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

I am 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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