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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?

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 11, 2010 at 5:06 pm

12 Responses

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  1. I’ve been watching you all day.


    July 11, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    • Such is your case; and yet you must deplore
      That the gay dream of dissipation ’s o’er.
      And say, ye fair! was ever lively wife,
      Born with a genius for the highest life,
      Like you untimely blasted in her bloom,
      Like you condemn’d to such a dismal doom?

      Must you then watch the early crowing cock,

      Lady Teazle

      July 11, 2010 at 9:45 pm

  2. These lines for Ads in this touching tableau of bittersweet Boychicks:

    Save money—when I just knew how to waste it!
    Leave London—just as I began to taste it! 2

    Not that I haven’t informed you of this couplet before, but it always bears repeating, especially if you’re stuck in the sticks and haven’t broken your English contract….BUT…the line quote to ‘dude’ above, vix.,

    “Must you then watch the early crowing cock”

    follows directly upone

    “Save money—when I just knew how to waste it!
    Leave London—just as I began to taste it”

    Methinks Sheridan was not knowledgeable about the sophisticated things of life. You may then not watch the ‘early crowing cock’ unless you DO stay in London. You see just how ephimeral those things are in Chapel Hill,whereas in these ‘privileged edgings’, as you so richly termed them, things can be brought to consummation and even surfeit, so that writing about ‘American stuff’ never even occurs to one as a way of spending time…

    Lady Teazle

    July 11, 2010 at 9:50 pm

  3. I look up from the laptop, his eyes lift to meet mine

    I once had a misunderstanding with a guy in the computer room at college (limey high-school). I was looking at the top-right of the computer screen to find the slider to scroll down the page, and it so happened that the guy’s field of vision was directly aligned with the top right of the screen from my viewpoint. After a few slider-finding episodes, he turned to someone near him and said, “he keeps on looking at me….”

    The relentlessly homophobic atmosphere of five previous years of all-boys secondary school had conditioned me to feel immense embarrassment at the idea that some guy had thought I was “checking him out”. I wanted to say, “No really, I fancy girls.” In any case, I avoid eye contact on instinct, with both male and female. I should have used the page down button on the keyboard, but I was too young to know.

    It’s possible that the guy thought that you were checking him out and that he was lifting his eyes to “meet the threat”. After the encounter with Miss Quotation Marks and Mr Barnes and Noble Coffee, I think you should cool the eye contact for a while for your own safety. Getting beaten up by a gang of neo-KKKers could really ruin the trip.


    July 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    • Typical British provincialism. Chapel Hill may be ‘the sticks’ compared to London and…*NYC*…but it is hardly ‘KKK Land’. Unenquiring, uncruised British nerds don’t want to know. As if a major college area (including the Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem area, was a stronghold of rednecks any more than equivalent places in any other half-rural, half-suburban part of the U.S. It’s not. Do your homework.)

      I much prefer ads’s line, which is very much like an early gay-novel, say ‘The City and the Pillar’ of Gore Vidal.

      “I look up from the laptop, his eyes lift to meet mine”

      Come on, motherfucker, THAT is funny, and most heaven. It is very much like ‘Dave and Steve’s Gay Vacation’. It might as well be you and that horrible literary person who recently visited you in Angleterre….I bet you two played catch. Wow! Now that is HOT!

      Lady Teazle

      July 11, 2010 at 11:39 pm

  4. Nathan Beford Forrest born in Chapell Hill? Wikipedia told me so it must be true.

    under-narrativization on his part vs. over-narrativization on hers

    Which is why men and women rarely get along for more than five minutes at a time.


    July 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

    • Dates, darling? You’re just SO refined.

      Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877)

      Lady Teazle

      July 12, 2010 at 12:52 am

  5. Oh bugger, “Nathan Bedford Forrest was born to a poor family in Chapel Hill, Tennessee”.

    Cut cut cut. I was going to do a joke about Ads being there to take part in a KKK Forrest birthday ceremony.


    July 12, 2010 at 1:55 pm

  6. Yeah, more nerd cleverness. Rather like Zizek, one supposes. Okay, well, you may find ME ‘quite entertaining’ (almost everyone does), but the feeling is no longer mutual.

    Now will your newly-donned ‘humility’ get you anywhere. We suggest you stick with Big Apple of the ‘new store type’.

    Lady Teazle

    July 12, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    • “Now will your newly-donned ‘humility’ get you anywhere”.

      One meant “Nor will you newly-donned ‘humility’ get you anywhere”. We want arrogance, but not ‘graceless arrogance’. That’s, of course, Zizek’s speciality, and why he plays in Peoria. I hate to admit it, but his impingement on the New York Times is part of a current decay that even I can’t overlook. The Opinionator has High School ‘Composition’ type things by so-called professionals, about ‘insomnia in Manhattah’ and how wonderful it is, because after all, it’s *New York*, and blah and blah and blah. Plus, they will ofrent not post comments even if without abuse, profanity, and are on-topic; but they will post TMZ-type comments, e.g., peasant excitement on Lindsay Lohan’s upcoming jailing. And there was an unremittingly half-assed article on Mark Twain Saturday which, in order to hype itself up, left out all mention of ‘letters from the earth’, either to make a dull splash or just out of total ignorance.

      Lady Teazle

      July 12, 2010 at 5:18 pm

  7. ‘She looks softly disappointed’

    Ads: you and the word soft. What’s going on?

    I could be wrong, but you seem to use it when you want to describe something as subtle, but are aware that to simply *say* it is subtle, would itself be unsubtle. It’s a question of atmospherics: soft, quiet, gentle… subtle. Etc. But isn’t that sort of a dodge? I don’t think it does quite the work you want it do as a stand-in.

    Maybe you’re aware of this. At one point I noticed the words soft and complicated were popping up all over the blog, and when you described something as ‘softly complicated’ I began to wonder if there was an in-joke going on.


    July 19, 2010 at 10:42 am

  8. I think it’s a Joyce thing. Search Joyce’s work for uses of “soft.” “Complicated” is a different matter and has been repeatedly flagged up by people in realtimerealflesh. I’m not supposed to say “complicated” anymore.


    July 23, 2010 at 10:06 am

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