I generally don’t mind eating tomatoes much – in salads, in sandwiches, on pizza. In moderation, I find tomatoes inoffensive. I understand, of course, that people have different tastes – I don’t begrudge you your tomato.

A couple of days ago I read this:

The Jer Zone – “Cherry, grape, pear…whatever they are, the small tomatoes are now ripening. Good for impromptu snacking.

and this:

Tinyblog – “I saw Daniel off this morning with a kiss, three of the biggest sandwiches I’ve ever helped make and a sack of freshly harvested cherry tomatoes(his favorite garden snack).”

and today, this:

Sagbottom – “I have them [tomatoes] sliced with a little salt and pepper, tossed with a little oil and basil, popped into my mouth naked.”

Each time I read one of these blog entries, a minor impulse somewhere in the back of my head made me feel that the writer wrote about eating a whole tomato to make people squirm. These bloggers couldn’t honestly like eating whole raw tomatoes, I thought. They’re just being intentionally controversial.

It appears that I might be an intolerant and unreasonable person.

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Hardly a Fragment

The sky is still the same blue it’s been since the morning, but the sun is low in the west. The next part of the day that I have a name for is dusk. It’s pre-dusk, I guess. One would expect long shadows, but there aren’t any. Streaks of yellow-tinted light are cast across everyone’s faces. The light source is the sunset more than it is the sun.

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Taken Out of Context

“My clutching a notebook while searching for the perfect one-liner will be a comfortable distraction from what might result in my feeling something, which is never my first choice.”
-David Rakoff, Fraud

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I find it unnerving to suddenly remember that my childhood teddy bear had a butt-crack. The bear’s white fur got dirty pretty early on. And I remember prying apart the little butt-crack and noticing that the fur in there was pristine, clean and white.

I don’t remember the bear’s name, but I remember its butt-crack.

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The Doorknob

We walked down the hall to my apartment door. There was an unspoken anxiety in the air and I was hyper-conscious of every move I made. I slipped my key into my apartment’s doorknob, wiggling it a couple of times before getting the key to turn. The lock to my apartment door resists the key slightly more than most locks do.

I understood that circumstances were about to change.

We stepped inside and sat down.

I looked at the keyring, still in my hand. Four keys: the building key, my apartment key, the deadbolt key, my mailbox key. The jagged edges of three of the keys were aligned – they faced the same direction. The dead-bolt key, which I rarely used, was the exception – the cut edge was lined up with the other keys’ uncut flat edges.

I quickly twisted the door key and the dead-bolt key off the ring, turned them over, and slid them back into place, their positions reversed.

I wanted to remember that moment – when I wasn’t completely sure how things would be changing. I expected that the next several times I came home, I would try to unlock my doorknob with the dead-bolt key, before remembering I’d switched the keys around. Then, as I chose the correct key and slid it into place, maybe I’d think of this important moment and any wisdom I was going to gain from the ensuing conversation would surface.

I set the keyring down on the coffee table and listened to what had to be said.

In the weeks that followed I was never phased by my attempt at keyring-sabotage and almost forgot the frustrating moment of (perhaps self-imposed) ignorance that it was supposed to remind me of.

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Joe: Browsing blogs, I’m surprised to stumble across a page by my old roommate Joe. So I send send him a quick email.

Robert: He’s pacing around the park while I walk past. We notice each other and adjust our directions so that our paths will converge. I ask, as I do every time I see him, “How are you doing.” He answers the way he always does, “Oh, I’m hanging in there.”

Artana: Stopped at a red light, she gets my attention by yelling, “Get a job!” from her car window.

Benjy: He walks over, “Hey.” We shake hands, sweeping our arms out in exagerated arcs.

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I was sitting outside the cafe, reading, soaking in caffeine and sunlight. My head was finally clearing of the noxious effects of carpet cleaner fumes.

The air was thick, vaguely muggy. The horizon was hazy.

I thought I could smell the construction two blocks away, even though I was upwind. A week ago Olive Way seemed fine. Now the pavement has been scraped away and there are men in orange vests stomping up a cloud of asphalt dust.

Cars zipped around me. I sipped a cup of bitter tea. Every time I inhaled, my head cleared a little more. The pollution actually tasted kind of sweet.

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Crossed Paths

“Is your name Jeff?”

“Yes.” I looked at my questioner’s face and tried to match it to an acquaintance’s.

“Your last name is Sharman?”

“Yes.” I felt disarmed for a moment and studied the face behind the beard. Just before he said it out loud, the name of a high school classmate surfaced in my mind.

“What have you been up to?”

“Not much lately,” too stunned from finding myself talking to somebody so unexpected and practically forgotten to choose what from the last eight years to mention.

He hedged at first when I asked what he was doing, either because he was under the same dilemma or because he wasn’t satisfied with my answer.

We traded a few more comments and he moved on.

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Missing Seals, Beached Jellyfish

Down at the piers, looking out at the water (like always). Actually no, looking down at the water. Looking at a jellyfish, mindless. My eyes follow two grey masses beneath the water. They come from under the pier, move out into the water without breaking the surface. I flinch, and point, saying, “Seals.” The tourists around me don’t hear. That’s for the best, I have nothing else to say about it.

Free association takes my mind to the Isle of Skye. Stepping around the blobs (Freudian slip, I first typed “blogs”) of goo on the pebble shore, beached jellyfish at low tide. Caught in the small backpacker orbit. Every time I went anywhere I passed the same young German couple walking the other way, we avoided each others gaze. The trio of Australians. The German girl that I’d met somewhere else, days before, she answers my, “Hi. How are you?” with quick textbook English, “Fine, thanks. And you?” The fishing boat that we packed into. The local kids buzzing past us in their motorboat, their boom box blasting heavy metal, catching more fish than us. The fisherman steers us out to watch seals, it’s gotten dark and we can’t see much. The fisherman, later, has me pegged, “You’re traveling alone.” The French-Canadian girl with the crooked teeth who I talked to at the pub.

Back home, today, here, in Seattle. I find my notebook from that trip and check when I was there – August 12-15. My last day on the Isle of Skye, two years ago exactly.

August 14, 2000
A car makes a U-turn, the headlights illuminate waves in the water. The spot remains lit after the car is gone – a light in a window has been turned on. A shade is drawn and the water is extinguished.

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The Crowd

Walking up past a big hotel, I have to maneuver around a couple of dozen people lined up on both sides of the exit end of the hotel’s little horseshoe driveway. The crowd could be categorized as a minor throng. I crane my head over to the driveway – there’s some activity among the parking attendants and doormen, but I don’t spot a personality that might inspire a crowd. I turn my attention back to the people on the sidewalk – they don’t seem to be reporters or photographers. A teenager is holding a magazine open in front of him and I take a glance as I walk past – two full-page portraits of a greased-up muscle man with an exaggerated menacing expression on his face. Another man is holding an oversized wrestling championship belt over his shoulder. As I get around the group, I see a blonde beefy guy pulling his red convertible slowly toward the crowd. He coasts for a second when he hits the sidewalk, and stops the car in the space between the two lines of fans. Everyone in the crowd simultaneously takes one careful step toward the car. I turn back the way I was going and continue up the hill.

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