Monday, August 29, 2016


Backdrops are not the action. They are not the story. The way the word COFFEE looks on a storefront window to a customer waiting inside for someone to arrive is not the story. It is not what the customer is really looking at. Pedestrians pass, then cars, then nothing at all.

There needs to be coffee still left in the cup in front of him when that someone arrives. This Sunday afternoon is not about ordering coffee and then drinking it. It is a process that needs to work backward. The coffee needs to point to a time not that long ago when the customer was not yet a customer, when he had just parked his car and walked up to the coffee house because someone had suggested it.

The coffee needs to point to someone who was not yet waiting the way he is waiting now.

The coffee needs to look like something that can easily be finished in a future close by, the cup pushed away, resignation disguised, disappointment masked, or maybe even relief smudged into indistinctness.

Unless a hand has turned the day.

Another hand on the table.

And then drinking became something to remember to do.

And remembering became something to do.

The way the six letters of the word COFFEE had looked to a customer waiting for just this someone to arrive.

The way they may always look now.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Another Kind of Vermont

Sometimes a writing cabin is not a place. It is the time that no one knows I have.

It is the time I did not know myself that I would have until the phone call.

Having barely seated himself beside me in the passenger seat of my car, a traveling companion takes a call, a puzzled look overriding the polite excuses he would normally offer me.

A four-hour car trip is looming ahead of the two of us. Heavy grey clouds may make it a slower trek up into Vermont than I had foreseen.

The call is from Frank, a man at least in his seventies whose morning companion has not shown up. A routine Wednesday visit is an hour late in beginning, and no call has alerted Frank to expect that delay. The routine visitor is someone with whom my traveling companion shares his living space and who left their building some hours earlier. There is no work schedule for this man to follow and no habit of carrying a cell phone on these early morning ventures.

Instead of heading north, the car begins a circuit of neighborhood sites customary for such ventures. At times I go up a dead end street and wait while my traveling companion searches a nearby parkland area, his umbrella open now against the occasional rain.

We visit Frank's neighborhood and leave after affirming that Frank is all right, despite his anxiety over his friend.

The rain continues. The uncertainty continues. The decision seems inevitable -- this Vermont trip will be a solo one if it happens today.

I drop my friend off at his building and head home. I will at least have lunch and make up my mind whether I am up to four hours driving alone for the sake of a reservation at an old inn.

Another phone call and I learn that the earlier search is ended. My friend is taking care of a man overtaken by illness during his walk and still disoriented but otherwise safe.

The preparations for an overnight away are all still in place as I enter my apartment. The cat barely raises her head. The shades remain drawn.

No one expects me here in the city these two days. No one expects me to answer emails or respond to text messages. Unaware of my morning, no one is poised to offer invitations or suggest alternatives, as kind and as welcome as they would inevitably prove.

If I want, I can let a kind of space open around me. It is a silence to which I can become accustomed these two vacation days if I am careful not to dismiss it or disparage it or undo it. It is key for me not to fix something if it is not a problem.

Suppose I just walk into this space as I might into a writing cabin.

Suppose I just write.

Just for a little while.