by Scott D. Vander Ploeg

As I write this, piped in music is playing in the background. On some occasions, live music happens here. I look up and see some of the art works of my friend, Carl Berges. Around me there are people reading—books or newspapers or magazines or online feeds. Kids sometimes open up board games and play them with gleeful abandon. Politicians sometimes arrive to ask for voters’ opinions. In one corner, a small group of people are planning a business venture. The staff’s culinary efforts have made available a variety of breakfast items, and made-to-order lunch sandwiches. On one wall, people have created a multicolor inked communal graffito. A little over three years ago, a history professor and a literature professor lectured here, about solar eclipses. Poetry has been aired here.

I’m an advocate for the humanities, the subjects that involve the celebration of our most human activities: music, art, literature, philosophy, languages, drama, sculpture, architecture, and more. Often, a person who wants to experience one of these will go to a particular venue or event and experience that one kind of humanities subject: drama in a theatre, music at an auditorium, etc. Where, though, might people go if they want a mix of these wonderous arts?

The savvy reader will already know that I am at a coffee house, in particular: Madisonville Kentucky’s Big City Market Café. If in Owensboro, I might be ensconced in an egg-shaped chair (channeling Mork) at The Crème Coffee House. If I was in East Lansing, MI, I might be admiring the tattoos of the baristas at the Espresso Royal. Back in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in my youth, I sat for hours at Atz’s Ice Cream Shoppe, guzzling cup after cup while reading the Riverside edition of the complete works of Bill Shakespeare. The downtown coffee shop adorned its walls with used burlap coffee sacks.

While wintering in Florida this year, I spent time at Cocoa Beach’s Juice and Java Café, and the Osario’s in Cocoa Village. I prefer independent coffee houses, but am pleased that Panera and Starbucks provide alternative locations. In the environs of Vernon Hills suburban Chicago Illinois, I rotate between four different Panera’s Bread Co. shops. According to the anniversary email they sent this Spring, my Unlimited Coffee Subscription saved me $338.52 over 138 cups.

Currently, I have succeeded in getting a dozen of my writings published since I began this effort last September, nine months ago. I have another twenty under consideration at various journals. All of these, and more, were written at coffee houses. I know many prefer to write at home, but I think there is an argument for not doing this work there. It hasn’t become popular yet, but I offer the word “coffice” for those like me who rely on the coffee house to conduct business.

At the coffice I am not distracted by laundry, food preparation, and having to straighten up after myself. At the coffice I can focus on my writing. There is just the right amount of activity to keep me awake. And then yes, I like coffee.

Coffee was discovered in Africa in the 9th century AD. Its use became common in the Middle East in the late 1400s. Turkey and Morocco became deeply invested in it. It arrived in Europe in the 1600s, and the English coffee house became a fad in the 1700s. Turkish and/or Greek coffee is a particularly strong drink made from a powdered coffee, found like a muddy estuary at the bottom of the cup. I like mine “orto”—slightly sweet. One of my favorite memories is of ordering an espresso at an outdoor café in the 14th Arrondissement of Paris, France, under the shadow of the Tour Montparnasse. In homage to Hemmingway, I sipped a cup at the Café du Dôme, which was just around the corner from the apartment where I crashed for a few months at my cousin’s apartment in the early 1980s.

While the tavern had an earlier history of drawing people together for discussion and predictable argument, the coffee house encouraged more serious and sustained discussion, as the patrons there were stimulated by caffeine rather than depressed by alcohol. Today’s version of the coffee house is augmented by technology—so that wireless internet access is mandatory, and people are commonly found staring at laptops and using their smartphones while slurping down a cappuccino or frothy latte.

So the coffee house is the bastion and bulwark of the humanities, to an extent. I note that the addition of coffee shops in some places indicates a gentrification effect, suggesting a kind of cultural invasion, or an economic upsurge—good or bad as that may be, depending on who is losing or gaining as a result. I have been to the original Starbucks, in Seattle, WA, and have my obligatory memento: a Pike’s Place coffee mug. It’s huge! While I’m pleased at this, I know that some believe that the Starbucking of America is a kind of blight—and that “baristas don’t let friends drink Starbucks.” I would bet cold cash money that more people recognize the Starbucks logo/image than they do the Presidential Seal.  

After a hectic day, there is nothing better than sitting back with a cup of coffee at my local coffee house. This is when I can reflect on a variety of subjects, such as coffee houses, and write about them! I soak in the ambience—art, music, whatever I’m reading—and the caffeine—and walk away refreshed, ready to take on the rest of the day’s challenges.


19 responses to “Welcome To My Coffice”

  1. GD Deckard Avatar

    Thank you, Scott! As a coffee lover who has been writing in my home office since the Covid darkened all other indoors, I found this salute to writers & coffee houses particularly refreshing. Now, I have to try one or two.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    What a delightful article you have graced us with! I could smell the coffee house ambiance as I read: the stimulating acrid smell of hot coffee, the slightly musty odor of old books perused by engrossed readers ensconced in over-stuffed armchairs, the faint ozone-crackled scent of heated laptop and cell phone electronics. Thanks, Scott! (GD & Curtis: let’s find more like him.)

