Ode to Coffee Shops & the Patrons Who Make Them Delightful

IMG_1632As I walk, drag, over the threshold to my favorite spot- a local coffee shop, I am immediately greeted by the familiar smells, dim lighting, and same pretty hellos from the early shift.

I play the game of guess my order, all the while I see K’s already making it, as usual. I consider changing my order up on her, sporadically, but something always keeps me from doing so. Right size. Correct product. I am happy.

We chat for a bit, catching up on each other’s kids, homelife, etc… As K places the cup of frothy perfection in my reach, both girls glare at another patron sitting in what has become known- by us three anyways- as ‘my spot’. I shrug to let them know I’m fine with it, but I find myself impressed by their performance of jilted baristas that I can’t help but toss in another dollar in the ol’tip jar.

I am never upset when I see ‘my spot’ taken, because it’s only out of habit that it even became so. I need a place to sit. That spot is usually available. So I sit. It isn’t aesthetically more appealing than any of the other seven spots in the small space. It’s just a familiar place my body habitually gravitates to. I smile anyways at their crinkled foreheads and pouty lips, appreciating their efforts in displaying faux aggravation on my behalf.

I choose the table next to the fireplace. It truly doesn’t matter where I sit, in the dark space in the back, or the well-lit space up front where collected light pools in through the tinted glass, He will find me. He, being Mr. Palmer. I peek over the height of my computer to find old bones covered by slack skin and faded clothes ambling through the glass door and veering my way. He’s donning the same worn bomber jacket- too large for this Mr. Palmer, but perhaps fitted comfortably on a much younger version of him. His tidy silver strands reach from beneath a black and gold Veterans cap. He’s exceedingly proud of this hat. He tells me every time I see him by ways of pointing out certain medals and pins clasped on the bill and sides of it.

The clear tubes of his hearing aids catch the light of the morning sun, and I’m reminded that I need to pocket my usual mousy voice and prepare to talk at an uncomfortable, for me, volume.

He smiles at me, then the girls behind the counter. “The usual, ladies,” he calls from my table, tugging the chair adjacent mine.

“Hi, Mr. Palmer,” I say, lowering my screen to give him my full attention.

“Bob,” he reminds me, again. I smile and nod. I’ll require a few more reminders. “So, what’ya study in college again? What was it…anthro-and-what-or-another?”

My smile widens. “Anthropology. Useless,” I answer, knowing exactly where this conversation will lead.

Mr. Palmer, I have decided, has two stories, two particular moments, he finds exceptionally prideful. My eyes swivel up to his cap where the white shuttle pin is placed crookedly between the letters T and E. A story is tethered to this pin about a friend of his, whom he looked as more of a son, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1966, who then became a pilot, went to fight in Vietnam, then worked for NASA and flew up to space twice before losing his battle to cancer. Lacey is buried here at the Academy and Mr. Palmer makes certain he visits the grave once a month.

This story, no matter how many times I’ve heard it, coming from Mr. Palmer who swallows down the tears during sharing time, makes me reach for my cup of coffee and sip at it to avoid crying myself.

But today he asked about anthropology, so it would be the day he shares his great, three times over, grandfather Palmer’s story. He worked for President Polk, organizing relief camps for neglected native americans in Oregon. “Now you’ll find this interesting, since you like old things, young lady.” I swig another sip of coffee, grinning all-the-while. “He would ride for days, sometimes weeks, in a covered wagon pulled by thirsty horses. The threat of arrows to the chest became a daily fear. No air conditioning or limos, like these weak fellas nowadays require. Ah, the Palmers are tough sons of bitches.” He considers me for a moment, waiting for my reaction. I just smile and nod. Once he realizes that I’m not going to blush or faint over his choice of words, he continues, “I named my first son after him, you know?” I did know.

One of the girls placed his cup of coffee on the table in front of mine, where he rested his cane against a chair. His spring green plate, he brings from home- which I kinda love- is filled with his microwaved blueberry muffin. I can see the steam rise from the top. His pale eyes brighten.

“Alright, I’ll let you get back to whatever it is you’re doin’, young lady.” I continue to smile at him. I find that my cheeks are beginning to ache from holding the same smile. He stands up, turns to his table then turns back to me. “You know, you have the prettiest brown eyes.” He leaves it at that.

