This story took place back when Sitwell’s had a different name and a different location. Back then the coffee house was in the basement of Tudor Court Apartments, and it was called the Cove Cafe. At that time I lived about a block from the Cove.
People see Thanksgiving in different ways. Many people see it as an opportunity to be surrounded by other people, and who can blame them? Many writers, however, see four-day holidays differently—especially novelists, who, in order to write books that are hundreds of pages along, engage in the verbal equivalent of an endless series of marathons.
Marathons take time. Like many novelists, I had mastered the art of forging ahead with a book in spite of the fact that I worked a nine to five—but nothing beats four days in a row with nothing to do but write. I was stoked when I woke up on Thanksgiving morning. All I had to do was get some coffee, since I had run out. I figured I could get some from the Cove Cafe, which wasn’t open for business, but had a tradition at that time of hosting a free Thanksgiving dinner.
When I got there, I asked if I could buy a pound of coffee, and even though I was a regular I was turned down. Nor could I buy a cup of coffee. They weren’t open for business, and I couldn’t give them an IOU or any of that business.
Can I function without coffee? Sure, but let’s face it: coffee, to many fiction writers, is like whiskey is to a blues artist. In many respects writing a novel is an endurance battle, and caffeine helps. So, while I was contemplating the possibility of writing dull, flat prose for the rest of the day an employee started talking about the free dinner that day. I had assumed that it was only for the needy. The employee emphasized, however, that it was open to anyone who wanted to come. “Why don’t you come back?” she said.
At that moment a humongous 5,000-watt light bulb went off in my head.
A couple hours later I returned to the Cove. The room I walked into was full of people, many of whom I knew because they too were regulars at the Cove. I hung and out and chatted with folks and ate lots of good food, including turkey, which has lots of Triptophan, which has long regarded as an enemy of potentially productive writers.
I more than counteracted that, however, by drinking massive amount of caffeine—and after leaving the Cove, I spent the rest of my long weekend writing.
What happened that day taught me something. For one day a year, no matter how much you plead, there are situations where people absolutely refuse to sell you something – and believe me, there was absolutely no way the employees at the Cove were going to allow me to make a cash transaction.
They were more than happy, however, to give me something. For me that reinforced what Thanksgiving is all about. Here’s hoping you receive a little reinforcement yourself this year.