I Heart Queens

I’ve gone back to my legal pads. Writing on it for drafts. My battery power is failing on this fancy MacBook Pro I have from the college, so when I went out to USF, for the Emerging Writers Festival, I thought, go old school, and so it was me, the legal pad and the pen on the airplane. The person next to me can’t read my handwriting like they can my screen, always a downer, and with the new seat sizes, most airplanes are no longer laptop ready. I found that unlike other flights I’d made recently, I wrote the entire time out and back, the 12 total hours of flying. I ignored the bad movies and tv, and talked a little with the guy headed to the Psy-Ops conference next to me, but mostly, I just wrote.

I took it with me when I went to spend the weekend after in my friend Jorge’s apartment in Queens. The idea was that I would use the apartment for writing while he was away and I thought I’d give it a test-drive, starting with last Thursday. But then I got a cold from my allergies, stayed a day longer than I thought, in order to drop in on my doctors, and then drove down to New York Friday instead, to find myself on the pollen-floured streets of Jackson Heights.

When I first arrived in New York after living in San Francisco, my favorite writing times were spent in the kitchen of my Fort Greene apartment, where I’d make this really strong coffee, Cafe Bustelo, and type on my typewriter. I found that exact coffee in the corner market, where I’d gone to get some basic supplies, and to my surprise I left with that coffee, some milk, a papaya and a lime (fresh papaya basically always needs lime). These are not what I normally eat and as I walked into Jorge’s kitchen, I thought of how these would once again confirm Jorge’s theory that I’m Cuban.

I think if you were ever addicted to any kind of upper, you could safely switch to Cafe Bustelo. You can really only drink a very little of it, which is good, I think. So I sat in the kitchen and drank my small Cuban coffee and wrote. I took a break, got some kind of terrible food from a Mexican place downstairs, then went to the birthday party of a friend on the Upper West Side, a trip that took a remarkable amount of time.

Jorge’s kitchen turns out to be one of my favorite places to write. The apartment complex is very quiet and I felt peaceful there, able to read and write with a level of concentration I find hard to muster in my own apartment. My apartment in Massachusetts is somehow not congenial, and while it’s okay—I can use my office, for example, which I like to do when the building is empty—I like this new season of weekend writing retreats in the city. I don’t find it distracting to be there, as I lived there too long. I’m not interested in most of the clubs, most nights, and I know the restaurants I want to eat in or whether I want to cook for myself, and where my friends are if I want company. I go in and vanish to it all.

I might have to buy a weekend retreat in Queens.


  1. It’s so good to have a place that fosters your craft. I imagine this room of mine here providing the same sort of peacefulness, but, really, I am too distracted by the birds and the firemen and the Internet.

  2. These havens are precious. These days, mine is the weight bench at the gym, which unfortunately is only mine to claim for the few seconds it takes me to catch my breath between sets. But in the past two weeks, I’ve written almost an entire story that way. Whatever works….

  3. Jadepark: I haven’t liked a place that much since Toronto, actually.

    RJ: Get off the internet in your writing room. There’s no internet in that apartment, did I mention that?

    JR: You’re writing on the weight bench?


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