The thing about writing in Queens is that you must consider at some point whether or not you should write in a Dunkin’ Donuts. Aside from the cheap caffeine, desk-space, and long hours, there’s something congruous about Queens and Dunkin’ Donuts. Queens seems to have more cultural compatibility with Dunkin’ Donuts than its counterparts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, the latter two often succumbing (or elevating) to couth cafes (“hipster havens,” if I may). Is it the socio-economics of Queens? The space? Whatever it is, Dunkin is a definite part of Queens, and might be one of its emblems. In Astoria, older Greek men colonize a corner of it and lose themselves in the passions of the day. In Bellerose, Long Islanders, with a toe still dipped in their Queens past, get a coffee before their drives to the city. But is it necessarily a good place to get in the creative zone? I’ve had good days in Dunkin and awful days in Dunkin. While that range of experience could indicate that the Dunkin Donuts locations in fact have nothing to do with my writing, I find it hard to believe that locations have no influence on the writing process and its resultant work. The effects are multifold for me, and seem to encapsulate something that is very essentially “Queens.”
It is always gratifying to write in Dunkin’ Donuts because that is not a go-to place to get creative. The corporate feel to it, the impersonal and hardly communicative customer service, and the socially discarded riffraff in the corner all make Dunkin an unexpected place to relax into some right-brain myth-making. Rather than view this as a hindrance, I see this as a testament to where my writing can go. I imagine that all the writers in the chic cafes, sipping organic lattes off of pinewood tables as Sigur Ros plays in the background, are pretty much writing the same thing. I imagine them to be neurochemically uniform and aesthetically pigeonholed. But most importantly, I imagine them to be writing self-consciously, or even worse, writing for others instead of for themselves. I’m not going to generalize of course, but if you step into any chic cafe, there’s that immediate rush of self-consciousness that comes over you—call it the country clubs for your modern-day artist.
In Dunkin’ Donuts, your invisibility makes your invincibility. You can freely read your work aloud and not be judged; you can zone out while looking at the soulless purple and orange lettering on your cup without feeling like you have ADD in the eyes of others; you can seemingly go crazy as any writer should. I could never say that there was much containment while I wrote in DD, and I do mark that as a good thing. I feel that, by extension, that is what makes Queens writers Queens writers. For fear of getting foolishly zealous over a borough, I won’t go too deeply into this, but the bottom line is, I feel there is a refreshing dearth of style to Queens writers that mirrors the lack of pretense in a Dunkin’ Donuts. Where Queens has families with wholesome values and various ethnic pockets, other boroughs have strained socio-economic interplays that reek of fraudulence (think of the expensive art studio covered in graffiti). Money and success haven’t ruined Queens because you need $2 to get a coffee in Dunkin’ Donuts, and not a penny more to write about the world in it.
Having said that, I have nothing against Sigur Ros.