Saturday, February 16, 2013

White People Reading

Gorgeous day today (65-ish, clear blue skies) and, having no freelance stuff to do or people to do things with, my get-out-of-the-apartment errand for the day was picking up some hold books at the downtown library:

Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (by Cynthia Carr)
My Heart Is an Idiot (Essays by Davy Rothbart, creator of the "Found" website. For anyone who hasn't seen that site--consisting solely of items/notes that readers have randomly found--I highly recommend: Oh, the humanity!)

I arrived at the library shortly after its 10am opening, so I didn't have to wrest a table from one of the homeless men who populate the reading tables. (Though this is the main branch of the Austin library system, there is woefully little space to sit and read: maybe 20 tables total on only ONE floor, plus 10 or so seats on the entry-level floor. A new, larger main branch opens next year, but it'll be further south, by the river, not nearly as convenient to get to by bus.)

Secure at my table with a great view of the trees/hills/architecture of downtown, I hung out for about 3 hours reading "Fire in the Belly," 'til the loud rumbling in my own belly forced me to pack up in search of lunch. I REALLY wasn't ready to go back and be cooped up in my apartment on such a nice day; nor did I want to go sit among pretentiously pale bearded slackers in plaid shirts and pay $10 for a crappy sandwich in one of the cafes near my apartment...

I had weeks ago seen/covetted some clear, thick-glass cereal bowls at a Dollar Store further north that also had a large pizza place in the same strip mall... I had plenty of time to kill, so made the bus trek north, got a couple of the bowls (in an insanely ill-organized store; at least 20 people waiting in EACH of the 2 check-out lines that were open, with 4 fat Hispanic female employees joking amongst themselves by the windows, not making any effort to help the 2 harried checkers; my own--skinny, black, older--check-out lady kept up an ongoing stream of checkout-slowing conversation with every customer, complaining about how little she got paid, etc. I was gritting my teeth with impatience and ready to leave, but REALLY liked/wanted those cheap bowls...).

Dollar bowls FINALLY safely wrapped, I went over to the pizza place, hoping to be able to relax a little with a salad/slice/drink and some leisurely reading at a window seat... Ha! The place, even at 2pm, was a madhouse: Turns out there was a buffet going on, and apparently every working-poor Hispanic family in the area was taking advantage of it. 95% of the seats taken, shrieking kids running everywhere. And something like $9 for the buffet! Ugh. (How were these families affording that? My guess: buying one buffet and the other 5 people in the family all eating on that, as well.)

By now I was STARVING...McDonald's it was. At least it was cheaper, and, hey, there were window seats with good views of passersby, and reading there would be OK, kinda different... Unfortunately, another jam-packed madhouse. More Hispanic families with screaming kids, a couple-a black families with screaming kids. I just ordered something to scarf down quickly; and as I ate, some clearing out DID happen, and I was still contemplating doing some reading in the newly quieter atmosphere...until I saw who was sitting at the booth right behind me: A middle-aged white guy in glasses with a STACK OF LIBRARY BOOKS on the table in front of him! Nursing a soda, poring over one of his books. ONE of us random, disconnected white people reading alone at a McDonald's because it was cheap and got us out of the apartment was, perhaps, "quaint." TWO of us, though...WAY too much!!

When I saw my doppelganger, I flashed back to Woody Allen's character in "Manhattan" when he for the first time meets girlfriend Diane Keaton's ex-husband, whom she'd been describing as a real stud... Turns out it's Wallace Shawn (an even physically schlubbier version of Allen's character).

For every "me" roaming around out there thinking she's so free and independent and unusual...there are millions of other sad-sacks EXACTLY LIKE ME trying to get out of their tiny apartments for the day! Dammit! (I'm also reminded of the lines in Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" -- "...Then took the other, as just as fair / And having perhaps the better claim, / Because it was grassy and wanted wear; / Though as for that, the passing there / Had worn them really about the same...")

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