As I sat on the patio at Philz Coffee, in San Jose, California, sipping the most amazing mint mojito iced coffee, I was yet again reminded of why I like Northern California so much. While back at home in Seattle, it was very likely cloudy and at most 65 degrees, in San Jose, it was a lovely 75 and not a cloud in the sky. Above me sat a woman on her balcony painting all of us coffee hounds below her, while we sat, blissfully drinking, reading, conversing and writing; ignorant that we had become the subject of her painting. Although I’d liked to have asked if I could have joined her, I kept my head down to my computer and continued my writing. I wouldn’t have wanted her to mess up my straw cloche hat anyway, as I think it would look fabulous in a painting.
Originally I had wanted to grab a quick coffee and make my way to the Tai Chi festival a few blocks down from Philz. It’s not that I’m extremely interested in Tai Chi, but the colorful balloon dragon hovering over the park drew my attention, such as most sparkly, bright things do. I’m easily entertained. Although once seated, my derrière had taken root in my chair on the patio next to two young men. Initially I ignored them, until one of them lit up a cigarette. It was the sound of the lighter that had me turn my head. I was quickly taken back to my childhood, when both of my parents smoked. At one time, my father had this Zippo style silver flip top lighter that when flicked open, would make the faint sound of metal to metal. It’s an extremely distinct sound.
As a child I was forever being told to stop staring at people. I remember once waiting for my father inside of his truck while he pumped gas. I must’ve been about thirteen or so. While staring at a couple talking and smoking outside of the Handy Andy’s corner store I was interrupted by a knock on the window. It was my father who, looking pissed, mouthed, “Stop staring!” For some odd reason, I felt the need to study people. I never judged (nor do I now.) I simply wanted to look at them was all. Everything about humans and the human form fascinated me – how they moved, how they talked and what they wore. Perhaps that explains my love of human figure and life drawing I suppose. Through the years, I’ve learned ways to study people without being so very blatant about it. Turning my head slightly, I watched them both light their Lucky Strike smokes and was immediately enthralled.
Neither of them smiled. Instead, they sat staring at nothing. They must’ve been all of nineteen years old. The blonde wore his hair in a disheveled mass upon his head, a retro grey sweatshirt, brown dirty cords and worn out vans, while the brunette reminded me of Eddie Cochran with his pompadour hair. He also wore a Mr. Rogers cardigan, tight cut off denim shorts, black socks, black dress shoes and old school Ray Ban glasses. I could see that he was missing the hair from his undefined, pale calves and assumed it was from the “skinny jeans” he must wear when not in “skinny” shorts.
I continued to pretend to read my paper and steal glances, while they sat silently holding their cigarettes and drinking their coffees. When I say holding their cigarettes, I literally mean they were only holding them – not smoking them. Between the two, I counted only four drags. The blonde would follow the lead of the brunette. It was really more about the act of holding the cigarette itself and sipping the coffee. They each took great joy out of flicking the ashes on the pavement when they became too long. Although I detest the taste, it made me want a cigarette so I could flick my ashes as well. In fact, perhaps I could flick my ashes, while painting them, on the balcony of the woman above us…..
After putting their cigarettes out on the metal chair legs, they began their colloquy. Each subject was given just a few sentences or two before they would move on. It went something like this -
Subject One – Mark
Brunette: Mark treats woman so shitty. Last night when I asked him if he were really into Lauren he said, “She’s ok.” I told him that when he’s dating a girl, he should at least f***ing think she’s everything.
Brunette: He has no respect for women. He really pisses me off. It’s my life dream that on his deathbed, I’m gonna go visit him, gently lean down to his ear and whisper, “I f***ed Jade when you were dating her.
Blonde: He won’t care.
Brunette: He just has no respect for women.
Subject Two – Nakedness
Blonde: Is it illegal to be naked in your yard?
Brunette: I don’t know man, I’m not a paralegal.
Blonde: I wanna lounge naked in my yard.
Subject Three – Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Blonde: This morning I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and got it all over my shirt. Look.
Subject Four – Slutty Meccas
Blonde: So what’s the attraction to it?
Brunette: It’s a slutty mecca man. It’s their pilgrimage. It’s a place they can go and not be looked down on for their choice in music and morality.
Brunette: I gotta go, where you parked?
Blonde: Over there, can you give me a ride.
And so they left with Lucky Strike boxes in hand. Looking up to the balcony above, I saw the painter had left her chair as well, although her door remained open, as if to invite me in to chat about painting, cigarettes, sandwiches and slutty meccas…..