Jon Carroll, a columnist with the SF Chronicle, had a column the other day about seeing things and then creating a story for what's being seen. It's a habit I have myself. Most of us do.
In Carroll's example, he saw a man and modified and grew the story as he saw the man, shoeless, with a cell phone, in the middle of the street, in front of a house, several more times.
I know that process even as I write my own stories of fiction from things that I imagine. I wonder about Beanery people and their stories. There is Carol, who hangs around, creeping like a mouse, bundled in clothing throughout the year. Perhaps five foot tall, oversized, wrap around sunglasses almost aways cover her eyes. She and the staff are good friends, of course. Many barristas are smokers. So is Carol. The barristas also come around much when they're off work. Carol is always present. The bonds of proximity are formed.
I know people wonder about my story. They've asked. The Beanery is my refuge, where I do most of my writing, but it's also a place where I sometimes also work. Many people confuse the two. One of the barrista today suggested maybe I should drink double pull mochas instead of double shot mochas, suggesting I could save money. That bemuses me, as my income is several time the national average. What do they think my story is? I know it surprises people to learn that I work for IBM, when I do tell. I don't usually mention it unless specifically asked, and I don't mention I'm retired military unless specifically asked, or that I write fiction. I guess I prefer remaining a Beanery man of mystery.
Others' stories intrigue me. I've collected tales about the barristas' and their backgrounds, along with a number of regulars. I learn about health and family, past careers and current occupations and projects, plans and hopes. Several barristas intrigue me most. Eli is a hugely talented artist. His drawings decorate a wall, where they're available for sale. I know he's taught and that he plays the guitar. Sam is well read and has a vast interest, from fantasy and fiction such as The Dresden Files to Mark Twain's newly released volumes to politics. He's a regular reader of the NY Times from cover to cover. He's finished his college degree but continues working here, happy with his life, sometimes dating or returning to Portland to visit with friends and family. Brian, suffering from a failed marriage that took him to low depths this past year, sings and plays instruments. A photo of him in chain mail is on the wall. He made the chain mail himself from stainless steel.
Chelsea, brave of heart and spirit, works here while she goes to college and plans to be a teacher. I think she'll be a good one. She has a huge sense of humor, mostly presenting joy, smiles and grins to the world. Savannah, self-possessed, intelligent, with square shoulders, straight posture and shiny brown hair, is an enigma. She's a beautiful woman and I wonder what her backstory is. Heather, one of the most beautiful young women in town, is a delightful, intelligent conversationists with a busy, busy, busy schedule. She take college courses Monday through Friday and works at the Beanery whenever she can and tells me she's always working or in school. She is never downbeat and always offers a genuine, infectious smile.
Nichole, the manager, is worldy and experienced, with practical managerial experience but quite comfortable dealing with people and employees while dealing with her sons and their sports, another person who stays busy and is sometimes tired but never cranky. She's younger than me but of a close enough age that we identify with one another. The world's antics bemuses us. Jim, meanwhile, delivers here and tends to the equipment, among other duties. He's like a wine, complex but straightforward. Although we face one another from opposite ends of politics, we agree on many things. He has a practical mind and shrugs things off, not taking anything personally. Older than me, he experienced Vietnam from a Navy carrier. We talk to one another across our common experiences born in the military and from living life. He's involved in several charities and has several businesses of his own going. Little seems to faze him and his efforts to progress.
It's funny. As I finish my writing day and complete this post, I look up and there they are - Brian, Savannah, Heather, Sam, Eli, but only Eli and Heather are working, along with a new woman that I don't know.
I wondered about others' story today. A man and a boy often come in. The boy seems ten to twelve years old. After ordering food and drink, they find a table and then read aloud. Most of the time, it's the boy reading but sometimes the man reads. They usually read young adult fiction. I overhear the man asking the boy the meaning of what's being read.
It's nice to see, a man and child reading like this and talking, but I keep wondering, what's their story?
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com