They line the streets, sitting out at sidewalk cafes, watching the passersby, angling for what they might catch. Patiently they wait, nursing a coffee through a first frost morning, almost napping off over a warm afternoon beer, coming back in the evening for a smooth glass of purple pinot noir or a shot of postprandial espresso. The burbling, gurgling, murmuring river of cars drifts along, punctuated by busses and trucks, bicycles, pedestrians crossing, a cop on a Harley, a delivery truck snagged on a rock, three buskers in an open boat. The anglers move along too, changing spots, carrying their birdcages of verbs, baskets of nouns, hooks and swivels and spinners tucked in their tackle box notebooks. And I move upriver, looking for a new hole, so hungry I will not catch and release a cliche, but will pick out its bones and pan-fry the fillet in butterfat in a cast iron skillet.
To Hawthorne, hopping nuts with holiday shoppers, the shops overheated, crowded with festive folks wearing wet weather gear, so it felt fresh again and good to leave a shop and back out onto the sidewalk. On the corner at the Hawthorne boutique Goodwill, the usual Cannery Row characters occupying the sidewalk, sharing beer bottles noted, something craft, where the money for that, wondered, and another sign, next a panhandling hat: “Too honest to steal. Too ugly to prostitute.” Got the to too correct. Literary bunch. Probably all with English major degrees.
Distribution the problem, Buckminster Fuller said, Earth enough resources, but inefficiently distributed. And saw a news report last week where down in Los Angeles a new project encouraging grocery shops from throwing away food deemed unsaleable, systems now being created to collect and redistribute the food in a number of ways – to the homeless and hungry, to compost feed for animals, to entrepreneurial startups creating energy from the food scraps.
At the same time, reports afield of Amazon mistreating employees, robots running over their own, for example, while on TV we’ve been seeing obviously propagandistic ads showing these same employees as happy as Tiny Tim when miserly Scrooge shows up with the surprise goose.
But deep waters, this anti-Amazon sentiment. Was retail clerk ever a great job? And suppose Nordstrom or Macy’s does goes under – would that be some sort of cultural catastrophe? Suppose Amazon actually capable of solving distribution inefficiencies Earthwide: Water, Food, Shelter, Medicine, Grain, Tools. Suppose Bezos awakes from uneasy dreams some Christmas morning and converts his current medieval style dungeon warehouses into chic campuses like the ones employees currently enjoy in Silicon Valley? We should focus on problems of distribution and job satisfaction and livable wage, not on some romantic notion of brick and mortar life in shops.
Rake the Sentiment: 3 Poems at Cosmopolitan Hotel Cairo. < Click to visit and read.
Mr. Body awoke feeling poky.
“It’s your diet,” Mrs. Body sd.
“I eat the same crap as everybody.”
“Just as you say.”
“What are those gold chains
about their necks all about?”
“True that. Tiffany’s on steroids.”
“What are the qualities
of good plumbing?”
“You don’t hear the pipes
growling in the walls.”
“No leaks, but you can get
to the pipes if you need to
repair one without having
to wreck the dwelling.”
“The pipes don’t poison
“I beseech thee,
where’s the coffee?”
The line was long, a slow Monday morning.
They waited patiently, neither taking cuts
nor giving up position. At a table were two
policemen, fully garbed, sipping espressos.
“Raspberry mocha with a peppermint
twist, triple shot with cinnamon sticks,
make it three: Grande, Venti, and Trenta,
and a plate of twelve fresh breadsticks.”
“A jar of pickled pettitoes and a Tall
glass of water, please.”
“I’m sorry, Sir, but you must
stick to the menu.”
“A mushroom latte, then,
hold the whipped cream.”
One of the policemen looked up,
the other did not.
The barista gallant,
tattooed with Galgulta across
her upper chest,
called out the orders with a voice
so young and joyful and beautiful
Jesus wept, and the Buddha smiled.
When Seinfeld the television show was on, a guy in my office gig at the time used to come by my desk in the morning after each episode and ask me did I see Seinfeld last night. I never did. My colleague would then repeat over the course of the day practically the entire episode for me, scene by scene. “And then Kramer comes in and says, ‘…’.” That sort of thing. And he was really good, too. He could have been a stand-up on his own. In fact, he ended up doing a few shows of his own. Very witty guy, good mimic, remembered all the good lines from the classic movies and shows.
Eventually, I did watch some Seinfeld, new and reruns. Funny stuff, the four friends and their meaningless, purposeless adventures, circuitous – but there’s truth in comedy, and while the Seinfeld episodes might have failed to high jump the MASH bars in the handling of controversial issues, they were subtly subversive in their almost zen like refusal to acknowledge the importance of quotidian values. Seinfeld crossed into farce, while MASH was embedded in satire.
So it was with interest I listened to Susan who first told me about Seinfeld’s newest venture, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” an independent, on-line show now in its 7th season and 50th episode. The premise is Jerry calls up one of his comedian buddies and invites them to get a coffee, to which they drive in paradisiacal Los Angeles weather in some American Graffiti like cool rod. Susan and I watched the latest installment together on her laptop this morning. Jerry picks up Judd Apatow and they head out in a 1968 candy apple bougainvillea red Firebird. And while we were watching, the idea came to me for this post.
