I have been so preoccupied with making my new space into a home, that I haven’t ventured forth into the neighbourhood to discover new places to hang and write words. My usual default location, the local library, doesn’t exist here. Well, there is a library just around the corner from my new place, but, alas, it is closed for the next two years for renovations. That news made me extremely upset and was a definite big, black mark on my feelings about my new neighbourhood. When I voiced that opinion to a neighbour, he only shrugged and said,”Oh, but the new one will be beautiful.” Like that helps me right now, eh? How do I get through the next two years, I ask you? If I want to use the library as a back-up, I have to get on the subway or a streetcar and travel out of my neighbourhood which defeats the whole idea of just slipping around the corner for a couple of hours to do some writing.
I was just too spoiled in my old, much-more-Yuppie neighbourhood. There I had a multitude of choices — to the north of me, to the south of me to the east and to the west there were cafes. Some were definitely more conducive to blog-writing than others and some I never, ever even went to, but they were there and that was the important thing.
I shouldn’t be so hard on my new neighbourhood. It’s not fair, really. I haven’t spent enough time walking around to really discover it let alone make a fair judgement of its qualities, or lack-thereof. Most of my one month here — yes, it has been a whole month, already — has been spent inside my little space creating home. And home it is. This is all thanks to my friend, Steven, who spent hours and hours creating cozy spaces, hanging pictures, sweet-talking the cats into accepting, yet another, new space for their litter box and organizing closets and cupboards and giving me regular, much-needed hugs, when my sadness overwhelmed all the positives. I love my space now. When I walk in, I am home — and I didn’t have to walk 23 stairs to get to it.
So, today, Sunday afternoon, as I sat in my sweet space trying to write, I knew it was time to venture forth into the neighbourhood and find a place to sit around people. But where? I certainly did not fancy going to the Starbucks around the corner. Starbucks is where you go when there’s absolutely no place else to go or when it’s either too hot or too cold to walk a few blocks further. No, South I went, along one of the ugliest stretches of concrete in the city. But then, as I started to condemn it was as a sign of a terrible neighbourhood, I noticed that someone had tried to soften it by planting marigolds and petunias and jasmine and lettuce and basil in the big cement blocks. A little guerrilla gardening to beautify my walk. Sweet — even though it’s still too much cement.
My destination was a cafe that specialized in creme brûlée. You got to love that. I had read about it before I moved up here and knew it was a sign of good things in my new neighbourhood. I even thought about applying for a job there. I had seen a “Help Wanted” ad for this cafe. I imagined myself working there and meeting lots of neighbourhood folks. But, then, as I read down the list of requirements for the job, I saw: “Must be comfortable around a blow torch.” I didn’t apply.
But it didn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a good home-away-from-home, eh? So I walked in today, and there, right in front of me, was someone I knew. Was it a sign that this was, indeed, to be one of my neighbourhood joints? She, thankfully, was otherwise occupied so I could settle down at a table in the window — views are important — and write. I sat there as a steady stream of people kept coming in and going out — families, singles, blacks, whites, elderly, young — and the nice young guys behind the counter kept those blow torches going. It was good, and will definitely become one of my regulars. Next week, I’ll head further west to see what I find there. Getting to know your neighbourhood one cafe at a time, isn’t so very bad — as long as I don’t eat too many creme brûlées, eh?