My mom and I had a very close relationship for most of my life. We shared many interests (painting, writing, travel), and it was normal to mark the end of a day with an evening cocktail. Mom liked her one martini, every night at 5 pm, followed by a chaser or two of water in the same glass. It was a ritual she created in the 1960s with my dad: the after-work kitchen cocktail hour while she made dinner and he decompressed from his day in the office.
I became Mom’s stand-in buddy after my dad died. I’d go over to her house after work a couple times a week, and I’d settle in with my whiskey while she had her drink and rustled up something simple (she insisted) for the two of us for dinner. As we ate together and talked, one of us would often have a Profound Insight About Life that the other would agree was simply brilliant. That is, until the next day. Then we’d have a good laugh at ourselves, and realize those insights were merely what came to be known as “Chablis Wisdom”: mild intoxication disguised as deep revelation.
Mom has been gone a while now, and yet I still have those end-of-day moments of clarity now and again. Sometimes in the light of day I see that my pearl of wisdom is merely an unexpected grasp of the obvious. Rather than “Chablis Wisdom”, I have renamed it “Cafe Wisdom”.
My Cafe Writing Habit
Nowadays as a retiree, I run out of energy before I run out of hours, and am left in this odd grassy median between my active daytime productivity and the hunkering down of evening. This strange zone is usually from about 3 until 5 pm. If I have been in my apartment all day (as I was today), either cooking or painting or writing, in mid-afternoon I sense the daylight shifting (almost like hearing quiet minor-key music out of nowhere) and I am pulled to get outside before it is too late. In the depths of winter I can’t walk for long because the air is too cold to breathe or the ice underfoot is too treacherous. That is when I head back indoors to one of the cafes on Main Street, armed with tablet and keyboard.
Cafes in the late afternoon are wonderfully sparse oases; it is long after the lunch rush and a bit before the after-work crowds show up. It is my favorite time to be there. My late-day writing usually starts as a journal entry, chatting to myself about my day. Then all on its own, my thought-camera pans back from the “had lunch” factual diary to a wider, more reflective view of my world. I sense a shift in the wind. I follow my inner Pied Piper to strange and wonderful places, taking notes along the way. Then sometimes when I glance up from the keyboard to the screen, I see a blog post has been written without my even knowing it. I’ve been chatting with the anonymous You, much to my surprise.
Blog posts can be just this simple: a fond chat with a friend or two. No grand scheme, no ax to grind, no lesson to teach, no conclusions. Just checking in with my buddies, even if we haven’t met yet. See you later, at the Cafe.