Friday, January 13, 2012

The desk

I have a thing about where I write. I'm always seeking the perfect table, the one with just the right surface and height, lighting, view, and surroundings to draw out the muse and inspire her to play. I'm the same way about pens and paper - I like laying out first drafts by hand - and make a ritual of buying a new pen every time I begin a new book.

I realize it's silly, and experience has taught me that I can write in pretty much any conditions. Once you do it for a living, you don't have the luxury of choosing when and where to have your pretty little word tea party.

But I have a particular thing for hotel room desks. They're usually so dreary, so poorly conceived and pathetically placed, that when I find one with the right window and the right surface and a chair that doesn't require at least two pillows to bring me to the proper height, I could stay there all day. It's a blank slate, totally devoid of distraction, and it makes me feel like anything is possible.

Which is why I shall remain happily perched here, 33 floors above the honking bustle of midtown Manhattan, for just a little while longer.

Monday, January 2, 2012

On January 1st

On New Year's day I was walking in the East Village, just me and the dog walkers, when these trays of still-warm croissants beckoned me from the window of the Mille Feuille bakery. Naturally I went in.

"Good morning!" We exchanged greetings and well wishes for the new year, I paid and took my little white bag (its buttery contents already making dots in the paper). Then the man helping me paused.

"You're our first customer of the new year. Would you like a macaron?" He pointed to an impeccably shiny, tidy case filled with colorful little cookies.

"That is so nice of you," said I. "What's your favorite flavor?"

"Um..." he surveyed the case, "burnt caramel, pass.."

Before the words "passion fruit" left his mouth I nodded, "Burnt caramel! Ooo please!"

He took it out and handed it to me, and his co-worker jabbed his arm, "She needs a passion fruit too. Give her a passion fruit." Which he did.

"Here's to a really good new year for all of us, eh?" I said, raising my macaron in a toast. Smiles and nods, thanks and well-wishes abounded, and out I went into the day and into the new year.

Those guys probably have no idea just how much that simple gesture meant to me, but it did. I'd like to carry that same gentle kindness and civility with me into the new year.

And for the record? The burnt caramel was a really, really good choice.