I’ve got a secret to confess. On the weekends I’ll watch hours of The Cooking Channel, comforted by those who I call The Romantics. These are a series of shows where you watch artisans at work — bakers kneading dough and filling it with strawberries and balsamic vinegar, home cooks dicing up rhubarb and serving it in a tender, crumbling coffee cake. And there’s always the requisite patron sipping coffee, a newspaper splayed across a wooden table. Flakes of almond croissant caught in one’s hair. They spend lazy Saturdays in a local coffee shop while I try to navigate the cleaners, the gym, the post office, the market, and the one million errands I’ve compressed into a few short hours because come Sunday it’s back to work all over again.
There was a time when I was part of this leisurely lot — a whole year I spent trying to find what was next. Wholly uninspired, burnt out by the publishing industry, and a career spent bumping from one digital marketing job to another, I hadn’t found a place I could call home, albeit for a little while. I knew that this time was a tremendous luxury, a gift I gave to myself — in part due to an advance I’d received due to some film interest for my memoir (remember that thing? AGES ago, it seems) — but I knew that this gift of time was one I would likely not see again.
That year was a strange, wonderful, quiet, tumultuous, awakening.
Back then I remembered an evening I’d spent partying in a bar downtown and how I slept through my stop on the Long Island Rail Road. In the dark recesses of night, I found myself in a sleepy town, groggy, wallet gone. I raced out of the train and into a taxi, and after an hour of winding roads I woke my dad and begged him for cash for the cab. The next day I woke, hungover, having to negotiate a temporary card because I was due to fly out to Aruba that evening. I remember my father shaking his head, sad, and said the car smelled of drink, you and your damn wine lips, and when would I ever get my life together? Dial down the drama? Stop being a hot, organized, highly-functioning mess?
Sometimes I was frightened of all the nights I couldn’t remember. There were evenings in Prague, gone. Time lost. Blacked out. Erased. Locked in a box.
During the year I took off I recalled too many of this scenes, which made me wince, but also made me proud of the person I had become, and although I was sober I still found myself asking what’s next? I was that girl in the coffee shop, back in a c-curve over a laptop, hatching plans.
Today, looking back on all of this, I’m grateful for that year and all of the anxiety and gifts (and credit card debt) it brought me. Although I adore my job, yet know it won’t be the career I’ll have for the remainder of my days, I’ve decided to focus on RIGHT NOW rather than what’s NEXT.
And today that meant a newspaper and artisanal coffee at Toby’s Estate Coffee in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I don’t normally go to Williamsburg, as it takes a YEAR and a trip back to Manhattan to get home again, but my curiosity for the killer eats and serious coffee sent me running for the L train. My foodie bud, @mike_white, directed me toward this fantastic Aussie café and roastery. Toby’s is home to the city’s first pressure-controlling Strada machine by La Mazorca, which churns out rich, enveloping espresso. What I love about this open, airy, curious space is the open bar where you can see your Brazilian or Ethiopian coffee being freshly brewed, drip by drip. After getting my coffee, some Australian sponge cake (think a chocolate exterior covered with coconut with a fruit filling on the inside) and a freshly baked almond croissant, I decamped on a long wooden bench, sharing my lunch and newspaper with the other patrons practicing leisure.
Who cared that I needed to pack for a flight to Dallas? Who cared that I needed to shop for the week? All that mattered was the here and the now and a cover story on Fiona Apple.
Even if your life is frenetic (and I know frenzy all too well), I invite you to be one of The Romantics, even if it’s for an hour in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.