Setting: Farm-to-Table Foodie Restaurant in Denton, Colorado. An early Sunday in late October.
WHEREIN Eco Boy feels sorry for himself, is tired and lonely, resolves to leave his own People, wonders when his hot fresh croissant will come; and Nearly Vegan Girl enjoys her $20 plate of eggs, grits and $9 french-press coffee, and thinks vaguely lascivious thoughts.
“Life is lonely, and sad—and we’re all busy wearing a smiling, confident, acceptable mask. Better to share a moment with a true friend, take the mask off, and show yourself to be the fool you are.” ~ Dr. Willard Evans
He was the Public Park of Friendship.
He’d woken up after another long night of working on his laptop and big monitor at the same time while eating slightly too much eco bachelor food (organic veggie chili n’chips n’vegan almond cheese stuff) and walked outside in his boxers with crazy bedhead brown hair while Blue trotted about, tail wagging and peeing on every other tree.
He group-texted five dear friends—maybe his only five real friends. “Brunch [Diner] 1030ish?”
He had thousands of “friends” who liked to wave at him when they saw him sitting outside a restaurant and felt cool for doing so and thought he was cool though he wasn’t that cool—all he ever did was work. And they expected him to know their names, which he didn’t—they had never really talked to him and didn’t invite him to anything because all he ever did was work, but he waved back because he genuinely liked people and enjoyed knowing people a little, like a younger version of the proverbial old man on a rocking chair on the front porch of the general store of yore.
“Yes Ill meet u at 1030 b on time” she texted back.
He arrived at 1045, okay 1047, made an expertly non-guilty but blame-taking excuse and they settled in to a table outside, he’d biked over with Blue so they had to sit outside. In Boulton it’s illegal to leave dogs unattended, it’s illegal to bring them inside, it’s illegal to leave them outside inside a fence unattended or attended (food safety), it’s illegal to leave them outside on the sidewalk side of the patio because they’re once again out of your control. So basically it’s legal to leave dogs in often hot stuffy cars (and he biked, didn’t have a car) and at home. And Boulton called itself a dog-friendly town. He traveled for work to Venice, or SF, or NYC, and dogs were inside cafes, inside patios, left with dog bowls by trees…and somehow society was happy and kind and the planet revolved counterclockwise, still. Or clockwise, he couldn’t remember: he was 35 and hadn’t been in school for an age, now. Oh, also, now it was illegal to walk dogs on a leash at the farmers’ market. Effing yuppieization of his hometown, where only 20 years ago horses (including his own) trotted on the slower streets.
But sitting outside, today, with his beautiful friend and soon-to-come hot fresh black coffee was just fine: it was a sunny yellow leaves-falling Fall day and his iPhone thought it would snow on Tuesday, so best to enjoy heaven-on-earth while they could.
Nearly Vegan Girl was tall and awkward in an intentional way, gorgeous without being conventionally attractive, stylish enough that one of those street fashion blogs should find her and stop her and take her photo and post it up with a charming long sentence about how she was quirky and where she’d bought that yellow dress “with pockets!” A designer, she had 34,000 Instagram followers and posted empty perfect quaint achingly beautiful photos of her craft or her perfect office with old barnwood lining the walls or the gray sky and a lamppost or her boyfriend, who took as much time getting dressed in jeans and flannel in the morning than she did.
Eco Boy was wearing an old seafoam green cowboy shirt and some Bay Rum to protect the noses of others (he planned on biking/climbing/sitting around in the sun in vintage polyester, all day, which is a toxic recipe for bad hugs) and organic dark blue jeans bought when he’d visited his Momma in Hallyflax and a Vitamin Angels rubber bracelet a la Livestrong only blue and his Howard Dean redwhiteblue trucker hat and the only eco style TOMS shoes made, an edition for Whole Foods. The rest of ’em made in third world countries with toxic dies and glue, then donated to other kids in other third world countries. That is was still a far better company than most was a reflection on how quickly bad capitalism races to the bottom.
