Benny and his friend Griffin at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Christine the Hermit Crab

I'm getting fairly determined about this writing thing. I managed to write in Chicago during Memorial Day weekend, tapping away in the Swissotel lobby after Ron and Benny went to bed in the room. This past weekend, while Ron was in Tahoe and I stayed with Benny, I wrote every day but Saturday.

The main challenge is finding a suitable place. I start bouncing off walls if I'm home all day, so I've been researching cafes and libraries. Last week I tried the Saline District Library, tucking myself away in the tiny
Local History room.

Saline is a cute little town just south of Ann Arbor. Benny attends the Saline Early Childhood Center two days a week -- it's a cheerful place, and cheaper than Ann Arbor daycares. So I'm scouting Saline locations so I can drop Benny off and then work nearby until it's time to pick him up.

Saline does have a wonderful cafe: a bright space with brick walls and free wireless access. I can buy a toasted bagel and coke for two bucks and spread my stuff out on one of their tables. But the cafe's a busy
place: people tend to plunk down one table over and hold loud conversations.

Monday morning it was a sunburned, middle-aged lady with frizzy hair who held a 20-minute monologue that (I swear) went like this:

"So I told her I was tired of the commute and she said "Move here." And I said, "I can't move there," and she said, "Sure you can," and I said, "No I can't," and she said, "Why not?" and I said, "It's too far," and she said, "It's not too far," and I said, "Yes it is..."

Last week was worse. On Friday a big crowd of Saline matrons took over the cafe, yakking loudly for TWO HOURS. Then came the moms and rowdy children.

The Saline library also offers free Internet access and seemed a viable alternative. I spread all my stuff out in the research area. But then Sandy at the research desk started holding long, involved conversations with everyone in the damn town. So I retreated to a back room, surrounded by dusty binders and a microfilm machine. A giant bust of a dour old man guarded the door. (I first thought it was Abe Lincoln, but it's actually Orange Risdon, Saline's founder.) Orange and I were happy until some old guy turned up, unfolded every map in the room, and rustled them for 40 minutes.

Maybe it's my attitude, I told myself as I drove back to Ann Arbor, a total of 20 words written that day. I vowed to explore one more place, the Ann Arbor Public Library, then give it up and buy good earplugs. And there I found my home. The third floor is as silent as a tomb. I actually worry that I'm disturbing people with my keyboard tapping. And if a cleaning lady does turn up and loudly poke her dust mop into all 100 bookshelves (it does happen), I can retreat into a tiny room custom-made for people-haters like myself.

Ah, heaven.

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