, and I’ve spent way too much money on coffee. I have however honed a keen sense of place while I’m out and about mooching free office space.

I have never (not even once) settled into this location for my hour long writing sessions, arranged for a meeting with friends, or lingered any longer than it takes to make my Sunday-morning-one-bag-in-one-bag-out herbal tea.

This weekend in Toronto while getting settled in to a workshop, I was recommended to a coffee shop just down the street from where we were gathering. And this is what their community board looked like;

 

img_1025
Mallo – Located at 785 Bathurst Street. Worth becoming a regular meet-up spot. Definitely make time to try their absolutely delish menu.

I stopped, took off my coat, enjoyed a cup of tea, and ordered one to go. The staff were so friendly, and vibe was so great, that I came back again after my workshop and tried their menu with a pal who was in the neighbourhood. $70.00 later I felt like I had a new place to add to my favourites. Lesson learned; a sense of community translates to profit.

Earlier this week, I was back in my old stomping grounds at my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga, and their community board looked like this;

community board

 

When your community boards are empty at informal meeting spaces like coffee shops, there is a fundamental problem within the local community. There is a disconnect.  People go out to write, to gather, and to get their over-priced half-caf-low-fat-made-exclusively-for-me beverages because they are craving connection as much as they are craving sugar and caffeine.

When your community board is empty, I challenge you to go out and find one that is overflowing with posters for yoga in the park,  poetry readings, amateur nights at the local coffee house. I guarantee you’ll be a happier, healthier person.

 

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Coffee Shops – Getting Your Money’s Worth

balzac guelphToday I got to visit my Mumster.

Visits with my Mumster usually are bittersweet because it means that I’ve just dropped of my kiddo again. Hey, you win some, you lose some, but I’m grateful for my time with both.

This year I want to experience new places in the cities that I frequent the most.

Increasing  my repertoire of coffee shops is a sure fire way to do just that. It will also lend itself to more visits with friends, and more laid back writing time.

I finally got to Balzac’s in Guelph . I sent the address to Mumster, and she and her manster met me there. As with all new places, finding parking can be an adventure, but today it was a grand adventure.

It was as if I found a whole new nerd world. The best parking was across the road from The Round Table, what appeared to me to be a completely geeked out bar. I have absolutely no clue what any of the board games are that they offer, but it looks so cool that I may recruit a geek friend to take me and train me.

giphy-2

Also, there was the Medieval Gaming Academy. You know, with axe throwing and the like, but aptly named for a university town. I was admiring the confident, postured pace of two gamers (I’m not sure which establishment they were coming from). The two of them moved with the masculine grace of knights, they carried themselves with a kind of ancient chivalry. Any onlooker could assume they were serious about being part of the round table and medieval gaming community. Fine specimens of men they were; fit, firm, with long flowing hair that only the most masculine of men can carry off. It’s the kind of hair that women fantasize about tumbling onto their neck while making love…  That’s as far as the illusion went. It was shattered quickly when they loaded themselves into a brand new grey, four-door Mazda. There endeth my brief infatuation with Mr. Stand-Erect-Long-Haired-Gaming-Geek.

My muster missed this part. She was already on her way home, but I wished we could have shared the moment together. It’s one of those moments you either get one another’s sense of humour or you don’t. It’s these brief moments of connection that make all relationships memorable. The simple ones that happen at coffee shops all over the world.

These are the same moments my son and I share with a quick glance when we know what one another  is thinking before  anyone else could even guess.

These extraordinary moments…all for the price of a coffee and a google map.

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Cafe Culture & Being Anti-Social

“A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month's study of books”
“A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books”
~Chinese Proverb~

Perhaps I shouldn’t say ‘anti-social’. Perhaps I should say…ok, let’s just go with anti-social.

I like to strike out daily as a little bit of fabulous, a little bit of intriguing intellectual, and a little bit curious cutie. I also like to think that I’m successful at some of these things.

None of these little quirks is an invitation to interruption, small talk, or other people who don’t have enough confidence to entertain themselves for the duration of a cup of coffee.

Today, I ventured into a coffee shop that, on a scale of one to ten, ranks at about an 8. That’s pretty good since I’ve yet to experience a 10. Even my favourite haunt in the city only ranks at 7. 7.5 on a good day when the nose-picking newspaper bin diver is absent.

With a seasonal menu that offered both pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin spice tea and apple pie tea latte as well as the standard Americano and espresso, I was overjoyed to find a table to myself.

The establishment, ‘The Socialist Pig’ is adjacent to a restaurant boasting simple yet gourmand fair. I opted for an apple pie tea latte and a glazed/fried tofu burger with spicy condiment, homemade roll, and grated carrots with a side of over-dressed salad.

Despite being rudely interrupted by an over-dressed housewife who could not entertain herself while her twin companion excused herself to the ‘powder room’, I had a lovely time.

This woman interrupted me mid-bite, pointing, with her bony finger within inches of my meal, “Do you mind me asking what it is you’re eating?”

I hope my eyes said it all, ” Yes. Yes I do you annoying social skin tag.”

Instead, I answered, “Tofu.” After all, she only had to look at a menu to deduce what it was that I’d filled my mouth with just as she felt the uncomfortable feeling of being alone. Poor darling.

