In The Pursuit of Leisure

24 August 2014

She drinks coffee. She pours liquid from the French press into a small coffee cup. She has an entire cupboard full of coffee mugs of all sizes. She has four coffee mugs on which various portions of the images disappear or transform when hot liquid flows into them.

Earlier in the day she took a drive. She rolled down the windows. She could feel fall sliding in to replace summer. Her hair was dry and would surely be in disarray when she arrived at her destination. Sunday was the day she used no additional products on her body. No deodorant. No conditioner. No hair gel. Toothpaste, soap and shampoo were the maximum allowable, although she would opt for sunscreen if she ventured into the sun for too long. (This was a rare occasion.)

She listened to Dead Kennedys at a loud volume as she zoomed down one of the city’s major arteries. (Would it be a vein now as it was pumping her toward the heart of the town?) Her heart was beating fast. She had no coffee so the pure adrenaline of pointed punk sonics left her shaking in a way in which she wasn’t often familiar. How much of her life was spent in the thick of caffeine rushes? She wasn’t convinced she ever had true feelings, feelings she could actually cleave from other substances (caffeine, tea, music, people). Did she need a holiday in Cambodia?

She bought the Sunday edition of a major newspaper from a corporate bookstore. She considered buying a coffee to go, but wanted the experience of making coffee at home, drinking several cups while listening to music and trying to get through the nearly insurmountable stack of news she now had in a bag. The woman ahead of her in line had a hand basket full of items. The clerk finished ringing in the woman’s items, completed the transaction and handed her the loot in a single bag. “All of it fit in one bag,” the woman asked with noticeable disbelief and reproof. “It all fit in one basket,” she thought as she stood in line empty-handed going over and over the precise words she would use to ask for the Sunday paper. (She wondered if Joe Jackson was reading the news at that very moment. She actually wondered if Joe Jackson was alive. An Internet search later would reveal he is alive and has moved on to “eclectic, though less commercially successful, pop/jazz/classical hybrids.” When she first heard Sugar Ray’s version of “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” on the radio, she wanted to shout to everyone within earshot that Joe Jackson did it first and best and everyone should probably get on with the business of letting Sugar Ray fade into oblivion. She knew, however, that a lack of quality current taste for pop music and an atavistic longing for even the worst music of the 1990s would keep Sugar Ray in indefatigable and inevitable infinite rotation.)

She never finished the Sunday edition of the newspaper. She only cared to supplement her constant magazine reading with more in-depth analysis of recent events. She made her way through the voluminous text, ink staining her fingers and Deadmau5 ringing in her ears. At work she once made a joke upon hearing an upbeat electronica song that it reminded her of her clubbing days. She never had such days and probably never would, although in the interstices of her being lay secret notions that she could one day spend a week in Ibiza following the sweaty throng from club to club, dancing jumping gyrating to Oakenfold and taking club drugs and wearing very little.

The adrenaline had worn off. The coffee had kicked in. Her friends were at the pool. She was learning about the separate declared caliphates of the Islamic State and Boko Haram. The world is always and existence is constant until it isn’t. Inertia is an enemy; not so great as evil or even evil-disguised-as-good (religion), but certainly her biggest enemy. Television. Smart phone. Gaming apps. She partook in more opiates than Coleridge, but had none of the Khan-do attitude he had.

Purgatory in Salt Lake City

23 September 2012

I drive to work and finally make the switch away from OK Computer. I opt for Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm.

The plastic seal in the travel coffee mug lid is beginning to pop out. It prevents me from closing the lid all the way. As I drive and take a sip from the mug, coffee pours onto my shirt and lap. I am not burned, just bemused.

On the interstate, I drive south to work. Each morning, I pass a billboard with a picture of Orrin Hatch on it. The text reads, “With experience comes strength” and has his first name in cursive, as if he signed the billboard by hand, and his surname in print. I always flip the bird to this billboard because it enrages me. It should say, “With experience comes entrenched and moralistic judgement that is far removed from the life of the everyday person Senator Sign-His-Own-Billboard claims to represent.”

I take my exit and drive to the traffic light where I must turn left. I sit in the turn lane and watch the persons driving past me. I think about Mr. Hatch as I watch the drivers. Some wear sunglasses and some sing along to something they hear. We all do our best with what we have. Unfortunately, all some of us (e.g. Orrin Hatch, Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, etc.) have are terrible tools designed only to build our own houses on the rubble of neighbourhoods around us.

On my lunch break, I decide to walk to Bakery and Brews, a coffee shop I have praised previously, for a pumpkin spice latte. I find the building locked and completely empty. No tables, no chairs, no magazine racks, no life. A few days later, the large banner with the shop’s name is gone from the building.

—-

I walk the two and one-half blocks to Red Rock Brewing Company to eat my favourite brunch item – The Eggs In Purgatory. I walk through the Gateway, past the Farmer’s Market in the blazing sun. I have sensitive eyes and no sunglasses. I am often ill-equipped for my circumstances.

I am in the comforting presence of strangers amid a cacophony of 1980s music (“I Want Your Sex”), knives attacking cutting boards, silverware clattering against itself and indecipherable conversations.

I order water without ice and with a lemon, coffee (black) and Eggs In Purgatory. The coffee is good enough. It is watery and mild allowing me to drink several cups before shitting myself.

I do not know why the eggs are in purgatory. I feel some Christian sects allow for the purity of organisms that are never birthed. Yet, these eggs were so sinful (or just sinful enough) that they find themselves in limbo, denied bliss and near damnation. I devour them in the hopes this gustatory grace will end their torment.

