I posted something brief earlier today from a cafe in Port Townsend with wireless, but what follows is the actual entry for 11-27-06. Writing in present tense about the past is still fun, so Iâll switch back to that.
DISCLAIMER: From the following and previous entries, you may have the impression that Iâm miserably trapped in a family hell. This isnât actually true; Iâm doing fine. All events described are true, but describing them in such dire/dreary tones both matches the weather and is tons of fun. That being said, anyone who wants to call my cell phone and help alleviate boredom is more than welcome to.
After morning coffee and toast I hump on sweater and coat and slip my way outside. It is still snowing, and has clearly been doing so all night. At least three inches of smother the ground. With a vague desire to show you, my dear readers, the intersection of cafe and cow field, I start the long walk down to the highway in order to take a picture. Along the way I pass a girl, no more than ten, waiting for the school bus. Neither she nor I can believe that school isnât canceled. I will later see her leaping off a log into a snow drift, so I suppose allâs well that ends well.
On my way to the coffee shop, the sun begins to peek out. I order a large drip coffee ($1 and delicious) and sit down to read the local paper. Front page news: public outcry surrounds proposed shooting restrictions around residential property. The inner pages offer bizarre contradictions of importance. An entire article is written about a womanâs DUI sentencing. Three sentence blurbs of the police blotter describe a would-be thief discovered in the process of taking apart a hotelâs electronic safe, and a suicidal man with an AK-47 talked out of the woods after firing two rounds. Among the full-length stories I find the description of a co-op cafe, The Boiler Room, staffed by volunteers. I was planning on heading into town anyway, so I make note of the address.
Approximately two hours later I find myself in a car with my mother and brother. My brotherâs itch for internet access is almost uncomfortable to behold. My mother has a vague plan to wander around the downtown shops. Halfway to Port Townsend, it begins to snow again.
When we arrive in town, my brother and I head towards the cafe I read about, while my mother ducks into a storefront. When we arrive at the coffee shop, we find a sign proclaiming, âCLOSED: We Canât Find Anyone Who Wants to Work.â But the door is open and a few people are inside, so I head in anyway. Iâm immediately struck by their age: no one appears over 20 years old. My brother makes a beeline for the counter and discovers that the internet access is broken. âYouâre welcome to hang out,â offers the girl. âBut weâre not really selling anything.â My brother ejects himself from the shop as if slung from a twanging slingshot. I decide to take them up on the offer and park myself on a couch with Jonathan Lethemâs Fortress of Solitude.
This next paragraph is an aside about Fortress of Solitude, so skip ahead if youâre not interested. This book has taken me ages to work through. Iâm most familiar with Lethem through his science fiction, but lately Iâve heard friends interested in real literature extolling the inventiveness and style of his latest work. Intrigued, I borrowed F of S from a friend. I became bogged down almost immediately for reasons I couldnât really translate at the time, but I now think are technical. Lethem has a very particular style, which he applies with a broad brush. Making comparisons to F of S, Lethem tends to write in a very Robert Woolfolk way: jangly and spastic, with reservoirs of energy venting themselves in unexpected violence. Frankly, I love it. The problem comes when Lethem tries to apply this style to a protagonist who is a cowering wreck. The match works when Dylan eventually comes into his own, but mainly because of the contrast to Dylanâs past. Unfortunately, Lethem wades up to eighth grade for about half the novel, and then skitters through high school for a few chapters before flipping years ahead and into first person. One of the first events after this bump is an argument skewering Dylanâs preoccupation with his own childhood. âOh,â I realized. âSo thatâs why Lethem went on and on about it.â I found myself with similar thoughts on several occasions. Lethem builds up steam by using either the narrative or phrasing put you in a particular mood that a character is feelingâ And then either hammers it to death or takes too long to follow up. When he finally does spring it on you, the event is so far past or the reader so numbed that uncomfortable sentences or paragraphs are necessary to explicitly remind you about the connection and why you should care. The idea is great, unarguably very difficult, and it works in several cases. In others, the timing is just off. As for claims of imagination, F of Sâs Macguffins (such as Aaron X. Doilyâs ring) feel somewhat out of place. For inventiveness, you should read Gun, With Occasional Music.
Anyway, back into my own narrative -- reading on a couch in The Boiler Room. About fifteen minutes after my arrival, the cafe begins to come alive. Every once in a while someone over 40 will enter, swoop down on a coffee, and just as quickly exit. But the vast majority of visitors are between 15 and 25. They all clearly know each other, and greetings are loud and exuberant. One guy sets up a chess board and abandons it. Two different people sit down and play a fast game ten minutes later. The music is good and no one seems to begrudge me the space, so I stay comfortable and plow through Fortress of Solitude. At one point someone cheers that the internet is back up, so I haul out my laptop and get to posting what Iâve been writing in Notepad the last few days. A girl sitting next to me leans over and asks what Iâm writing, so we start talking about blogging and such. After about five minutes I suddenly realize that 1) sheâs flirting with me, and 2) sheâs got to be around 17. Unsure of how to politely extract myself, I am profoundly relieved when my mother and brother phone 30 seconds later, asking if Iâm ready to leave yet. I pack up, make some hurried goodbyes, and blow on out into the snow.
Thatâs right, itâs snowing again; great big clumped piles drifting down over the water. We crawl back home behind a train of trembling Washington drivers. On the way, my mother announces that my brother has decided to drive back to Beaverton tomorrow, and that theyâll be ending their vacation a day early to drive me to the airport. Having expected plenty of opportunities to explore the area, she is not happy about the snow. Cabin fever appears to be affecting everyone equally