On Joyce Carol Oates and Iced Coffee

While I was waiting for a friend in Jamaica Plain in Boston last summer, I wandered into Ula Café. The coffee shop seemed like a cozy hangout spot, with tall men holding their bike helmets, small children tugging at their parents and young baristas chatting with customers. I had lived near Boston for some time growing up; this was my first time back in a while, and it felt like home.

I ordered an iced coffee and settled down to my book, Little Bird of Heaven. An old man was sitting next to me tapping away at his computer. He turned to me and mused, “Joyce Carol Oates always writes the same story line, doesn’t she? A child with a horrible father, living a bleak, sad life. But for some reason I can’t get enough of it.” Surprised at this comment, I quickly agreed; no one had really summed up her novels to me so simply and so correctly. We chatted about our favorite novels by her and then the conversation moved on to his writing. He had published a few short stories, and this new one was about a boy fishing.

When my friend arrived, we talked a bit more, and he left us with some graduation advice. He urged us to travel, to leave our country and take advantage of our stage in life. We were both interviewing for jobs in Boston at the time, but we ended up heeding his advice; my friend is moving to India and I now live in Singapore just six months later.

Maybe this café is your standard neighborhood coffee joint, but I’d encourage you to check it out next time you’re in Boston; you may gain some wisdom from the regulars.

Illustrations by my sister, Lauren Monaco.


Anne said...

That's a wonderful story! Sometimes all it takes is a few words from a stranger to change your life completely.


Anonymous said...

I'm that old man. I'd love to meet you, and we're going to Singapore, arriving Feb 4 for a six-day stay. Contact me at gberger2@comcast.net. Thank you. Gustaf Berger.

Lulu said...

This is such a great story!! I love it when people strike up conversations like that. Also your drawings are incredible! x

Unknown said...

I love that you share smalls moments like this. You have a lovely blog so far, I look forward to reading more and seeing little glimpses of experiences you have!