I was going through some old notebooks yesterday and was reminded of a habit I used to have. I would sit in the window at Espresso Roma (and later at Habitat Espresso) and take notes about everyone who walked by.
5/4/98 Bushy white mustache, 2 inch heels. Pete on his bicycle, pulls over and locks it to a parking meter. An EMT takes a sip from his Pepsi. Garbage truck driver has his name painted on the door of his truck, “Nick”. Pete’s reading Ghost World! Two guys, one in flannel, the other a hooded sweatshirt, carry pieces of ornate iron fence. Preppy boy walks past talking on his cell phone, two minutes later walks past from the other direction. A divorced PhD explains his taxes to a friend. A tulip in an eight ounce Coke bottle full of water.
5/11/98 Yellow shorts carrying black shoes. Vertical stripes, running with his hands in his pockets. Yellow tinted glasses, fuzzy bag. Brow furrowed, flushed cheeks, hands clasped in front bag hanging from elbow. Vertical stripes zips past from the other direction, green backpack over one shoulder. Khaki shirt jogs across the street against the light, cuts the corner, and walks the next crosswalk with the light. Cute girl scrapes the last of the cream cheese out of the packet for her bagel. Leather jacket, baggy corduroys, hitting palm with stick. Former barista, green jacket, blue bag, crosses street with arms folded. Dyed hair, rushes urgently to baseball cap, questions baseball cap, who answers casually, she calms, comes inside to get coffee. Baseball cap hails cab or waves to someone across the street. Teacup handle is made for smaller fingers. Short girl carries motorcycle helmet between visor and chin guard. Cute girl finishes bagel, goes outside for cigarette. Other cute girl, who I noticed twice before walking in both directions, is sitting outside, eating pastry. Mike (bearded), carrying bag of groceries, stops at corner to talk to guy with leather jacket slung over shoulder, when finished, he talks to two others. Bus blocks my view of that corner, when it drives away he’s moved on. Huge orange and green umbrella. Bleached moussed hair. Black coat, hair joins girl in opposite window. I think it’s just about time to go.
I’m enjoying reading through some of them now. I’m surprised by insignificant details that I remember, like Mike disappearing after the bus obscured him from my view (maybe he got on the bus). But I’m also surprised by every detail that I don’t remember; how could I forget the garbageman with his name painted on the side of his truck?
I think Espresso Roma was the only place where I regularly took these notes. That space is Bleu Bistro now and is slightly less conducive to solitary lingerers. I don’t think that’s why I stopped though. I’ve been more of a navel gazer lately, staring and zoning-out more than watching. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve been consciously trying to crystallize anything I write into a cohesive piece I’ll be able to use here.
The other thing that pops up in those notebooks a lot (aside from attempts to draw myself and friends as Peanuts characters) are outlines and strategies for a hundred different never-started projects – mostly mini-comics, essays, and paintings.
For the moment I think I’m as satisfied with everything in the little pile of old notebooks as I am with everything I’ve typed into the blog-o-matic machine.