Presently I am the perfect cliché of Writer at Café. If you wrote a book and titled it that, you would want the picture of me as I am this very second on your cover.
The far corner of my view is obstructed by the back of LUNCH SPECIALS and CARTA DEI VINI. In fact they serve a purpose of hiding my netbook so I don’t seem quite such a poseur to the common passerby. Although if anyone does see it, I still very much pass for a student and studying is a perfectly acceptable reason to be on a laptop in a cafe. I’m self conscious, imagining everyone can see me for the self-important blogger I am (but have been embarrassingly neglectful for over two weeks). I’m not editing a final paper, not answering urgent emails, not drafting an article, not managing my stock portfolio. I’m unemployed and struggling to motivate myself to form semi-interesting paragraphs about the goings-on in my life. Which, honestly, is just how I look, and if any one looked closely, I’m sure they’d be able to guess this in a second. You can judge this book by its cover, sure. But who am I kidding? This is New York City, the only person who is even aware of my existence is the barista who brought me my chai latte and maybe the toddlers being pushed in their strollers who take in their surrounding with a wonder we adults have long forgotten.
There’s a little boy playing peek a boo from the window of the building opposite. Which makes me think how rarely we take the time to look out windows. Growing up my bedroom window overlooked the intersection of 2 picturesque San Francisco streets and I literally spent hours staring out of it, people watching and daydreaming. Ten years later I spend hours staring at Windows XP. Granted, the view from my present bedroom window is largely the building across from mine and a pathetic excuse for a courtyard that separates us. But this stool in the Arte Cafe on Columbus Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan places me face to face with a window. And between typed sentences and sips of chai I drink in my surroundings, able to cherish these moments as I am not on a deadline, have no commitments for 36 hours at the least, and am writing for the simple reason that I feel bad when I don’t.
Against the layers of cloudy sky above I see the dots of 3 bug-like blinking helicopters. When paired with a wailing fire engine flying down the street below I must wonder “what’s going on?” The internet at my finger tips provides no answers- must not be anything I should worry about. Had I a TV, maybe I’d see it on the evening news. But I don’t and so dismiss it from my mind and return to my window.
I see my bicycle is still safely locked outside and it is not alone. Every traffic sign and tree I can see bares at least one bicycle chained to it with the necessary extra-strength NYC locks. Not only do us bicyclist live in constant fear of dying on our bikes as we ride down city streets, the moment we get off them we live in fear they will be stolen in spite of the industrial locks. I dated a cyclist for a bit (Banjo Guy), someone who rode everywhere and had a sizable amount of money invested in his transportation, an amount which grew weekly as he added improvements/embellishments. Any meal with him, any kind of outing actually, was interrupted several times with him leaving to check on his bicycle. Though I found this annoying and excessive to perhaps the point of paranoia, I did understand it. Every time I return to my locked bicycle visions of it sans seat, sans wheel, or just gone all together flash before my eyes. However thus far not one of these visions has had any weight in real life. We’re (me and my bike) hoping it stays that way.
When I get up to go to the bathroom a fellow customer, an older man in a party who looks as though they hailed from Europe tries to get his bill from me. Momentary utter confusion. Apparently I don’t look like a blogger, I look like a cafe server. Hmm..same difference?
The UWS is living up to its stereotype as a family neighborhood. Countless strollers pass by, people walking dogs, and little girls holding hands in four-year-old friendship which I remember enviously, one wearing a pink polka dot sweater I would have traded favorite stuffed-animals for.
It makes sense I’m having flashbacks to childhood. I’m enjoying a surprisingly care-free month. I don’t have rent looming, I’ve been working enough to not qualify for unemployment/worry much, and my nights are deliciously free of “aaah I have to wake up for work in 6 hours!”. I have time to sit at a cafe and type what ever pops into my mind. I’d say unemployment suits me, but that would be a lie. This is unemployment with the end quite in sight- less than two weeks away. I call it unemployment, most people would call it a vacation. Potaytoe Potahtoe.