"You could set off a grenade on the chair next to me and I wouldn't notice."
Thanks to his awesome powers of concentration, Walter "Max" Meyer has been able to crank out two novels while sipping coffee at Lestat's in Normal Heights. The third novel is on its way.
Lestat's owner John Husler gets a kick out of the coffeehouse's gargoyle-adorned nook's ability to cultivate creativity. Behind the counter, he sells books written by his regulars, without taking a cut.
"Coffeehouses are strange-it's an intellectual's TV," Husler says. "It's basically a bunch of people with ideas."
Anyone who's been to Lestat's West, the performance venue adjacent to the coffeehouse, is aware of Husler's support for local musicians and comedians. Thespians have been known to break out staged readings here as well. In a neighborhood where possibly no race, sexual orientation or lifestyle can claim a majority, Lestat's is, in Husler's words, "a microcosm of the neighborhood."
Meyer, the first caffeinated patron to publish and then sell his wares at the coffeehouse, pauses frequently during conversation to say hello to friends headed for a fresh cup o' joe.
"It's sort of like being at home," says the smiling, bespectacled scribe. "Writing is a lonely business, so it's nice to look up and see friendly faces."
The inspiration seems to have him on the right track. His first book, Rounding Third, based on his own high-school baseball experiences, was not only written at Lestat's, but the name for one of its main characters was chosen by a barista there. Meyer's 2003 novel about Alzheimer's disease, Day is Ending, has been optioned by Robin Hood Films for possible Hollywood production.
Cautiously optimistic, Meyer speculates, "as much as anything is on its way in Hollywood, this is on its way."
Day is Ending shares space on a shelf above the coffee counter with a few other titles by local authors, like Paul Seargeant-the San Diego State University professor's book, Real Men or Real Teachers: Contradictions in the Lives of Elementary School Teachers, has been one of the best sellers. Other tomes cover subjects ranging from the Titanic to making it as an amateur musician.
Day is Ending has sold about a dozen copies at Lestat's, not exactly a sales record, but Meyer appreciates the support. It almost seems that he and Husler were destined to be friends. When he first made Lestat's his home-away-from-home, Meyer was doing research for a novel about the Battle of Gettysburg. As he got to know Husler, he discovered that one of the coffee baron's ancestors was none other than Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, a prominent character in Meyer's book.
Those hankering for a good read should watch for Husler's own forthcoming creation, a children's book about his adorable cat, Super Baby Kitty, whose image can be enjoyed on buttons for sale at the counter. BLestat's is at 3343 Adams Ave. in Normal Heights. 619-282-0437.