Friday, February 23, 2018

The Orange Couch

I'm sitting in a cafe in New Orleans called The Orange Couch. It's 8:28 in the morning. I have one of my favorite tables. I'm working hard. I will until I'm too tired.  The coffee machine hisses agreeably, infusing steam into jolts of espresso. The light pours into this small welcoming place. It isn't crowded yet. Many of the people of this neighborhood, called the Marigny, are not early risers. They're nocturnal. They start staggering in around 10am. There are only three of us here now. Other customers, smartly dressed, who have traditional jobs, come in, get their take-out concoctions, and briskly leave.

The cafe opens at seven in the morning. Sometimes, especially in the summer, when the New Orleans heat stalks you like a panther, I'm here just as the two narrow French doors swing open. Then, when I walk in, the place pristine and quiet, I feel like I'm the first one to dive into a David Hockney swimming pool. I have the whole morning ahead of me. The prospect is beautiful. On weekends, there's hardly a space to be found after 11am. The eight small white tables, two 1950s chairs and two couchesyes, one of them is orangeare filled to capacity. There are tables outside as well, six iron ones, and if this weather is good (and sometimes if it isn't), they're full, too. Royal Street passes right by the door. The neighborhood, except when parade season descends, is usually peaceful. Everything you could want.  In the winter, it's warm, comforting inside.

Fred, the owner, is here this morning. I've never seen him in a bad mood. He gives employment to many of those neighborhood artists, musicians and writers. Unlike the French Quarter, there aren't many places in the Marigny where a twenty-something can find steady work in such an agreeable place. There is warmth in his face. I look at him, and I think of Emerson's words, "A cheerful, intelligent face is the end of culture, and success enough." The dark-haired guy behind the bar who serves me my coffee exudes youth and promise. I see myself as a young guy in New York forty years ago. It's familiar. The way it should be. 

It's a place where I feel welcome, where I can stay at my table alone and never feel pressured to finish. I feel good here. I work well here. Finding a good place to work is always a gift, and I'm grateful. The Orange Couch is my Clean, Well-lighted Place. Thanks, Fred, as ever.

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Summer Writing Workshop in Maine

If you've enjoyed some of these posts of mine, and are interested in writing yourself, consider joining me this July in Rockport, Maine for a week-long workshop in crafting memoir.  It's through the admirable Maine Media Workshops.

I taught the workshop last summer, and it was terrific.  It's in a splendid part of the world.  Here, for example, is a photo of Rockport harbor.

Photo by R. Remsen

So, it's a beautiful place to be.  And a great place to seek, and find, inspiration.

Here's a photo of the great students I worked with last July.

Photo by Gussan Jalil (the tall, handsome guy in back)

We worked on many aspects of technique, did a lot of writing and critiquing and even, at one point, had a heated conversation about punctuation.  Now, when that happens, you know you're really in it.

If you're interestedand I hope you arecheck out all the particulars here.  The workshop will take place July 15-21.  You can call the folks at Maine Media toll-free if you have any questions: 877-577-7700.

I'm looking forward to see you in Maine this summer.