Opening Bell

From an article That Jerk? C’est Moi in the Wall Street Journal:

The problem with writing in coffee shops is that everyone hates the kind of people who write in coffee shops—especially the kind of people who write in coffee shops. You see the guy in the corner hunched over his laptop and you think (forgetting, for the moment, that you are also hunched over a laptop): “For chrissake, get an office.” As someone who writes in coffee shops for a living, I have wrestled with this paradox for much of my adult life.

One book of essays on writing (I don’t remember exactly which one –  if you know please comment) said that a sure sign of a failure at writing is someone that writes in coffee shops. He took that as a sign of being non-seriousness, of being a hipster doofus, of being twee. I totally understand where he was coming from, but I think he missed an important distinction. I write in coffee shops not because it is cool but because I go to coffee shops sometimes and I write wherever I go. In other words, I go to coffee shops for coffee… well, not really… the coffee I make at home is better than any coffee shop coffee (Fresh ground beans, French Press in the way to go)… I go to coffee shops to get out of the house and I write there because I am there.

The New York Times, of course, has an non-serious, twee, hipster doofus take on the thing… Destination: LAPTOPISTAN

JUST after 4 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, as a dozen people clicked away on their laptops at the Atlas Café in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, half of a tree broke off without warning less than a block away. It crashed into the middle of Havemeyer Street, crushing a parked car, setting off alarms and blocking the street. A deafening chorus of horns rose outside Atlas’s window as traffic halted. An 18-wheeler executed a sketchy 10-point turn in the middle of a crowded intersection before a pair of fire trucks made their way through the traffic jam in a blaze of red. Chain saws roared, sawdust flew and the horns built to a peak. It was New York urban pandemonium at its finest.

Inside the warm confines of Atlas, separated from the chaos by only a thin wall of glass, not a soul stirred.

There are dangers, of course. From Coffee shops are ruining creative writers

Fiction writers are using coffee shops as settings within their works because they’re writing in coffee shops. And that’s why coffee shops ruin creative writers.

I am guilty of this – at the Pearl Cup one afternoon, I wrote a short story about a guy (not me, a mob hitman) sitting in the Pearl Cup. I thought I had put it up here as a Sunday Snippet… but I can’t find it. There was a robbery and people died. Only once though; I can live with that.

I live in Dallas – purportedly the un-hippest city in the world (no longer true) – but there are a few nice independent coffee places here tucked in between the barbeque, strip joints, and Baptist Churches. There was even a list – Get your morning buzz: The top 10 indie coffeehouses in Dallas.

The list, with my notes, starting with the ones I’ve been to:

The Pearl Cup  Been there many times – attended some author readings there too. It’s a great place, but often too crowded to get a table. I’m excited because they are about to open a branch in my neck of the woods.

White Rock Coffee Been there many times. Cool place not too far from where I live.

A cool piece of wall art at White Rock Coffee

Espumoso Caffe – Been there a few times, really great place.

Through the door of the Espumoso Caffe, Bishop Arts District, Dallas

Oddfellows – Never had the coffee there, but love the place and the food. Wrote about it here.

The bar dining spot at Oddfellows – a wooden bench, metal pipe for a backrest, and a log for a footrest. Our waitress has my wheat beer and Candy’s wine.

These are the places I haven’t been:

Oak Lawn Coffee

Opening Bell

Drip Coffee Company

Cultivar Coffee & Tea Co.

Crooked Tree Coffeehouse

Murray Street Coffee House

Antonio Ramblés listed a few too – Anywhere but Starbucks – but only one The Corner Market wasn’t on the other list. It’s on Greenville and McCommas, where I used to live (a long, long, long time ago), so I’ll add them.

The Corner Market

So now I have a list, and I need to work my way through it. Today, Opening Bell. It’s in the Southside building in the Cedars, an area I have been getting familiar with for no particular useful reason. It’s right across the street from the fabulous NYLO hotel with its SODA bar – one of my favorite spots in the Metroplex. It’s been on my list for a while.

So I took the DART train down to the Cedars Station and tried out Opening Bell.

It’s in the basement of Southside on Lamar – an urban living complex built inside an enormous old brick building that used to house the Sears offices and warehouse. It’s not surprising then that it has a local feel to it – catering especially to the thousands of folks living overhead. A lot of folks wander in sleepily, getting a fill of their personal cup or thermos. It’s full-service, selling food (I had a huge and excellent chicken salad sandwich), beer, and wine in addition to coffee, chai and tea. There is a little stage for their evenings of live music (have to check that out some time). The refurbished warehouse space is adequately funky and cavernous, the voyage to the restrooms an industrial adventure (and I mean that in a good way). The coffee is good, both espresso and brewed (refills on the latter – yay!). The proper urban doofus artwork adorns the old industrial brick (local art, posters for Hendrix and Townes Van Zandt, an old accordion perched above the barista).

I did drink too much coffee. I knew it was bad when the barista asked me what kind of coffee I wanted and I replied, “I don’t care.”

The music they play is excellent (among the Dallas coffee spots second only to Espumoso… so far, and so, so much better than the crap they spew out over the speakers at Starbucks). Wifi is fast and reliable, service is friendly, and customers are interesting.

So no complaints – another great spot to move from the “going to visit” list to he “got to go back to” list.

8 responses to “Opening Bell

  1. Great post. I actually miss writing at a coffee shop sometimes. The change of scenery helped my moods sometimes. I don’t know a lot of coffee shops here in my new town, but also don’t have a lot of money to spare to go to those places. One day, I’ll explore though. One day….

  2. Pingback: Mojo Cat | Bill Chance

    • Opening Bell is a nice indie coffeeshop – but you have to check out the SODA bar on the roof of the NYLO Southside at sunset. IMHO it’s the coolest spot in Dallas right now.

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