I have a dream.
My dream is to open Gertrude’s Literary Cafe.
Gertrude’s Literary Cafe is a place for writers to write, for artists to draw, for crafters to craft, for musicians to perform, for books to launch, for CDs to release, for yoga to be taught – a place where the arts meet the spiritual, where creativity is the soul of every inch of the space.
Gertrude of Gertrude’s Literary Cafe is based on the late-great Gertrude Stein. My thoughts of her may be romanticized (based on depictions of her in some of my favourite films, and the writing of hers that I’ve read), but I have always been drawn to her dedication and support of artistic culture. For this reason, I will name my dream space after her.
Gertrude Stein, an American writer and lover of the arts, moved to Paris in 1903 with her brother. Soon after, she met her true love, Alice B. Toklas, and they lived together. Stein’s home in Paris was open to artists near and far, and she became the go-to person for honest feedback and cultural support in the 1920s and 30s.
“The gatherings in the Stein home “brought together confluences of talent and thinking that would help define modernism in literature and art”. Dedicated attendees included Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Ezra Pound, Gavin Williamson, Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, Francis Cyril Rose, René Crevel, Élisabeth de Gramont, Francis Picabia, Claribel Cone, Mildred Aldrich, Carl Van Vechten and Henri Matisse. Saturday evenings had been set as the fixed day and time for formal congregation so Stein could work at her writing uninterrupted by impromptu visitors. It was Stein’s partner Alice who became the de facto hostess for the wives and girlfriends of the artists in attendance, who met in a separate room.”(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gertrude_Stein)
Gertrude was a close friend and mentor to some of my favourite writers, not the least of which are Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I think of Gertrude and what she was at the centre of in Paris and in the art world at that time – I want to be her. As a writer, her work tore through proverbial envelopes. Her dedication to her own work was incredible. I can learn from her.
I love Paris. I’ve written in the cafes that Hemingway wrote in. I feel at home in Paris. Although I didn’t visit 27 rue de Fleurus: The Stein Salon when I was in Paris, in my heart I know I would love it. And if was alive at that time, you know I’d have found my way there.
Many of the great writers I love are writing in their respective heavens, and Paris is a long way away – but what if I brought the greats to us? What if I brought a bit of Paris and the Stein Salon to our identity-crisis downtown core? What if I created a space for the artists of our time to feel alive and bursting in their crafts? I feel an undeniable need to be the Gertrude Stein of our community.
This is my dream.
I don’t know when it will come to life.
I don’t know how or where.
But I know that it will be born someday.
We will write. We will read. We will paint and draw. We will craft. We will sing and dance. We will breathe and meditate. We will eat and feel full. We will celebrate the astounding abundance of art and culture in our city day after day after day.
At Gertrude’s Literary Cafe. (That rhymes.)
I know I’ll see you there.
In the meantime, hold this dream place in your hearts for me, okay?
And Gertrude…you too.