He looked at Nearly Vegan Girl with love and appreciation. She was sweet and kind and, as all good friends, are, she was home to him, he could relax and smile and gain energy with her.
He stood after a minute: “Get me coffee willya? Black?”
“Sure, [Eco Boy],” she smiled. And he walked inside the crowded, happily noisy favorite restaurant where the constant cling-dang cling-ding of forks on dishes and glasses of water on wooden tables and yipyap conversations and honking muttering traffic and espresso shots and steamed milk sounded: diner’s cups clickclacking onto hardy porcelain blue-lined off-white saucers. He went to the bathroom and splashed hot water on his face (they had Pangea soap, he approved, conventional soap is toxic, the skin absorbs 85% of what you put on it, far worse than eating crap food where the liver can act as a filter, skin just absorbs it all and then folks are surprised cancer rates are through the roof), then washed his face off with a white towel.
As he walked back, a waiter friend saw him.
“What’s up!? Is Dean still running?!,” looking at his trucker hat and laughing softly?
Eco Boy felt a little an old buck getting challenged, pretend-playfully, by a young buck.
Hah. Yeah, I think he’ll rock it in 2016, buddy. He started walking past, then—touched the shoulder of his young buck waiter friend—
Hey buddy can I get a plain croissant
(they made ’em in house, only one of two restaurants to do so in Denton) he answered,
can I get it hot with my coffee, at the same time? And the chard omelet, whenever, no rush on that.
The waiter looked him in the eyes, quickly, nodded his head,
you bet Eco Boy,
and walked off.
Eco Boy got back outside and found Nearly Vegan filling the space, filling her boredom with artful instagram shots of god knows what. He rubbed his eyes and sat and stretched and yawned and looked her up and down.
Daaamn I’m tired. You know?
You’re always tired, she remonstrated. He was always going to bed at 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or even 5 am, a night owl.
Popular Lonely Boy Loses Heart & Talks On and On About it.
“I’m losing it, Nearly Vegan Girl,” Eco Boy said.
He rather too-melodramatically sighed: “I’m liberal but I can’t stand these asshole progressives. And I’m vegetarian but get attacked viciously by meanie vegans.” He was talking about his popular, but controversial news site, rhinocerostimes.com.
She raised an eyebrow at him: “Don’t generalize, Eco Boy. We’re not all crazy.”
“You’re not even vegan, sister. You’re nearly vegan. That’s a big difference. You don’t see yourself as perfect or pure and everyone else as a murdering hypocrite. Vegans are mean. It’s a turn-off.”
“True.” She leaned back and stretched her arms. She had shortish perfect dark brown hair and big plush lips and, yah, that faded flowery yellow dress. The October morning was releasing the night’s heavy damp cold as the sun warmed him and his town. He was chilled from waking up in his empty, heat-still-turned-off-home, he didn’t turn his heat on ’til the snow came. He preferred big socks and big sweaters and old Pendleton blankets
[Did you know? Heat comes from natural gas or coal, both of which fuck Mother Earth up].
He’d brought an old blanket for his half-hound half-lab full-bellied dog Blue, who’d curled up in a ball on the other side of the patio, and was already half-asleep, half-dreaming about romping in the forest. Fun fact: Blue ate local raw meat dog food from a company founded by an early investor in Hot Pepper, the mega-eco-fast-food-chain.
But back to Foodie Restaurant. Eco Boy was still complaining, and Nearly Vegan Girl was still trying to care:
“And, thirdly, feminism. I’ve considered myself a feminist my whole life. I was raised by a beautiful, awesome single mom. I love women. But feminists? They’re like vegans and progressives: they’d rather be right than peaceful. They’d rather be right than get along with anybody. They’d rather attack those who don’t agree with them than debate respectfully and maybe win some people over. Y’know? They’re losing me. I feel like Aesop’s bat.”
