Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coffee Shop Attendance: Filtration and Procession

I’ve been haunting coffee shops for a while now. While I can’t say it is my favorite activity, it has become somewhat of a necessity for me to go there.


Simple. I am a victim of homeland denial. I cannot achieve anything inside my house, a habit that has become a black mark, a true medical condition. I no longer even consider tackling a book, or doing anything worthwhile, inside my house. Why? I don’t know. The best explanation I can come up with is this.

I am a bachelor. I am young. I am unachieved... and in my house I disappear. I am taken out of the ocean. The opportunity for a tidal wave is next to none.

Coffee shop attendance, on the other hand, provides ample opportunity for participation and observation of the schools of fish swimming by. I usually sit solo, sometimes slipping in with the other fish. But today I am like a spreading sea fan on a block of coral - filtering my environment and to the casual eye, barely participating.

And as I do so, I realize is this: What I hear, see, and smell while sitting on a porch with coffee is often priceless. Just like the sea fan I am filter feeding, oriented across the prevailing current, maximizing the intake of particulate matter. That's me below...

And so the experience begins.

On a lucid afternoon, the temperature has dropped 5 degrees since the rain began. The sky is uniformly gray. I see rain on the hoods, pavement, reflecting on the sidewalks. I cannot read. I cannot chat. So what do I do?

I unfurl my receptors and dedicate 30 minutes to writing down what I hear and see, written down in the reality of my mind. No goal other than to try and gain some understanding.

The osmosis begins.


To my left, four guys are sitting together. One with dreadlocks, others normal enough, I catch one phrase: “What about the Christian Hell? That too?”

To my left, there is an aging blond female speaking of her relationship troubles with her boyfriend to a male confidant: She says: “He doesn’t respect my sobriety! He comes over with beers.”

Moving on to her dating life, she continues: “One other thing about this guy I’m dating… He’s also dating my best friend…She’s out of town a lot working a lot… It seems like he’s got a girl in every town!”

She is chain smoking, and I realize something. There is an unalterable correlation in my overhearing: cigarette smokers = the loudest speaker, a plagued past and eccentric outlooks.


A salt-and-pepper haired man in Carhartts walks out with a beautiful young woman, a woman that raises the question in my mind, “Is that his wife or daughter?”

I pause and lean back to process my surroundings. I see the peak of autumn flush.


Two testosterone-suppressed men arrive, color-coordinated pumas and sweaters, the pair of them matching in their dark rims and dark mesh hair. They sit down besides me, begin to whisper imperceptibly.

I see a lot of 35 year old men, fresh shaven and iron-pressed. I decide that they vary between two subspecies, the cocky-calculating sort and the alternative-coveting. Both successful in societies terms.

The resident grandpa arrives teetering, with a truck hat and a cassette deck. Conversational, many people stop to talk to him, call him by his name.

I note the other Elder, celebrated minds. Then I see those that wish they were such. Then those vanilla folks that wish to be near such, that leach off their presence.

The people I like best are the ones that are such but don’t look so, that don’t know so, and perhaps don’t care so, and that get away with their work unseen and unadorned, like a throbbing torpedo below the surface, separate from the hot air of coffee houses. I fantasize that I am one of these.


I realize that the subconscious reason of every visit for me, and many others, is the women.

One passes, bursting in the tight jeans, tight sweater, shaved head, slender glasses, fatless body.

Then another in a toboggan hat, auburn hair, studded ears, shredded black jean skirt with leggings underneath, unatheletic and large.

I muse over my potential hyper-exposure to germs due to my constant presence in public schools. My thoughts are fluid, entering and exiting, external from my control.


A few thrown out of left-field arrive, the ones that defy all of my categorization attempts:

The stocky Vietnamese man with glasses that belts it out in foreign tongues. The pastel polo 20 somethings, perhaps the only stock that is OUT OF PLACE.

One of the group of four men at the beginning, returning from inside, circles the other three laughing, “Y’all still going at it? Dogmatic in the rain… still arguing.” These are the coffee shop revolutionaries.

The coffee begins to dig at my empty stomach, the sound of voices fades into the rush hour. I walk to my bike, unlock it and pedal into the rain, steering towards home.


It is said that the size, shape, and appearance of sea fans is highly correlated to their location. The more fan-shaped and flexible sea fans tend to populate shallower areas with strong currents, while the taller, thinner, and stiffer ones can be found in deeper, calmer waters.

Many creatures are known to dwell within their branches, some of which closely resemble their host and are thus well camouflaged.

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