A Café of One’s Own


While this adventure in New Orleans with the bookpacking class has been exciting and full of memories it is still, at its core, a class which requires copious amounts of work. On the scales of work and fun, it has been easy to neglect one or the other and, more often than not, it is work that is set aside for the undisclosed and seemingly unreachable “later.” Café excursions and group dinners became the norm and work got forgotten in favor of socializing. Whether it be walks in the park or through the city, hotel room movie nights, or, a new development, Pokémon GO runs, there always seemed to be something more interesting to do then work on blogs or read the books we were assigned, even though both tasks were interesting in their own right.

When I did, however, have to get myself to get some work done, I often buckled down in the hotel room to avoid all of the interesting and distracting scenery presented by New Orleans. This was an uncommon way of approaching work in this group, though, as others often found cafes or parks to sit in and enjoy while burning through books and quickly drafting blog posts. Eventually, I got tired of the same walls and decided to venture out into the city to do as Andrew consistently suggested: to find my own space, a home away from home, in the city of New Orleans.

The fact is I am quite happy in a movie, even a bad movie. Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives…
— Walker Percy
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I find that often I prefer my own company but only in mundane locations. My room, for example, is a place that I, if given the choice, would likely never leave. Why would I need to when I have Netflix and Hulu at my disposal? When I really thought about it, I found myself relating to Binx from Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer when it came to the way he described himself and his pastimes. I too find myself enjoying my time alone in front of a screen and find myself remembering these times easier than what one would call pivotal moments of my life. I easily recall playing my first video game, for example, but find it a bit more difficult to remember, say, my first bike ride without training wheels, even though both events occurred around the same age. What I think Binx is really getting at when he describes himself as a moviegoer is an aversion to the real world.

This aversion comes in the form of trying to escape reality through other mediums. Video games, movies, books, tv shows, they all essential serve the same purpose: to present the audience with a new reality unlike their own. Moviegoing, then, becomes Binx’s escape from his reality much the same as any of the other mediums become mine. Unlike our moviegoing character, I did not find this as something to be proud of and went on my own search, this time for a place to call my own in the city.

Walking alone through the streets of the unfamiliar city was a wholly new experience for me as I am not the type to wander aimlessly or even go anywhere alone. I find my own company, when outside of my comfort zone (i.e. my room with some Netflix original playing off my laptop) to be rather dull. My search, then, became finding a way to put up with my own company.

My first of two stops on my solitary walk was a lovely stationary shop on Royal street, which Binx often walked down. This street was filled with interesting shops and even more interesting people, yet I found myself entering the same little shop I’d entered days before and sticking to what was familiar. Once I’d obtained what I was after, I quickly left the shop and continued on, this time avoiding any place I’d already entered. I wanted to find somewhere unfamiliar but yet still comfortable enough to do work.

Of course, I settled on a chain coffee shop. It wasn’t Starbucks, so it was a step in the right direction. This shop gave me the faintest hints of another, long gone, chain that my mother and I had gone to when I was a child after our trips to the local library so it felt like the perfect place to work on a paper about bookpacking.

I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen.
— Walker Percy
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Once I ordered something vaguely similar to a Frappuccino, grabbed a seat near a window, and pulled out my laptop, I quickly got to work. This change of scenery was a double-edged sword, as I found myself working at a much faster pace than I would have in the hotel room I was so accustomed to but I also found myself people-watching far more that I should have. Like Binx on his train ride, I was imagining what these people were doing in their day to day lives. The couple sat across from me, newlyweds in my narrative, were enjoying a quiet day of shopping. The elderly woman placing her order was newly widowed and just trying to get on with life. Those behind the counter were working their way through college. All of these handcrafted tales, which could have been extremely far from the truth, kept me more entertained than any video game, book, show, movie, or other medium of escape had.

Binx found that most people have nobody to talk to and I used to think that, when I was alone, this was true. Quickly, during my search for a home away from home in New Orleans, I found that this was far from the truth. At my table for one, as I sat writing my paper and getting caught up on work just as often as I got distracted from it, I found that I was always willing to listen.