Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Walk Down the Street

I live in a nice neighbourhood. What that means, in this town, is that after 9 p.m., I have to walk a fair way to get a cup of coffee. It also means that on this walk I will see no more than half a dozen homeless people snuggled in for the night in storefront nooks, between dumpsters, and beside the shrubs outside the bank. Oh, I'm sure there are more then six of them out there, but because I live in a nice neighbourhood, only a handful are visible. I walk past the bombed out taco restaurant, but it's still not exactly Beirut over here.

I'm out because it's a Monday night. It's after 11, and though I'm tired, I shouldn't sleep. Not yet. I'm on the nightshift, four out of seven, and if I sleep like a normal person, like a real person, on a Monday night, I'm screwed. Saturday and Sunday, I'm in bed by midnight. Up the next morning no later than 9, but usually earlier, and ready to make at least a half-assed attempt at dealing with the day. But Monday nights are different. Mondays, I have to slow myself town, retreat from the normal world and get back into the nocturnal rythms that hold sway over the majority of my life these days/nights.

So I'm off to the all-night coffee shop. A million times removed from the all-night coffee shops of my youth, this one is populated not by night people, truckers, shift workers, ne'er-do-wells and insomniacs, but by laptop computers. It's a study hall. It's like something out of a Ray Bradbury short story. There are easily 30, maybe even 40, screens casting a weird blue pall against the flourescent lights above. I don't like it. I sit outside.

I've just watched Wordplay, and I decide that my third favourite thing about Vancouver is that the Sun carries the New York Times Crossword. (Though Walter D. Feener's Canadian Criss Cross in the Nat'l Post is very good as well--except when the clues involve the names of actors in Canadian TV series. I mean, I appreciate what Feener's trying to do there, but solving a crossword puzzle just doesn't justify me watching Wind At My Back.) I've never timed myself, but I hear "Purple Rain" in its entirety before I finish. So, it took me more than eight minutes. Probably about 12, maybe 15. On a Monday. So I'm no Ellen Ripstein.

But even at a luxurious 15 minutes, the Monday New York Times Crossword is little more than distraction tonight. Lucky for me, I've got Inspector Rebus in my pocket. Tooth & Nail, the third book, I'll finish it tonight. It will be a long night, and I'll catch myself overidentifying with Rebus. Sitting alone, outside of things, while very much caught up in it all. Tired, but plodding on.

I'm a little worried about finishing Tooth & Nail. I'm finding it difficult to sort out the order of the Rebus books, so I'm not sure which to read next. And I'm not sure if I should read the next one next. At the rate I'm going, I'll be done the entire series (or at least caught up to Exit Music, which seems like it might be the end?) by the end of the year. And where will that leave me? I've got another book anyway. Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers. Which seems to be some sort of Guided By Voices love letter. Which, I don't know, am I really that into it? Do I want to read a book about someone who is like me, rather than someone who seems like me? Rebus I can relate to on a metaphoric level...I've never brought down a serial killer, but I have alienated the people around me while striving to achieve something I didn't really have a lot of faith I could achieve anyway. Sellers, maybe it just cuts to close to the bone.

The book opens with a chapter about why Sellers hates Bob Dylan (amusing enough), which leads to a chapter where Sellers sits at his computer and listens to music. And there are asides dressed up as footnotes. Oh yes, there are. A friend told me recently, "I hate footnotes. Can't stand 'em." At the time, I thought he was out of line. Now, not so much.

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