My smile widens even more, not because my eyes are blue, or that he openly scratches his backside as he makes his way to his steaming muffin, but because I realize I have grown to care for this coffee shop and its Regulars. I find that I grow anxious when I don’t see Mr. Palmer and his green plate. I worry about him. I find that when I do see him a relief settles over my shoulders. And a weight, I didn’t realize was there before, lifts. I realize that it doesn’t matter where I sit, all these tables under this tall, exposed ceiling creates this cozy home-like feel for me. The pretty faces of the two saints- who do have brown eyes- know what I’m going to order before I verbally confirm it, and play annoying on my behalf so well…they do it all for ME.

My blue eyes drop to the glow of my computer screen, I take another sip of my coffee, I smile over at my Veteran, and then over at the smiley baristas, and all I can think about is how grateful I am for…this.

Happy Friday!

xxx

~M

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Commitment is the Cure–From “Aspiring” Writer to Professional Author

Great support and advice, as always. Thanks. Reblogged @ mistytucker.wordpress.com

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson. Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson.

It’s been amazing and terrifying to watch the changes in our industry just over the past six years. For generations, there was only a handful of items a writer needed to do. Write a book. Query. Get an agent. Land a deal. Hopefully continue writing more books. Though this was far simpler, there was a horrific failure rate and most writers never saw their works in print.

In The Digital Age, we live in an exciting time. E-books have offered new life to many works that were simply a bad investment in the paper-based world (novellas, epic fantasy, poetry). Yet, with new opportunity comes new responsibilities.

We must understand the business side of our business. And, as someone who teaches at many conferences, I know that until recently it has been rare to find an in-person conference that offers training outside…

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Finding My Natural Writing Voice

voiceRecently, I asked a fellow writer, Rebecca Taylor- author of Ascendant, to view the first two chapters of my *most recent* manuscript. I was nervous- nail bitingly so. Sure I have my husband and a few fail safe friends I ask to read over my work- requiring only that they sugar my ear with the sweet, sweet melodies of praise– But, when asking someone who’s in the “biz” to look it over…well, bizarre, hazardous, things seem to develop: My eyes see only the soft glow of my mac, phone, and ipod. My ears hear only the dreaded silence and ping from said devices. My hair thins- I swear that strand of 9.3 golden blonde on my shoulder tripled in collection within seconds! And, lastly, I can’t sit. I feel like an angst little boy sitting next to the swankiest girl in school- my limbs jerk about, I can’t stop rubbing my face, hair, or ears…My god, my eyes are even in on it as they twitch and tear. Needless to say, the waiting to hear back is insufferable.

It’s the ping sounding from my mac that saves me. Always. Cures me of these most unpleasant ailments.

With that said, sending my work to Becky was probably the most wonderful thing I could have done for ME- as a writer. She was professional. She was kind. She was honest. And most importantly, she CRITIQUED! That alone, to receive sound, professional advice, was…a most savory deliverance. She wasn’t the first author I’ve sent my work to for review- BTW, the twitching while waiting for response doesn’t calm. Just thought you should know. But, she was the first to help me find my natural writing voice. Which I personally feel is important to know, because even though you may love to read Steampunk, Romance, or YA Supernatural it doesn’t necessarily mean you should write said genres.

I’m determined to write YA- someday, but thanks to this wonderful lady my eyes are finally open and I’m able to see that though I may love to read YA- for now– my voice is Adult Historical fiction. Which explains all the giddiness I feel  when it comes to researching places, clothes, and language of a particular era.

L-O-V-E it! Don’t judge.

I’m not saying you should go run off to the nearest fellow daydreamer- er, writer–  and trust that he/she is going to help you find your voice. I trusted this person. Becky’s educated. She’s a trained psychologist- which, I’m sure plays an important role here- surely. She’s clever. She has that special *zing* that most of us wish we had. She works in a publishing house where she reads- I should assume- a mound of ms’s a day. What I’m trying to get through to you is- Rebecca Taylor knows her stuff.

If you are not so fortunate to have a Becky critique your work and aid in finding your natural writing voice, join a critique group! Most cities & towns have them. If not, start one up! I guarantee you’re not alone. Unless, of course, an apocalyptic nightmare has taken hold of your small, rural existence, targeting writers…and YOU ARE, in fact, the last lone wolf. If that’s the case…I want in!

Yours,

~M

You can find more on Rebecca Taylor, and her debut novel Ascendant at http://rebeccataylorbooks.blogspot.com, http://wattpad.com/RebeccaTaylorED & via Twitter: RebeccaTaylorED