She looked, and sounded like a previous colleague of mine who likely wouldn’t have touched a place like The Socialist Pig with a ‘barge-pole’. If only because the last known barge-pole was hung in the Antiquated and Annoying Sayings Hall of Fame three-freaking-centuries ago.

Mrs. Uncomfortable-in-her-own-skin then proceededto ask in her too-loud voice about where ‘you get your delicious coffee. “Concord,” was the answer. Mrs. Uncomfortable’s response made me choke on my pretentious, but oh-so-freaking-delicious burger-sandwich; “Oh, so it’s locally grown.”

Are you serious?! Yes, I imagine you glorious twit, that the coffee beans were grown right in the middle of corn, beans and squash on the local reserve. Sweet love of Jesus, where do these people come from?

After a very long stretch of days on end working a job that I really do love, I crave the company of one of two types of people; the introvert, or the intellectual of carefully chosen vocabulary. Today I shared the company of neither, which is a lovey third option, minus the universal hiccup of she-who-thinks coffee grows in the Eastern Ontario wild.

If you ever have the good fortune to travel to Gananoque, I do suggest a visit to The Socialist PIg. Try the coffee, try the tea, but if you see a woman with dark-rimmed glasses sipping her tea quietly while reading the Globe and Mail, keep your socially-anxiety-provoked-silly questions to yourself. Unless….

You’re a single male between the ages of whatever and whatever with something interesting to talk about, and a sailboat moored at the end of the street on the St. Lawrence.

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Dear Daniel P., Thanks for Not Being a Doofus

” A cup of coffee commits one to forty years of friendship”
~ Turkish Proverb ~

Dear Daniel P.,

I hope this message finds you well and happy. How are you? Did you ever get back on your feet after you decided to quit your job and follow your dream? I hope so.

Daniel, I’ve thought of you often and wanted to apologize for not getting back to that very sweet email  you sent me months and months ago.  The night that we met in my favourite coffee shop, you were a light in the darkness. I remember that night quite well.

I had run in from the rain, happy to be inside, and out of the winter chill.  It was very unusual for me to be heading out to my favourite coffee shop on a weeknight. Usually I only go on the weekend. But I was unsettled that night, and hoped that getting out would give me a new perspective.  After I walked through the double set of glass doors, I would have brushed the hair away from  my face, wiped my feet on the black rug  and noticed that one of my favourite leather armchairs was available. Given that I had a comfortable place to sit, I ordered my hot, yummy, chai tea latte.

I wasn’t in the mood to either read or write, but had a notebook, pen and novel with me just in case. After all, what kind of weirdo just sits in public staring off into space? One must have props to look purposeful and one must look purposeful so as not to appear insane.  

I sat across from you. There was nothing special about you, or anything that attracted me to you in an ooh-baby-gotta-have-you-way. You were just sitting there reading something on your Kobo, and I was just sitting there staring into space. I remember you had dark hair, and I think you might have had a beard. You had soft features and looked young for your age. You were a cute little woojums.

Although I could say that I just needed to get out, the real reason that I was out during that blustery night was that I was sad. I was beginning to give up hope that there was anyone (more specifically, a man) out there who was capable of a pleasant conversation. I was in a relationship feeling berated, belittled, and criticized to the point of strangling my faith in, well, good faith.

I needed some fresh air, somewhere to think that I could be away from my phone, the side of the bed that he slept on, and the passive aggressive ego that was smothering me. I was claustrophobic even in my own home, always walking on eggshells waiting for the next emotional knife to be slowly and smoothly slid into my gut. He didn’t live with me, but I had opened all of my windows trying to clear out the bad energy that he left in his wake.

What better place to go when you’re sad than a warm, brightly lit cafe that served comforting milky drinks,and was surrounded by books, and smiling faces?

Somehow you and I got to talking. I think you asked me if I was a writer, and then you showed me your Kobo (that’s the equivalent of a Kindle in the U.S.A. for my American friends). I had been thinking about buying one, but wasn’t so sure. You told me about how you’d lost your job or quit, (I can’t quite remember the details), and how you were going  to bite the bullet and do what you loved. It wasn’t easy you said, it came at a price, but you were happy. Happy? Wow. Imagine that. A man who was happy. We talked about our career paths and how things just somehow turn out. We talked about books, writing, drawing…that’s it! You had a sketch pad and I had a notepad, and that’s how our conversation started.

Anyway Daniel P. That night, driving home, I felt happy too. I wasn’t happy because I had some Nicholas Sparks romance moment. I was happy because our polite conversation blew some breath onto the little spark of faith that had almost burnt out completely. You had restored my faith in nice, polite, intelligent and well-balanced men. That’s way better than finding you irresistibly sexy by the way. Irresistably sexy only lasts as long as a whiskey sour or two.

So, even though you were very sweet and found me on the giant interweb and emailed me an invitation to coffee, I did not respond. You see, I was, for some stupid reason still trying to make my terribly dysfunctional relationship work. I wouldn’t have felt right lying to him or leading you on. I just want to leave you perfect as you were; a very nice man I had a very civilized conversation with.  That night, you were a gift that reminded me not to settle.

Daniel P., thank you for not being a doofus.

Sincerely,

The Chick with the Moleskine