A place where the unemployed blogger people run free

Where to work if the thought of another day at the dining room table makes you suicidal.

Where to work if the thought of another day at the dining room table makes you suicidal.

I need a new place to go blog and be unemployed during the day with my computer… ok, with wifey’s computer. My requirements are simple. It has to be reasonably close to home, or at least in NYC. It has to be cheap (by which I mean free) and near food and a bathroom. It has to be quiet enough that music through my headphones will drown out any noise. And no one there can care how long I stay. Oh yeah, and it must have unicorns, and rainbows ending in pots of gold. Does anyone out there know of such a mythical place? I’m willing to give a little on the unicorns and rainbows. However, the pots of gold are mandatory, a deal breaker. No pots of gold… no Norm.

I’ve spent much of the last few months working at my dining room table. It’s one giant mess that wifey puts up with but probably secretly hates down to the very core of her existence. Let’s set the scene, shall we? The space where I work is closest to the kitchen facing the wall and a painting of kids on a carousel in France somewhere. I would sit opposite myself (and often do during out-of-body experiences) facing out into the apartment if squeezing into that space weren’t so difficult. My chair has no padding left, so I sit on an old pillow, prompting the occasional hemorrhoid reference from wifey. There’s a pile of printouts, business cards and computer wires pushed off to my left. The cats sit and drool on it whenever they decide to spend quality time with me. I often type with one hand and harass one of them with the other, because I’m ambidextrous like that. When they knock the pile to the floor, I put it back on the table, inevitably mixing it in with the assorted newspapers and magazines strewn about. The salt and pepper grinders stand tall – like beacons of domesticity in a job search wasteland – until I knock them over and scare the cats away.

My spot is nice and central, letting me be a part of wifey and the cats’ madcap escapades. It’s basically the center of my apartment, which is near the center of Jackson Heights, which is the geographical center of New York City. And everyone knows that New York is the center of the universe. So by extrapolation, my workspace is the center of the universe… which explains a lot. But spend enough time anywhere and you’ll tire of it. There has to be another spot.

My desk, where one would think I’d work, is piled high with papers and books and all the other things I’ve been meaning to go through and haven’t. It’s a disaster area, which the city keeps threatening to condemn, and removed from the rest of the apartment besides. I experimented with the couch as a daytime work spot. The TV remains off, because it really wouldn’t be work otherwise. But my urge to watch remains a distraction. So too does the amazingly hot battery in wifey’s computer. An hour of work leaves giant sweat marks on my pants, which would likely raise questions should she come home midday. The UPS guy gives me odd looks too.

My local options are limited… Espresso 77, the bench in front of Espresso 77 and the curb in front of the bench in front of Espresso 77. Starbucks would give me wireless access too if I had AT&T, but I don’t. The good news on that is I actually receive phone calls. Espresso 77 has a strict policy for laptop use. The first hour is free with a purchase on weekdays, and each hour after that costs $5. I’ve never seen it enforced. They did remind me about the policy during my last visit. I was the only one there. And you may remember the outlet-locking episode. I love their coffee, particularly the New Orleans ice coffee, which is some crazy double-brewed concoction with extra milk… sooooooo good. But I don’t feel terribly welcome when I bust out the laptop. The bench out front might work it ever stopped raining and wifey’s laptop weren’t trying to accelerate global warming. As for the curb, I’m not that desperate yet.

Communitea in Long Island City – a short subway ride away and convenient to Manhattan – is another workspace option. The coffee is solid, except for my last cup which tasted like sweetened, milky arsenic. The baked goods are scrumpdilicious. And the place is big enough that no one cares when I hang out awhile; I always make a point to spend more taxpayer money. The other customers are quiet and respectful, except for the smelly hippie guy who taps his ring to the tasteful alt-rock and talks on his cell phone. He’s just asking for a Hong Kong Phooey to the jaw. And maybe a little Captain Caveman action for good measure. I’ll do it, one of these days, so help me. Just keep not showering and sitting next to me. Bad things will happen; I’ve watched too many cartoons and endured too much unemployment.

The Brooklyn Creative League invited me to a blogging event to hype their new workspace for freelancers and small businesses. So I dragged my ass out to Brooklyn yesterday on the subway in a monsoon in search of a change of scenery. This is how desperate I’ve become. The New York subway system floods in a light drizzle, so you can only imagine what it was like in a steady rain. Water poured through the cement ceilings of the station multiple stories below ground. I felt like I was entering an underground torture chamber from a Mel Gibson buddy movie, and some wild-eyed fu manchu guy was going to string me up and shock me with a car battery. Gary Busey didn’t show himself, but I kind of suspect he was there. Why didn’t I just take the ark?

Brooklyn is the blogging capital of the world. It has more bloggers per square inch or per capita or per something than anywhere else. Understandable, since Brooklyn also has more subsidized, tech-savvy white people who are filled with angst, blessed with free time and convinced that everyone cares about their “struggle” than anywhere else on the planet. Maybe that’s just Williamsburg. This temporary relocation actually represented a powerful convergence of centers; the center of the world and the center of the blogosphere were one. Did you feel the great suck pulling you in? Not the pull from Yankee Stadium, the other one, from Brooklyn.

If I were a freelancer or a small business with any sort of steady income and I lived closer, I’d join the Brooklyn Creative League. The space – a decked-out floor of a warehouse with exposed brick walls, shiny wood floors, an open layout, various office necessities and a friendly, accomodating owner – is stellar. And the rates are quite reasonable. Alas, I do not have the wherewithal. But I did take the opportunity to look out a different window down on a different block (Carroll St. and Whitewell Pl.). From my perch, I observed an empty lot with an overflowing dumpster, an elementary school and the back of the Kentile Floors sign that greets F train riders emerging from the tunnel at Carroll St. It was actually fairly scenic in an album liner note photo kind of way. I got a lot done, then trekked back across the city to Queens. It’s back to working at home.

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8 Comments

  1. Jon S wrote:

    If you want to come farther east in queens, there is Bliss Cafe

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/bliss-gourmet-cafe-kew-gardens

    Monday, June 22, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  2. SUPL Blog wrote:

    Go to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in SoHo. I wrote a blog from there and no one harassed me about using their free wifi. If you get there early enough and stake a place near an outlet you should be fine. Plus they have pretty tasty food and drinks at their cafe.

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  3. Norm wrote:

    Good tip about Housing Works. That place occurred to me a couple months ago, and then I completely forgot about it. I’ll try it this week.

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink
  4. Voices in the Addict wrote:

    Try buying a $5 gift card at Starbucks. Once you activate it you get 2 hours of free wi-fi a day. Then all you have to do is use it once every 30 days. You either have to buy something or put at least $5 on it once every 30 days to keep it going. Seems like a decent deal.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  5. Norm wrote:

    Voices–Good call! I didn’t know about that. I have an activated card around here somewhere. I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  6. Nice post JOBLESS AND LESS. i loved to read it. thanks for the posting.

    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
  7. so this is an old post, but I’m always grousing about our lack of coffeehouse options in Queens. I used to live in Austin, TX, which had all kinds of awesome places to write. But here in NY, and more particularly, Queens, well, not so much. We used to have a decent place called Munch in Forest Hills, but it closed down.

    My favorite place is Think Coffee in the city; it’s got all the right stuff. I’m still looking for a place I like in Queens. We’re getting a Europan chain soon…kind of a sad thing to look forward to, but it may be better than nothing…

    Sunday, December 27, 2009 at 12:44 am | Permalink
  8. Bali villas wrote:

    you are very good at writing…you shouldn’t jobless…LOL

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink