I just paid $6.25 for a coffee so I could write this. $6.25. It’s price tags like these that expose coffee shops for what they have become: millennial bars. Though what’s actually on sale and the “buzz” it gives you differs, it is ultimately a similar experience.

I was never one to treat the consumption of coffee as a big deal. Though I appreciate a tasty coffee as much as the next person, I never considered it something to explore too deeply. It wasn’t until later that the ritual took form – writing scripts in a coffee shop.

I didn’t really start using the outside world as a creative escape until Fenix Gear, which I wrote curled up in a booth at Panera Bread. Yeah, no joke, my first “coffee shop” wasn’t even a coffee shop – just a location with functional coffee, reliable wifi, an easily accessible bathroom. When I moved to the city and started writing more in earnest, I would follow Jena to work and set up in 30 Rockefeller Plaza’s requisite Starbucks. It was there that I first started writing these blogs, the opening salvo to each day.

It wasn’t until LA that I was captivated by a “real” coffee shop. You know the ones I mean, with stacks of pastries and $10 kale salads and more styles of coffee than you knew existed. I became a regular at Romancing the Bean in Burbank, where the cold brew is served over delicious coffee ice cubes so it stayed at full strength for hours as I chiseled away at another draft of Unlife. And yes, the coffee was good, but what really kept me going back was the function of writing. The coffee only provided a delicious reward for working (but don’t get me wrong; I didn’t mind taking the bribe).

The truth is, it was never about the coffee – it was the atmosphere. The coffee shop is a place where I can be both out and at the same time, alone. With my enormous headphones on, no one bothers me, and the words flow from my fingertips like coffee into my cup (a delicious dirty chai, which I’ve now mostly finished, meaning I’ll need to change locations soon). I actually don’t have music playing, and my headphones don’t have any fancy noise cancelling apparatus. But they do what I need them to: damp the sounds of the world as I get amped up. It lets me… hear my own thoughts more clearly, I suppose.

And I can take my laptop and headphones to select bars and achieve the same purpose a coffee shop serves. I will admit, the energy is different; alcohol allows greater freedom of expression, while coffee encourages tighter focus (when they aren’t blasting Tori Amos or whatever this is). And for a similar service, I suppose it’s only natural to expect a similar cost. I miss my two dollar iced coffee’s, but it’s hard to deny the potency of this ritual.

I just wish it wasn’t so fucking expensive.