I am sitting on the steps in the most perfect spot in my little town, affectionately called "Paradise City."
Behind me sits a man--he may be drunk; he may be mentally ill, more likely he is both--who sits with a radio in his lap. "Dreams," by Fleetwood Mac is being extruded from the three inch speakers like thin spaghetti.
"When the rain washes you clean you'll know ...
You'll know ... "
Across the street, the son of a prominent steel drum player plays his steel drum. Each note struck sounds like a colorful drop of liquid which makes a tone as it hits the ground, and whose pitch is determined by how far from the sky it drops, and at what speed. The ground around him sounds wet and warm.
A mirror ball spins in the window of a Mexican restaurant directly across from me. Depending on how I look at it, it provides either a sparkly dot completing the top of a lower case "i", or the bottom of an upside down exclamation point, of which, the body is made up by the crosswalk.
A scruffy looking twenty-something comes up to me and says:
"How's it going?"
I reply, "OK, how are you?"
"Could be better, could be worse."
I half-smile. I don't really want to continue.
He looks both ways before he asks me a question.
I say no.
He walks on with his camping gear on his back down the street.
It takes all kinds.
If I wasn't staring at my computer while I typed I would swear that I am at a sparsely attended fair, complete with a promenade teeming with average priced cars.
Two men to my left--both heavy-set and bald--sit, enjoying ice cream cones.
This week, school returns to session. There are girls everywhere. Some look like they are coming back to a place they are familiar with--perhaps showing it off to the newcomers. Others have the look in their eyes that only men get when they are lost--too befuddled to walk as confidently as they wish they could; too proud and defiant to stop and ask for help.
As I look around I recognize some people from the meetings I used to attend. I wonder, sometimes, whether or not any of the folks I see, who are now connected by the common and commendable bond of sobriety, would have ever bought each other a drink when they were using. A lot of times I come up with a no, but that's just me.They sit next to me, bobbing their heads and tapping their hands--not necessarily nervously, just at the ready. There's a lot to think about when you actually get to the point when you have the space and time to do it.
As I finish my coffee I can't help but muse how there, unfortunately, is no substitute for caffeine. I suppose that you could stimulate your adrenal gland by picking a fight with the homeless guy with the radio who is now yelling to nobody in particular, "Don't you touch that fucking thing. I'll have to get my cousin to kick your ass."
But nobody pays attention. There's too much else going on all around and it sounds like a family matter anyway.
I don't do this as much as I should--sitting downtown, doing nothing, at night, barefoot, slouching.
I used to have such good posture that my childhood doctor--Doctor Hughes--would give me a special pin and chocolate each time I saw him. He said I had the best posture of all his patients. My dentist probably would have frowned on it. My masseuse would never believe it.
My weed dealer from sixteen years ago comes up to me and asks if the Stevie Nicks is coming from my laptop. I tell him no and he extends his hand. I shake it. He tells me who he is. I don't recognize him, but he assures me that he used to take good care of me and my girlfriend. We talk for a while and he leaves.
As I write this, I am realizing that I am ignoring what is going on around me as I try to describe it.
So, in closing, I'll say that it smells like chocolate, the headlights from the car turning down the street to my left looked and felt like a train coming straight for me, and the homeless guy behind me has just cranked up the little radio which is now playing Stevie Nicks' solo hit, "Edge of Seventeen."
He yells, "Stevie!" and the song fuzzes up as he turns the knob from one side of the station to the other before locking in on it and turning it up.
A very intense seeming man--mid forties, spiked, frosted blonde $50 haircut, wearing an expensive dress shirt, black slacks, and white, Etonic running shoes--sits to my right. He is nervously tapping away on his iphone.
"Can you turn that down, please?," he whines to the man with the radio.
And the homeless man actually turns it down for a minute.
(a good 45 seconds later)
"Can't figure out your phone?," he asks the guy with the $50 haircut.
"I can figure out my phone fine," he says, with an air of superiority that ironically makes him seem much less of a person.
And for a while the music is quieter as both men sit fifteen feet apart from each other.
And then, as you could expect, he turns it up.
"And the days go by...
Like a strand in the wind...
In the web that is my own...
I begin again
Said to my friend, baby...
Nothin else mattered ... "
And the other guy just sits there, probably online, writing an email, as I sit next to him, ostensibly doing the same.
The lights in the restaurant go off, the smell of chocolate turns to the smell of Marlboro Lights, and the music just keeps playing in the background.
And I think it's time to go.
"Just like the white winged dove...
Sings a song...
Sounds like shes singing...
Ooo... baby ooo... said ooo ... "
Thanks for reading,