Earlier I stumbled upon this bit of writing I don’t even remember. It was in response to something a friend told me about people-watching while stepping outside to smoke. To give you a little context it was from when I was working at a small kitchen in a busy downtown strip. That restaurant, in itself, is a story for another time, but for this all you need to know is that it was slow while the surrounding area was often not. Nights were cold, quiet and contemplative. It was one of the few, if not the only place I’d seen where sometimes there really wasn’t a thing to do. So, as Edward Hopper would have it, I’d sit outside the kitchen door, one ear on the ticket printer, puffing on cheap cigars, sipping free coffee and reading a book. And watching people go by.
I always liked smoking cigars, because I only did it late at night. I only did it while waiting. That’s the best part.
All done up in chef attire, covered in stains, burn holes on my pants and in my arms.
I couldn’t remember when I last shaved or cut my hair. I never cared. I never had to.
Legs crossed with a cup of coffee in one hand, a book in the other and a lit cigar smoking between my lips or between my fingers.
A cheap one, too.
Sitting out on a downtown street outside the restaurant watching passers by, waiting for another order to come in. Waiting for a better job, or a pretty girl. Just waiting. Smoking. Sipping
Part of me hating myself for being a creature of the night, for hunching in regular society due to eyes maladjusted to daylight or just plain fatigue. And for being a fringe-dwelling kitchen pirate spoiled by never waiting in line, never sitting in traffic, and never seeing sunshine. Sleeping like a vampire.
The other part of me so happy and excited because I was always around drug dealers, habitual liars and thieves, society’s rejects, people doing NOTHING with their lives.
People who can’t hold a job or maintain a promise to save their lives.
And being reminded through every interaction, every eavesdropped conversation that I AM NOT ONE OF THESE PEOPLE.
A perpetual foreigner drifting in other people’s world.
I can keep a promise.
I do pay my rent.
I am a gentleman.
I remember my nights.
I have plans.
They do not.
And I enjoyed the perks.
Watching passers by on the late night streets of downtown wondering what it meant for them.
What kind of person is out this late dressed up so well on a Tuesday?
What kind of chef keeps his jacket on after he clocks out to shmooze ladies when going to other bars?
What kind of guy listens to his dog more than his girlfriend?
What kind of girls all go out and ignore their fat friend who obviously wasn’t included in the matching of dresses?
Questions of the night. Always there.
Cigars and late nights with coffee and a book. Fact is I chose to be there. I enjoyed it. I knew I wasn’t doing it forever because my mind, body, heart, and soul couldn’t take it. It scrapes a little off of a guy like me every time. The point is I did change and do other things.
I’ll go back from time to time.
Just be there when you should, and leave when you shouldn’t. Settle nowhere. Just settle with someone, and settle for no one. Prop up your feet and enjoy the season.
Winter is contemplative.
Think in Winter.
Do in Summer.
Love in Spring.
Eat in Autumn.