Moving from suburbia to the “big city” of Portland was not an easy transition. Not only was I disappointed to be stuck in the same, miserable receptionist genre of work, I was living in a downtown apartment the size of a shoe. Add three cats, four litter boxes, and another human being and the situation sang of disaster. My bedroom was so small that the bed stretched from exactly one wall to the other with no space to move around it. The kitchen had two cabinets, no counters, the smallest refrigerator I had ever seen, and an oven that not even a cookie sheet would fit into. I had so much furniture and so many books that I could only carve out a narrow path from bedroom to kitchen to bathroom. And to top it all off, a week after signing a six month lease, the street directly in front of my apartment was being removed and rebuilt to include a light-rail system. From 7am to 11pm, six days a week, construction crews jack-hammered, destroyed, pounded, and subsequently re-created a street beneath my windows. About four months into the renovation, a street lamp was installed right outside my bedroom. It burned bright all night long.
So, why did I ever agree to live in this apartment? It was three blocks away from my wretched job, which meant I could come home every day for lunch, a necessary retreat from receptionist hell. It was located downtown, within walking distance of all the city had to offer: parks, museums, theaters, Farmer’s Market, shopping, and many, many restaurants. But, the piece de resistance, the coup de grace, the end-all-to-be-all was that my apartment was located over a cozy, writer friendly coffee shop. Aha! The reason I moved to P-town to begin with. I imagined penning a novel or a memoir from one of their brightly covered couches, sipping on Stumptown coffee, and getting fat on Voodoo doughnuts. But, on the first Saturday morning, pen and paper in hand, my writerly-bubble was burst. They were closed. Closed. Closed. Closed on weekends and closed on weeknights. The only time they were open was when I was at work. Sure, I could grab a cup on my way to the job I despised, but I could not sit and I could not write. The closest alternative was a Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop (owned by Starbucks) two blocks away. And that, dear Readers, was not my cup of tea. Seattle’s Best was not my plan. It was not the fulfillment of my writing fantasy. Seattle’s Best was not Portland’s best. It did not have couches with bright covers, it did not have tea bags strung on the wall like prayer flags, it did not have rustic tables or hangings of brightly colored art. And so, months of no writing commenced as I wallowed miserably in the death of my dream.
Oh, writers and their coffee. Writing and coffee shops.
Yes, there were other independently owned cafes and bistros serving up cups of steaming Stumptown, but in case you haven’t heard, it rains a lot in Oregon. And Oregonians, especially Portlanders, do not like to carry umbrellas. Walking fifteen blocks on a rainy Sunday morning through waves of tourists in order to face my life on the page was not high on my list of fun. I let the city, the apartment, the weather . . . okay, really, I let my monkey mind toss me away from writing. And the truth is, I knew it. I could complain and blame all day long, but in my heart, I knew that the only thing keeping me from writing was me. I was scared.