Persons from the True Value convention dine here. The men wear khaki or navy blue slacks (probably Haggar or Dockers), polos or long-sleeve light-blue dress shirts.

The meal is as good as I remember.

I take a bite of bacon and a sip of coffee as my former neighbour, Dan, instructed me to do. I once enjoyed a gin and tonic with Dan on his balcony at our apartment building in the Avenues of Salt Lake City.

I leave Red Rock to adjourn to The Rose coffee shop. The location used to be Big City Soup. I was disappointed in the change at first, but now feel pleased. The space is open, the coffee is good and the clientele are 92-percent hipster. I spy a woman I used to know when I lived here the first time. Her hair is much longer now.

I am overstimulated with the action here. Persons moving, talking, catching up, calling one another “sleepy head.” My cappuccino has a flower-shape in the foam. Perhaps it is more of a leaf. Either way is OK.

A man wears a NASA t-shirt. His legs are veiny. A child walks in and makes noise on a harmonica. He plays the same note, in and out and repeat ’til death do us part.

Sleepy head orders iced coffee and toast. I hope the choice rejuvenates and prepares her for the day ahead.

Another small child walks in holding the hand of a grown-up. This child is not making noise on a harmonica. She is being quiet and respectful and looking around with curiosity in her eyes.

A person may wish to be in a park on a day like today, but I am not easily fooled. I know the sun is out there, waiting to make me warm and hard of seeing.

Another familiar woman walks in. I am stuck in a hipster time warp, riding my fixed-gear bicycle down memory lane.

One woman at the coffee bar says, loud enough for all to hear, “Time is the most valuable thing on the planet.”

The conversation dies down. The sound of crockery clanking increases. I get up and leave.

Slouching toward extinction

16 September 2012

Salt Lake City is quiet on Sundays. The streets are slow and the sun is warm, but beginning to lose its power to the coolness of autumn. The residents of the LDS capital are shopping, indoors with family at church or in cute coffee shops and Whole Foods.

I go to brunch with GF and her brother, Adamantium. GF and I drive to the University of Utah dorms to pick up Adamantium and drive back down to Caffé Niche on 300 South and 800 West. We walk in with the hopes of eating on the patio, yet the patio is full. The hostess with the braid tells us we may have to wait for a table. She explains there is a table by the window, but it is having a “fly situation” at the moment. Due to her further explanation, I am able quickly to dismiss two possible scenarios: (A) The table is having issues zipping up its blue jeans and is too embarrassed or ill-prepared for company. (B) The table is experiencing the height of 1990s cool, yet that acme of awesome has landed it into some sort of kerfuffle, similar to the ones Kid N Play frequently found themselves in. The truth is the simpler version: (C) Several flies of the insect variety buzz around the table. I excuse myself to the restroom in which the reggae music is loud. I return to find a suitable table is ready. We sit, look at the menu and prepare to order.

Throughout brunch, I realize the patrons and restaurant staff are too cool for me. I am resigned to perpetual unfashionability. I cannot hang with hipsters in tucked in black shirts, hipsters with tattoos that have deep meaning and are lyrics from Bon Iver songs, hipsters with thrift store ensembles nicer than anything I own. I am getting too old to matter or fit, not that I ever have found myself comfortable in any setting. I am the gorilla in the midst of glamorous gibbons.

I am becoming irrelevant and anachronistic. GF and I listen to the radio while driving because she prefers the radio and I frequently commandeer the musical choices, which almost never include music found on popular radio. (This statement is not to imply I have any sort of taste, but to highlight the fact that I prefer intolerable music that causes indigestion and has no appeal whatsoever. I am a difficult person to be around.) GF tunes the dial to the “oldies” station. We hear Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” both of which are admonishing us to refrain from quitting (at least until we get enough). These are now oldies? When I was younger, oldies were songs from the 1960s and 1970s, but I suppose we made the leap to the 1980s as the distant past sometime in the last 10 years. Instead of paying attention, I was busy slouching toward extinction.

We are now in our apartment after dropping Adamantium at the dorms and after I purchase a pumpkin spice latte at Whole Foods. While GF does work, I listen to “Armagideon Time” by The Clash and “Sitting Still” by REM. I suppose the songs are fitting for my mood, as I am reaching my personal Armageddon of appositeness. I am sitting still, refusing to upgrade my many-years-old flip phone, thinking that human connection can still exist via email, phone call and letter and postcard writing.

I am the oldies station tuned to only for a second of rosy nostalgia. I am quickly switched in favour of glitzy, ADD rock and Autotuned technopop. I am the post-apocalyptic curmudgeon in self-exile.

-JPR

[Typed on my MacBook Pro, posted on my online blog and promoted via Twitter.]

Like a month to a flame

1 September 2011

This is it! September! The best month of the year.

Not convinced? Perhaps these great September moments in history will change your mind:

  • September 3, 1808 CE – James Bismuth of Topeka, KS invents the world’s first coal-powered gaming system. The first game, Coalmine Canary Adventure, would be memorialized by The Police many years later.
  • September 24, 435 BCE – Tammy Joans er Al-Veranda catapults a pig over the Great Wall of China setting off a series of events that would eventually lead to the creation of Mongolian Barbecue.
  • September 18, 1405 CE – Three Visigoths wonder whether or not they still exist at this point in history.
  • September 30, 3408 CE – Flying car finally invented. Unfortunately, massive traffic jams continue as floaterists constantly bump into massive heaps of information stored in the Clouds.

Now you know.