You can learn a lot about life just sitting in the right place
By Parson Thru
You can learn a lot about life just sitting in the right place for a while and listening – or perhaps overhearing. If it’s free to air, I’m not doing anything wrong. Getting behind the façade, as it were. Listening to the flim-flam man working his line. The other guy’s an intellectual – Arabic, maybe – he wants a bit of the action.
This place is a favourite haunt of Americans. As well as the flim-flam man, I hear their distinctive vowels scattered around the café. It’s too expensive for me. Double what they’re charging at the other place I use a few streets away, and even that’s on the pricey side. I’m fulfilling an obligation. Following up on a recommendation.
It’s more coffee shop than cafeteria. The haunt of writerly and creative types. The conversation at the side of me is about teaching “Globalization” in some private college. Looks like he’s not going to get on the books. Freelance only. That’s what’s on offer.
The street opens up onto a broad plaza a hundred metres away. It’s a creative area. I need to kill some time before heading back to the school for a performance review.
After that, who knows? There’s an international bookshop close to Ópera, just off Isabel II. One of my friends ran it for a while many years ago. It was owned by an American who took in stray cats. The shop was named after one. The cat had AIDS, but that didn’t stop it making its way along the roofs to the flat of Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter, overlooking the square.
The cat, the American girl and the shop are long gone. It reopened a couple of years ago as an overpriced hipster place. It seems to be doing ok. Maybe I’ll drop in and pick up an overpriced book to curl up with and get drunk. Who cares? The mad bastards who run the world are going to blow us all up anyway.
The coffee is tepid – templado. I prefer caliente, but nobody bothered asking. The toast with avocado and the biscocho were nice, but eight euros is a crime. Hipster café, I’m told. These hipsters must like spending money. I prefer the originals.
I read some of Kerouac’s “On The Road” again last night. The jazz club the night before he and Cassady hit the asphalt to go East. God, the resonance. Dylan “Tangled Up In Blue”. Our Greyhound trip from Port Authority, heading South and West, going the other way. Will we ever see that road again?
Cassady was telling Kerouac about “IT” in the back seat of a Plymouth, car-sharing out of SF. The tenorman had found “it” and held it in the packed jazz club. Jack asks what he means. What’s “it”?
Neal explains how the tenorman took the tune, found his way in then stretched out, hitting his own road, exploring, taking risks. How he found “it” and held it, then took it on out across the bridge, and how the crowd knew he’d found it, willing him to take it on and he did. He took them with him, across the bridge and back, always sensitive to the tune, never losing it, but out in the night on his own. He blew. He stopped time. He knew time.
We all need to find “IT”. We all need to know time.
The bookshop was closed. Just as well. I went into a bar I know and paid for a menú del día. Nine euros fifty. Three courses. Glass of wine thrown in.
I came home and bought a bottle from the Chinese shop next door. Five euros. I’m drinking it out of the enamel mug a friend bought me as a going-away present.
It’s raining. The guitar’s out, but I’m thinking I’ll watch Al Reinert’s “For All Mankind”. I kind of feel that way just now. I’ve just heard that a lovely man we met in Germany died today. Biker.
Brian Eno soundtrack feels about right. Ambience and pedal steel guitar.
I didn’t tell you about the pedal guitar busker on the Metro. Another time maybe.