Writing in Cafes: Writing Solo

Rhoads_coffeepen_2516Going alone to a cafe to write was huge for me.  I was self-conscious about sitting by myself.  I judged myself harshly:  what was wrong with me that I didn’t have any friends to eat with?  What was I doing alone with my notebook?  Did I think I was a writer?

It took me a while to realize that no one cared.  I could write whatever I liked in public and — unless my face flushed — no one would pay any attention.

The Owl and Monkey was a wonderful funky old place with oak-topped tables and a scuffed hardwood floor.  They served salad in a mixing bowl — unusual back then — and their house poppyseed dressing was luscious.  They had a lovely little garden (also rare in San Francisco in those days), where hummingbirds sometimes visited the fuschias.

I was fascinated by an older guy (probably not much older than I am now) who used to colonize the table in the window at the front of the cafe.  He’d always come in wearing a suitcoat and a white button-down shirt.  I assumed he was a professor grading papers, but then I heard the cafe kids talking one day.  He was Robert Graysmith, author of Zodiac.

I hadn’t read Graysmith’s book yet, but I took pleasure in writing in a place where a “real” writer chose to work.  His presence inspired me.

The cafe rattled every time the N-Judah streetcar rumbled by, but it was a nice walk from my apartment in the Haight.  I continued to write there after I moved out to 23rd Avenue, even though getting to the Inner Sunset turned out to be more of a hike.

I loved the Owl and Monkey, because it was quiet…maybe too quiet.  The owners cashed out and the cafe became Einstein’s, then Cafe Gratitude,  then a number of other things.  Now it’s the Craw Station.  I got excited while researching the cafe, trying to find out when its first iteration closed.  Mytravelguide.com lists a resurrected Owl and Monkey out on Kirkham Street, but when I drove by, it’s only a house.  Wherever the website got their information, it’s wrong.

I’ll always be grateful to the Owl and Monkey Cafe for being a safe place for me to sit alone and write.

About Loren Rhoads

The first book of my science fiction trilogy, The Dangerous Type, came out in July from Night Shade Books. Kill By Numbers comes out September 1. I am also the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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