Fourth & Morrison

Freewrites are amazing for when you’ve hit a creative block. The rules are simple: pen. Paper. Go. Like your grade school teacher taught you when you were learning cursive, your tool should never leave the sheet—just keep writing. It’s a wonderful thing for meticulous, self-editing writers like me because it forces you to generate material without stopping to revise.

The freewrite I want to share is a purely observation-based portrait of a place. I had some time to kill downtown earlier this week and went, latest issue of The Atlantic and notebook in hand, to a nearby Starry B’s. It was quiet. I looked up from my magazine when I realized not just what a fantastic view I had of city life rushing by on the street outside, but how perfectly well I could hear the exchanges between baristas and other customers. I pushed up my sleeves, uncapped my pen, and wrote the following (please excuse the lack of punctuation; true to the spirit of freewriting, I went totally freeform):

4, 3, 2, 1, 0

Flash, the orange hand

“Can I get your name, please?”

“Decaf, tall, sugar-free vanilla latte.”

“I’m okay, how are you?”

“And there are monkeys all year.” “Aggressive?” “Oh yeah.”

A custodian pulls a squeegee up and down four glass doors. The traffic cone sits alone on the red, brick corner; a slender man in dusk-colored jeans stretches by an older, oranger fire hydrant

“Alex? Your white mocha awaits you.” “Thank you.”

A man in black skinnies, leather jacket and shades sits near the window, daylight glaring on the screen of his laptop. Also black.

Two vans pull up tandem to a traffic light; the red splits to green, they glide through and against them the three-car electric train rumbles to a stop

4, 3, 2, 1, 0

The bell blares thrice

A balding man with a walking stick leans across the walkway, pushes inside and up the steps

Two orange-vested men in white hard hats spin a diamond sign upright—Left Lane Closed Ahead—and post it

“Regular, or reduced fat blue cheese?”

The walking man blinks

High heels clip-clop. Stop. She sits, biting into a steaming egg biscuit in the morning light, brown skirt draped over crossed legs, subtle red lipstick in-tact.

A fire truck fills the window, tiny American flag

Baseball caps pass in pairs and a chessboard man with white headphones on black leather thumbs his phone

The man on his laptop speaks “Sí porque…”

Neon signs buzz on street windows and colored star lanterns with cutting shapes hang near beads, purses with metal studs, and tank tops

Wingtip shoes, brown, light passing through beige sheer and blue-green flowers

A cyclist standing in his pedals coasts by

“You want a lid on it? What was your name? And for you?”

The empty chair on the other side of the table: round, dark, and cold

A wooden tag dangles from the cane, swinging as the man ambles out

The train again rumbles by; the Spanish man picks up and jogs out

A taxi flashes past

4, 3, 2, 1, 0

A woman blows smoke on the corner

“Thanks for asking.”