You see, the problem with comedians in cars getting coffee is that there isn’t anything intrinsically funny about getting coffee. And there’s not much funny about souped up, expensive cars – retro, restored, like they’ve never been taken out of the garage.
How about, Comedians in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. “What number are you, Jerry?” “I’m number 236, Judd, how about you?” “33.” “Really, how lucky is that? When did you get here?” “Yesterday, around noon.”
“Number 236? 236?” “Hey, man isn’t that you?” “Number 237, 237?” “Oh, bummer, man. You gotta go pull a new number. Otherwise, you’ll be like taking cuts.”
Or how about, “Comedians without medical insurance coverage in line at the ER with a strange raspberry red itchy rash all up and down their arms and legs. “You, know, Jerry, when we got here the rash was only around our ankles.” “Don’t worry, it’s got a ways to go yet before it gets to our eyes and ears.”
And why comedians, anyway? Why not a car pool full of adjunct instructors in an old beater on their way to night classes? Oh, wait, I guess those are comedians.
Or how about a couple of plumbers in tee shirts and blue jeans getting hot dogs and beers at a food cart in Culver City across from one of the old studios? “Hey, Jocko, You think maybe you can come over my place take a look at my plugged up toilet you get off? “Sure, Mabelline, love too.” “What, around 5, 6?” “Yeah, yeah.” “I’ll put some cool ones on ice for ya, Jocko.” “Swell, lovely.”
Postal workers getting their feet rubbed with coconut oil at nail salons, complaining about all the junk mail, but without which they’d probably be unemployed.
Paparazzi taking a Pierria bottled water break on the beach at Malibu.
But I’m glad to see Seinfeld’s project a success. There’s a sponsor now, so Jerry’s presumably broken another preconceived assumption too long controlled by network TV and others in advertising – and social media wonks and the like. In any case, if I’ve said it once I’ve said it more than once, you should not criticize a work for not being the work you want it to be. The good critic considers intent, intended audience, type of argument, persuasive appeals. There are many types of argument, many ways to persuade. Some audiences are friendly, others hostile, and they can change direction like a spinning top. Besides, it’s not easy being funny. Many folks have very little in the way of a sense of humor, and they don’t tolerate fools or clowns with their time.
There are other getting coffee like projects, involving all the arts. Indie ideas. In Poets Online Talking About Coffee, Berfrois editor Russell Bennetts conducts a series of interviews ostensibly about the poet’s relationship with coffee. But relationships with coffee can be complicated. And you can get your own coffee.
Friedrich Durrenmatt’s short story “The Tunnel” concerns a young man, a student, on a train, commuting to school. The train enters a long tunnel, longer than the student recalls from previous trips along the same route. The student smokes cigars, stuffs his ears with cotton, his head in a book, and he’s wearing double glasses, clear and dark. He’s dimmed his senses, all but closed his doors of perception (26). The train is crowded. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, no end to the tunnel.
I had walked down to Tabor Space Saturday afternoon, but it was closed for a memorial service, so I continued over to Hawthorne, where hangouts are plentiful. I bought a coffee and sat at the rear of the shop, under a window through which I could see the clouds drifting east. I had my copy of John Cage’s “Silence” with me, and I had a small notebook, two pencils and a pen. I had my cell phone, and I had not forgotten my reading glasses. I did not have my laptop with me.
The coffee shop was crowded and noisy. But it was the kind of noise that drowns out my tinnitus. Somewhere, there was music. I sat at the end of a comfortable couch. There was a coffee table, and across the table from me was a young man, perhaps a student, with a laptop and small, white earplugs in his ears. He wore glasses. To my right, at the end of the couch, two more young men sat at a small table, both with laptops, both with earplugs. At the end of the coffee table, a woman sat alone with a laptop at a small table with her back to me, her plush black hair piled on top of her head in a twisted bun. And there were charcoal drawings on the walls, of bees, and one of a rooster. From my view at the end of the couch, the woman’s bun seemed to flair up and blend into the rooster tail drawing pinned to the wall.
I drank my coffee, read some in “Silence,” made some notes, checked my cell phone to see if Susan had texted or called. A guy with a laptop and earplugs across from the woman with her hair in a bun got up and left, and another guy with a laptop and earplugs quickly took his place. That’s when I began to think about Durrenmatt’s short story “The Tunnel.” Then the woman with the hair bun got up, packed her things, and left, but another woman quickly took her place. And this new woman also had a hair bun, identical to the first woman’s, and she sat in the same chair in the same position, her back to me, her hair bun mixing with the rooster’s tail in the drawing pinned to the wall.
That’s all. I read, drank coffee, gazed out the window at the clouds continually changing shape. I made some notes for a blog post with a few doodles. I drew a beehive hairdo that spiraled into clouds above a tunnel.