Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In Reverence to Enjoyment

One month after my return, Paris is with me still, casting itself over my every experience like a transparency overlay.  In the morning, when I walk to my driveway and get in my car, another version of me continues walking down a narrow 17th-century cobblestone road that leads straight to the Seine.  On my drive to work, I stop in at Coffee Bean where I pay four dollars for a café latte to-go, to enjoy en-route.  Meanwhile, the other me steps into the corner bistro and orders a café allonge at the bar, where the tariff de consummation is only one euro.  She stands there with the regulars who sip their coffee slowly, in reverence to the morning ritual. Nobody takes his coffee to go. She’s done it before, but it’s difficult to walk down the cobblestone streets without a lid on the coffee cup, and cafes in Paris don’t carry lids.  There, coffee is a thing to spend a moment with, not to consume in a hurry or on the go - the only people on the street with paper cups are standing in doorways, smoking cigarettes, taking time to reflect upon the morning.

In Los Angeles, “to go” is a lifestyle.  When I take the time to sit at a café or restaurant, I am usually Lunching or Having Coffee, that is, meeting with somebody I want to work with creatively or professionally, and the purpose of said Lunch or Coffee to is to move forward - to go somewhere in my career.  This is Los Angeles: always another meaning, always an ulterior motive.  I am not one who believes that these secondary, secret goals that every Angeleno has are selfish or dishonorable in nature.  We all just want help, and are usually asking for it - not outright, but in the subtext of our Coffees and Lunches.  We may be having them “for here”, but we really mean “to go”.

I have been conditioned to get along in a to-go society, but I think that at heart, I am a To-Stayer.  I excel at taking languid pleasure – sitting for hours at a café, simply observing and enjoying; walking through the city (when I lived in a walk-able city) without aim or destination, soaking in the sights and smells, absorbing the essence of the brimming metropolis; laying riverside, or seaside, or lakeside, with or without a book or notebook, maybe reading, maybe writing, but mostly relishing in the feel of the sun on my skin and the light breeze across my back; doing nothing and doing it well.

As I enter my apartment after a long and busy day, and quickly prepare an easy, five minute dinner before approaching my list of pressing, career-oriented to do’s, the other me enters her favorite neighborhood bistrot and prepares to spend the next two hours indulging, just like every night, in a three course meal, where the only to-dos that appear in her mind are the other places where she wants to eat, or wander, or play, or sip.