Back in December I read Patti Smith’s M Train, a book that starts with (and frequently returns to) Smith’s daily ritual of heading to her local cafe for a coffee, toast, and a period of reflection where she writes in her notebook.
M Train gets sold as a memoir, but that doesn’t feel like an adequate representation of the experience. It’s a book about thinking, much of the time, and there’s an incredible serenity and ritual at work. A place and an action imbued with meaning through repetition. Just Kids is a memoir about Smith’s life up to a certain point. M Train is a memoir about Smith’s interests, thoughts, and habits.
I started going to my local cafe a lot, after reading M Train. Not because of the book, directly, but because I started to pay more attention to the habits in my life that brought me satisfaction. I started meeting a friend there for breakfast once a week. Occasionally I’d duck over ’cause my day needed a better cup of coffee than I’d do myself, and they were reliable on that front.
I liked their food. I liked their music. I liked their politics, which may be a strange thing to appreciate about your local cafe, but mine wears its political allegiance on its sleeve and its advertising, and the owners are frequently funny as hell when they’re expressing their opinions on Australia and its government.
It was a useful place to be, when I could not stand my apartment and the thoughts rattling around my head anymore. And somewhere along the line I became a regular. It’s a place I can go and drink coffee and think. Plan out my day, make notes about future projects. Occasionally sketch out the notes for a blog post, before I head home and fire up a computer and start writing for real.
Increasingly, I hit the point where my visits there are ritual. It’s incredibly comforting, and…well, serene.
In a year where there’s been considerable chaos in my life, it feels like I got this right.