Hello, old friend, it’s been a while.
I have 101 excuses for my two-month+ absence. Some are valid (I started a new job, bought a new house, started a new website), others are not (I’m tired). I’ve missed the creative process of coming up with fun, pop-cultury topics and writing about them, but if I’m being honest, the whole thing has recently felt more like a burden than anything else. But I’m committed to this blog — and the five people who read it — so I’m determined to turn things around.
We moved into our new house in August just after my birthday. Our new house is everything I had hoped for — it’s located in a historic district tucked away just east of busy Central Avenue. Our neighbors are friendly and inviting and we can walk to many different places to eat and shop; it’s the closest we can get to living in San Francisco while still living in Phoenix. But our move came with one huge and unexpected twist: our house was not wired for the internet, and Cox would need to get a permit from the city before they could install a drop in our yard.
What? Not wired for the internet? It’s 2011!
I took the news in stride, choosing to believe Cox would get the job done on the early end of the two-four week time frame they quoted me. In the meantime, I thought, I’ll get to know the local coffee shops with free wifi. That will be a fun, hip thing to do, I thought. I couldn’t have anticipated that my internet would not be connected for more than six weeks and that I would come to think of these coffee shops as my second home. I varied the destination based on the time, day, my levels of hunger and thirst and my wardrobe (more on that later). Here are my thoughts on the four shops at which I spent the most time:
I spent by far the most time at this über-chic bastion of hipsterdom. The shop recently upgraded to much larger digs adjacent to the tiny spot it once inhabited next to Pane Bianco on Central Avenue just south of Campbell. I never went to the old Lux, but it must have been packed to the gills based on how many people set up camp in its vast new building. The decor is worn-out thrift store furniture juxtaposed against modern plexiglass tables and chairs. So, retro modern.
Most days I chose Lux for three reasons: the ample seating, the staff’s indifference toward patrons spending five hours in the same spot after buying little more than a cup of joe and the joe itself, which is served in proper cups with saucers. I hate the distinctly American tradition of pouring every coffee in a to-go cup, so it’s a nice change of pace to get actual china (or ceramics, or whatever the cups are made of). A cup of good house coffee with soy milk costs under $2 — can’t argue with that.
Lux is definitely a scene. You won’t get kicked out if you show up with your Dell laptop, but you might be silently scorned by the legions of Macbook users. I am about 10 years older than most of the patrons, but it doesn’t really matter, as most are glued to their laptop screens. A DJ spins an eclectic mix of ephemeral house and indie music and ’80s new wave standards at a perfect volume. Lux offers a nice but small array of sweets and a selection of food items (quiches and the like at breakfast and a few dinner specials at night). I never had a meal, but I indulged in my fair share of cookies. Delicious. Although the place is always crowded, and the lines can get a little long, I never had trouble finding a comfy chair in a relatively quiet corner. And the 10p.m. close every day makes it the perfect choice for evening marathon work sessions.
Sometimes, though, you just don’t want to go to a coffee “club.” For that reason I ventured to a few other local spots.
If Lux is the coffee shop for hipsters, Lola is the coffee shop for the hipsters’ older siblings. Lola is on the small side, with just one bright room filled with couches, arm chairs and some perimeter bar seating. The music is good and the coffee is tasty, although it runs a touch pricier than at Lux. Lola also serves up a number of pastry options; I indulged in a flaky butter croissant one Sunday morning that did not disappoint.
Spending time at Lola does not take as much effort as at Lux (I saw plenty of PCs there looking perfectly at home). The staff is friendly and I find it hard to believe they would kick someone out for over-staying her welcome, but its limited seating makes it hard to blend in and get too comfortable. I wouldn’t feel right staying there for more than an hour or so on one cup of coffee. That, and the fact that Lola is only open until 7p.m. on weekdays and 2p.m. on Sunday, kept me from spending too much time there. But it’s a great choice for grabbing a quiet cup of coffee on a Sunday morning.
I found out about Copper Star a little late in the game and some Yelp reviewers claimed the wifi was a little spotty, so I only spent one evening here. But if my internet troubles had lasted longer, I likely would have spent a lot more time here. It’s also small, even smaller than Lola, and the seating is all tables and chairs. But it has a casual atmosphere befitting a coffee shop located in an old gas station. I spent a few hours there one evening alongside only a few other patrons, all of whom were studying or working or something. The music was good, but not too loud, and the staff was friendly. The coffee was tasty — the priciest so far (but not by much) — and I also enjoyed a yummy piece of pumpkin (or was it banana?) bread. I had no trouble with the wifi. As I said, when the need or the mood strikes for me to take my work outside of my home, I’ll head back to Copper Star. There was just something about the relaxed vibe that made me feel I could spend a decent amount of time there being ignored (in a good way).
I know, I know. With all the cool, local coffee shops to choose from, why would I go to Starbucks? Two reasons: #1: It is the closest coffee shop to my house, and there were times that proximity was the most important feature; #2 I can go to Starbucks in my “I-hope-I-don’t-see-anybody-I-know” clothes. Laugh if you will, but it’s an important feature at times. So as much as I believe in supporting the local guy over the big bad chains, I do concede that Starbucks omnipresence and convenience serve a purpose. Like now, when I’m writing this while drinking a Starbucks soy latte because the closest local coffee shop to my current location, Fair Trade Cafe, was closed.
So what did I learn from all of this? Not have access to the internet really, really sucks. I realize, now more than ever, that I am 100% addicted to the internet. But it’s comforting to know that I have a number of cool, local coffee shops to choose from when I need to get on the World Wide Web (and get a tasty caffeine kick while I’m at it).