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Archive for July 11th, 2010

north carolina: the blind date

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America does, however, brim with raw material. Not so much material raw material or even the processed stuff anymore, but the story stuff that they we endlessly generate. Hard to work on one’s own when surrounded by such stuff. Barnes and Noble right now, and mistaken for “Ethan” while waiting in the coffee line. “Ethan” turns out to be her blind date, some sort of eHarmony generated pick. But no, “Ethan,” I’m not.

She looks softly disappointed when he actually shows. But as it turns out the Harmony that’s been e’ed is the fact that they are both into “spirituality.” Hard to discern exactly what brand – as my American readers know, but perhaps not the Brits, we’re not talking Xtianity here. Or rather, we’re talking about what happens to Xtianity when god gets sublimated (what a thing to sublimate, huh?) into amorphous mojo or golden sunbeams or whatever, normative ethics into conventional methods of “self-actualization,” and so on.

Can’t help but listen. She picked the table next to mine as if she wanted to, as if she wanted me to listen. Perhaps she knows that I’m a spiritualist too of a very particular, and particularly self-annoying and not all that redemptive sort. Sometimes I wish I had some sort of press badge that entitled me to record stuff like this. “Would you mind if I just left this tape deck to run here on your table. Here, let me move your soy latte. Yes, here’s my pass from the International Union of Barnes and Noble Flaneurs.”

She is discussing a “presentation on vibes” that she just attended, and the “tarot group” that she was at last night. He is dying here – he’s faking the new age-ness that seems to have been requisite for this meet. He has nothing to say save for the list of schools that he attended, the boring job that he does doing “video work,” and the fact that he’s not really interested (or so he says) in watching the finals of the World Cup this afternoon.

Though he’d like to be a therapist, as he majored in psychology, he’s still “assessing his situation” he guesses. She attempts to circle the conversation back to some place. He plunges deep and backward, to a summer spent in France during high school, the friends that he left behind there. She is ia lawyer, with a prosperous job – just lonely here having moved at the wrong time.

Education, employment (over / under), travel, where one chooses to live in the nearly identical sprawl sprouts around here, the other places – themselves basically identical to this one, with only slight variations in weather and political climate – where one lived before and might well live again. You can see the structural void that amorphous esoteric “spirituality” fits in, the roles that it serves in these negotiations – those both with oneself and with others.

So the tale of the tape: under-narrativization on his part vs. over-narrativization on hers. The coffee machine rumbles at key points as if to underscore, behind all of this, something indeterminate. She checks the time on her phone, “can’t be late for my thing,” and then they start the final push toward failure and separation: the discussion of the virtues and faults of various mobile phone companies, AT&T vs. Verizon….

UPDATE: I am clearly being cruised by a guy sitting a few tables over, cattycorner. I look up from the laptop, his eyes lift to meet mine. Over and again, automatically. The coffeehouses of Barnes and Noble are clearly one of the most interesting and interestingly emblematic places in America. I’ve long thought about writing something about them – one of those publisher friendly books (bet I can think of just the publisher, at least if they did anything other than publish out of print classics in third-choice translation!) where, in the midst of personal crisis and looking to get back to my (suburban, part-autodidactical) intellectual and social roots I rent a car and spend an evening typing / reading / talking at each and every in-store coffee outlet in America. It’s a place that one goes when one wants more than what’s otherwise around place like this, but where one is unlikely to find much more than lattes and computer magazines and the company of the more interesting variety of lonely types, the lonely types just like you…. Ah, but it’s a bit too Alain de Botton to pass my rigorous muster, isn’t it?

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July 11, 2010 at 5:06 pm