    As for myself, I enjoyed drinking coffee and writing first drafts into notebooks in the old Borders bookstores. Something about being surrounded by all those books–look, they did it!–would inspire me to keep my head down scritch-scribbling away. The access to literary, writing, history, science, poetry, philosophy and divers genre magazines was an added plus. And the overheard conversations! Sometimes I’d be gifted a poem; other times an “apothegm of wince” to be recorded for future reference/use.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      For all who, like me, read Carl’s comments with a dictionary handy:
      a concise saying or maxim; an aphorism.
      “the apothegm “tomorrow is another day”
      – from Oxford Languages


      Liked by 3 people

      1. mimispeike Avatar

        I usually supply my own meaning; I just enjoy his verbal shenanigans.

        When I find a better word than shenanigans, I’ll substitute it. That’s the best I can do on the spur of the moment.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. GD Deckard Avatar

          😅😂 We all enjoy a good verbal shenanigan 🤣

          Liked by 2 people

  3. mimispeike Avatar

    Scott, you submit to journals. That sounds to me like nonfiction.

    Do you write fiction? Give us a link to something.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. scottvdp574305 Avatar

      2nd try reply: Hi Mimispeike… yes, I do write short stories, but more often am writing cnf, either memoir or essay or a hybrid mix. I just sent out a work of pure fiction, and if it get’s taken up, I’ll send a link. The other fiction story that has been published is in a journal that put a too-distracting wallpaper behind the words, so till the other work is taken up, here is a cnf piece I recently published. (I just started this creative writing binge last Sept.) [copy and paste, because it isn’t hyperlinking here.]


  4. Julie Donnell Avatar
    Julie Donnell

    Scott thanks for sharing! You are thriving I see! I am translating a book from the French and have been waiting for the firefly cafe in ft wayne to open fully after Covid!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. scottvdp574305 Avatar

      Hi Julie: for an old guy, I guess I’m thriving well enough! I was trying to remember the name of the coffee house that was in the downtown of the Fort way back in the 70s. Had burlap sacks of coffee on the walls. Might have been on W. Berry street. Don’t go to any trouble, but let me know if you recall the name of the place.


  5. victoracquista Avatar

    Thank you for a delightful and satisfying coffee break. I think the coffice portmanteau is spot on. I don’t think I would be able to get much accomplished writing in a coffice, but observing, listening to snippets of conversation, and enjoying a slice of life (perhaps while also enjoying a slice of pie) provides the receptive and observant mind with wonderful story elements. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to listen to how people talk and how they behave and to sharpen our writing skills with real-world experience.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      Perhaps the SW Florida Chapter of the Writers Co-op should explore local coffee shops? I can check Naples if you’ll check Ava Maria. We can then pick one for our first post-covid meeting & escapade.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. victoracquista Avatar

        Let’s switch this to email.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Carl E. Reed Avatar

    Portmanteau’s are fun! Let’s make some (in a hyper-caffeinated, I’m-going-to-regret-this-later) state:

    Wombat: An adult female bat.
    Batman: a man who swings a bat; i.e., a baseball player.
    Baseball: The score-keeping art of seduction.
    Football (see above): ankle-and-toe fetish related.
    Refrigerator (autopsy-related): One who refreezes thawed-out dead.
    Cigarette: A young girl who sells cigars.
    Shakespeare: One who shakes a spear; i.e., a primitive warrior.
    Cromwell: One who croms (past tense of “crams”) food in an especially loud and satisfactory manner; a joyful obese person.
    Avant-Garde (dialogue): A Cockney speaker admitting to the lack of a garden. “I’d like to grow vegetables, Guv; but I avant garde.”

    :::runs off stage pelted by rotten eggs and tomatoes to a strident chorus of boos:::

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Mike Avatar

    Lovely. I, too, enjoy a nice coffee house and on occasion do work there. There is a wonderful history attached to European coffee houses with historians speculating the roots of Enlightenment thinking took place once they became popular. It’s actually quite interesting. Again, nicely done – thank you for writing it.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Perry Palin Avatar
    Perry Palin

    Mystery writer William Kent Krueger writes his novels in a booth in a cafe in St. Paul. MN. He is a successful writer, a good speaker at readings, and a good guy. I don’t think I could write in a public place like that. Sure, we have distractions at home, but in a cafe with conversations to be heard and smells of food and the sights of people moving in and out, I couldn’t do it. Credit to those who can and do.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. GD Deckard Avatar

    Come to think on it, I don’t really care what the surroundings are so long as they’re not an impossible distraction. When I’m into writing, I’m there, not wherever I’m sitting.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. mimispeike Avatar

    Hmmm. Where is this coffee-loving man of mystery? Well, I guess he’s a busy guy. I found this on Google:

    Scott D. Vander Ploeg, Ph. D., is an early-retired professor of English/Humanities, named Kentucky college Teacher-Of-The-Year in 2009. He recorded essays for a regional NPR affiliate for a decade, and later wrote a column about the arts and letters for a small-town newspaper. He was the Executive Director of the Kentucky Philological Association. In his spare-time he is an amateur thespian, a jazz drummer, and a Sifu in Tai Chi.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      Yup, that’s Scott. We met in a discussion about putting out a gamers anthology. Not game stuff, per se, but true stories by gamers about gamers. He submitted a couple, but then we dropped the idea because so few gamers responded. So I asked him for a blog about the writing life.

      I’ve not heard from him lately but I assume he’s OKAY & will pop back up.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. scottvdp574305 Avatar

    Forgive the belated replies…yep been busy. Had a birthday a few days ago and spent a portion of it writing an invited essay. I recal Stephen King in his book on writing said he wrote daily except for Christmas and his birthday. Later in the book he admitted he would write on those days, too.

    Liked by 2 people

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