Monday, August 30, 2010

All these roads are connected.

Forget writing in the narrative. It's not my most comfortable place to be, anyway. No matter what I write, it feels forced and fake and cliché and overdone. So let's just forget it for now. Let's talk about true things as true things today.

Here's how I take my coffee: I go with whatever the flavor of the day is (today it's Cinnamon Hazelnut) and I add a tiny bit of honey and then I sprinkle cinnamon like woah all over the top. This is how I take my coffee at the coffee shop two blocks from my house. Admittedly, the coffee shop three blocks away from my house just has a better roast, but it's three blocks away and no one is ever there.

Do you think I go to a coffee shop on my day off to be surrounded by myself? I most certainly do not. Also, my house is beginning to smell a little and I'm just not in a place right now where I feel like cleaning it—so it's time to migrate. I come here so that I can see people and pretend that bearded gentleman in the corner is not married. I will also pretend that he is interesting and intelligent, maybe threeish years older than myself and will not judge me for my guilty-pleasure pop music. He rents, does not own his home and is pretty sure that he doesn't want kids. We're making plans to take the train to Lawrence for a Saturday in October. I'm going to take him to all of my favorite places there. He's excited for me to show him stuff that I know about. We're going to go to the art gallery above that bookstore and he'll turn to me and whisper, “Libby, will you--”
“Yes?” I'll say, hopefully.
“Will you go downstairs and browse the geography section with me?”
“Yes! God, yes!”
“And then, later, we'll go to to Free State and have a beer.”
“I love you, Beard Guy.”

And... in walks his wife and child to join him. The cheating, bearded bastard. It could have been so great—there really is no place more magnificent than Lawrence, Kansas in October. It's so much easier to fall in love with people when you're making them up in your head. I might go anyway—a sort of Happy Birthday to myself and it'll really help me recover from the heartbreak that I just encountered. How could he lead me on like that? Some people. Gah.

I like the people here. A computer is a kind of invisibility cloak anyway, people don't notice you and they assume you're not paying attention to them because you've got access to YouTube.

So right now I'm looking at this older fellow. As I've said before, I am a horrible judge of age—especially when they're getting up there in years—but I'm going to guess that this guy hasn't been retired for too terribly long on account of the Hawaiian shirt and Panama hat. This guy has no idea where he's staycationing. His wife is wearing a shirt covered in leaves as well, but it's more of a line-drawing print and considerably less obtrusive. It seems like when kids move away and jobs come to an end, people either come together or separate. But the ones who turn together, turn into best friends again. And I like that.

I see that a lot at my job. Retirees are always needing glasses and they always come in together and for the most part you can tell that they either tolerate their partner or they really like them. And I like it when they like each other. They take themselves a lot less seriously—their priorities are in order. Donald Miller wrote a small post this morning about how we should stop taking social cues from our peers and, instead, surround yourself with people who are ten and twenty years older than you. It makes sense to me. “Because the sooner you can relate to their priorities, the sooner you’ll be ready for the next stage of life. I’m in my late thirties but I’m more interested in hanging out with people who are retired. What’s it teaching me? It’s teaching me what matters later in life is friendships, family and love.” I can get down with that, Don. But—let's be real, I'm not going to make too much of an effort to actually do that. I'll observe from across the crowded watering holes.

A group of people have formed, seemingly by accident and they've all gathered at the same table. Talking about what books they love—debating the relevancy of the e-book. I want to enter into this conversation but I'm happy to hear why they choose what they choose. One lady said that she feels like she's really accomplished something when she can see the pages stack up (Me, too!). One man said that when he goes on vacation, he doesn't want to cart around a huge library to the beach (I politely disagree—how will anyone ever know how cool you are if they can't see all of the titles you've got with you?). One woman likes to cheat and read the last paragraph when she feels like the story is starting to wane a little bit. Another woman is vehemently opposed to such an action. I have to agree—big time.

Earlier this summer when I was reading those John Green books, I'd get so excited about what was going to happen next, that I would actually have to cover the bits that I'd not yet gotten to in an effort to keep myself from looking ahead—even a few paragraphs ahead. Like after Alaska freaked out and left in the middle of the night and then the principle came and knocked on everyone's doors in the morning and you knew why but you didn't want him to say it. God, I want to go home and read that part right now. That John Green really knows how to move a story along. What I wouldn't give to sit in his head for a day—or have him write a book about how he writes a book. That would be ideal. I would purchase it's paper version and write all over the pages, underlining, highlighting and writing large exclamation marks next to the parts that I dub fucking brilliant. I do that. That's what the exclamation mark means in the margins. Want to hear an example of my most recent exclamation mark? This will also serve as an advertisement for Anne Lamott.

Sometimes people turn out to be not all that funny or articulate, but they can still be great friends or narrators if they possess a certain clarity of vision—especially if they have survived or are in the process of surviving a great deal. This is inherently interesting material, since this is the task before all of us: sometimes we have to have one hand on this rock here, one hand on that one, and each big toe seeking out firm if temporary footing, and while we're scaling that rock face, there's no time for bubbles, champagne, and a witty aside. You don't mind that people in this situation are not being charming. You are glad to see them doing something you will need to do down the line, and with dignity. The challenge and the dignity make it interesting enough.

Besides, deciding what is interesting is about as subjective as things get. People hand me books and articles to read that they promise are fascinating, and I wake up holding the book, with a jerk—like when you wake up from a little nap at the movies, thinking that you are falling out of an airplane. --On developing characters

I've been trying to figure out how to end this for a few hours, now. And that just leads to another paragraph and another one and then this one so maybe I should just stop abruptly. I wonder if any of these writing books will teach me how to end a piece. Not that this is the most literarily (which is not a word) cohesive thing I've ever written. Yeah, let's go with the abrupt end.

I went through a phase for a few weeks, a couple of years ago, in which I called people “babe.”

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