She didn’t care enough to ask what the baseball was all about. Her omelet was bothering her.
“That’s going a bit far, maybe,” she said, wondering why bacon smelled so good. If pigs were so smart [they’re smarter than dogs, supposedly], couldn’t they evolve so they tasted like crap?
His hot croissant came, with fancy local jam and fancy local butter but without his fancy fucking coffee.
“I don’t know—where’s there room for moderates, these days?! Look at Obama, he can’t win!”
“That’s for sure,” she said, licking her lips at him. “Just look at this.” A red-painted fingernail fell upon a NY Times headline about Gaddafi or Qudaffi or Qaddafi or however you spell him. “The man can’t get any credit for doing anything, even killing assholes.”
“Yeah,” said Eco Boy, agreeing without listening. “That’s what all this ‘mindful life’ [the mission of his site] stuff is about—we’re not talking about the ‘perfect, righteous life.’ We’re talking about doing our best and enjoying life a bit, as we go. Su-ga-ta.”
They nodded at each other silently. They were both American Buddhists.
[Fun Fact! In Buddhism, one who is enlightened is held in high esteem: they’re called a “ta-ta-ga-ta”—one who has crossed to the other shore, from confusion, or ‘samsara’ to enlightenment, or ‘nirvana.’
But best of all is the “sugata”—somebody who’s become enlightened—crossed to the other shore—joyfully. Because life is one big long hard lesson, and if you can’t enjoy the journey, reaching the destination will be of too-little, too-late consolation.]
Eco boy: “I’m tired. First time ever, this week, I was thinking ‘yah I’ll just sell out and become a novelist and write short stories about my life, not about me, but about my experience. Much more fun to be famous and make money than to get attacked by your own kind and lose your awesome volunteer web designer and be broke and I’ve been at this nine years! I’m not a kid anymore!”
“You’ll find a second wind,” she said, kindly.
“More like 50th wind. I did run into Possum the other day [founder of Apana, a yoga/climbing apparel company], and he said “it’s the ones who don’t give up or give in or quit who are able to make a difference.” And I do want to make a difference.”
“I know you do. You already have.”
“No, I haven’t. Arianna Huffington, Jon Stewart, Oprah…Obama…those folks are making a difference, or at least in a position to. I have a million unique readers a month. That’s alright, but it’s a drop in the pond when the ocean‘s on fire.”
“True. So don’t give up.”
The waiter passed by, not noticing his hopeful look. “Fucking coffee,” he shook his head.
“Yeah,” Nearly Vegan Girl said. “Nothing worse than…”
And they spoke together: “…getting yer croissant before yer coffee.”
“You wait all week,” he continued, while she went back to thinking about her omelet and the smell of bacon, “for brunch with your Sunday Times and coffee and croissant. And then you just get your croissant, and by the time the coffee comes it’s cool or you’ve eaten it.”
“First world problems,” she said, abstractedly. XXXX
“Seriously,” he said, seriously. “Just ’cause we’re lucky doesn’t mean we have to punish ourselves with putting up with bad service. It just means we gotta use what we’ve been given to help the world, which is what I’ve just been talking about.”
She wasn’t sure just what he was talking about.
They smiled at each other. Though they hadn’t slept together in, what, five years—they still had it, in there, a spark among the hay. But for now, she dating another, he dating whoever would let him, the spark was just a little warmth, enough to keep the friendship going.
And that was that.
And now we leave Nearly Vegan Girl and Eco Boy in their Pretentious yet Incompetent Foodie Restaurant in their Bubble Town and we withdraw into the cloudless sky above, high on high…
Where there’s little oxygen to breathe, where the birds can’t fly, high on high…
Where it’s night, always, and we remember that this little precious turquoise world is, at its best, full of sadness and suffering and pain…and light and humor and kindness, all at the same time.
And as a wise man once implored of his son, we remember how to smile, and to cry, with a foolish heart.