The Artist walking home from the Coffee Shop

To be a part of the Creative Class is to walk past the morning bistros where new money parents younger than you sit with their children having breakfast on a boondoggle Friday and be happy for them: you’ve had fine days off spent in morning cafes and lunch. The relative cost is higher for you but the reward, you suspect, is deeper. Besides, you have your work (your act of creation), even if it borderline drives you mad.

To be a part of the Creative Class is to walk past the stately homes in the neighborhood and acknowledge that had you not fallen prey to the creative gene you might have been able to keep up with your dinky (double income, no kids) brethren and be living now in one of these regal little townhomes, replete with front steps and an underground garage. However, you have your art, and because it speaks back to you in sometimes unkind ways, it is your child – that which you nurture and adore, and which adores you back and torments you in equal portions.

Your art is also your home.

Crossing the street, you are nearly run over in the crosswalk by a young man in a big car talking on his phone avidly and driving haphazardly in the middle of the street. Your first impulse is to despise him, to fault him for his addiction to work and curse him for how it nearly cost you your life, or perhaps almost your mobility or (god forbid) your mind.

But then you forgive the poor guy; he did stop in time. You look at him: he’s frantic, work-obsessed – dare you say it: he’s very important! You pity him, despite the many fringe benefits of his position.

You, you have your art.

Back on the safety of the morning-shaded sidewalk, you realize that the end product of your effort, that which you bring to the marketplace, is not the reward. The reward is in finishing one piece and moving on to the next. That is your oxygen. The act of creation is your version of inflammatory emails or personnel issues – those things which keep the man in the big car moving forward. You are just as self-absorbed as the errant driver but not as self-aggrandizing. If you’re lucky to have had a service or office job (and who among the Creative Class hasn’t?), you understand and are grateful for this fine distinction – for that which distinguishes your self-absorption from his.

True, you often envy his security, but then you remember how many layoff rounds you lived through in your previous employ and how nothing is really secure. Not even money. Once upon a time you had a nice bourgeois house and a tangible position and the makings of the American Dream. But you lost it. Repealed it, really. Partly because of macro economics. More so because you had to return to art.

Every step along the way from coffee shop to sunny apartment – which, by the way, is an accomplishment itself: to live in a well-lit room, as opposed to the dungeons of your adolescence – every step along the sidewalk pavers is, you remind yourself, stamped with opportunities. And more importantly, choices.

Life is all about choices. We choose our joys and we choose our pains. For those of us in the Creative Class, there isn’t really a choice, though. And it’s only when you have made peace with that truth that you can walk past the privileged windows and smile, and realize that it’s ok.

You do, thank the stars, have your art.

Sidewalk diptych: SF / NY

Sidewalk diptych: SF / NY 2014

 

Reading Carver in the morning

May 6, 2015
Church St Cafe

When I think of all the things I’m not (borrowing the opening to ch. 12 of Hugo, ‘A Brief Touchdown in Paradise’)… When I scan the streets for visions of myself and witness only possible outcomes of myself, potential future states, I find the present alienating and a little more than harrowing at times. Unlike Hugo, though, I do give a shit.

I’m learning to be content with my choices in life, with whatever it is I’ve chosen to pursue or not pursue. Content with what is inherent in me, this  fundamental condition.

To go cup

To go cup

Reading Carver this morning: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”.

The sun sneaks into the front windows of the café from in between the peaks of two victorians across the street. Two old guys sit over to the right talking about Turkey, their church and the Middle East. Ahead of me two guys, one 70 the other about 40 years younger, are perched in leather chairs. The old guy has good posture and is reading the NY Times. The young guy, marked incognito by his dark baseball cap and baggy clothes, is slouched down reading intently from his small handheld. Could be Hollywood or could be hi-tech. Outside, perched around a set of to-go cups and mobile phones are a trio in their 20’s: hoodies and black jackets and smoldering cigarettes. They are joined by another derelict, some middle aged artist, hungover or still high, all of their experiments in rehab gone mutually asunder. They depart, unseen.

2 guys in the window - church st cafe

2 guys in the window – church st cafe

There’s a brief flurry of activity inside at the counter: coffees to go, an occasional pastry or a hard boiled egg. The flurry disperses to the sidewalk and a google bus lumbers by, stops by the neighboring building. Its butt sticks out in front of the window where the two old guys are talking retiree shop. Ignoring the bus, they get up from their chairs to get the sun out of their eyes.

On the sidewalk the hipsters all head to work, wet hair and beards and skull caps, with tracking badges dangling from their sides, while inside the old guys are pushing cafe chairs around noisily.

google bus

google bus

In walks Pollyanna Pink Pants with his plaid jacket and loafers without socks, movie star sunglasses and a striped canvas bag slung over his forearm.  He’s got the gay accent and a pitch of D-minor: “I’ll have a medium Jamaican roast to go. And a blueberry scone.”  Things are good right now, all signs pointing to fabulous. He will weep, though, when the happiness ends. When he’s called one day into the office and told he’s being let go. (We’ve all been there.) He will weep as if his heart has been torn in two, because nobody who wears pink pants merely cries; they weep.

Meanwhile, outside the hipster girls in their frilly scarves and earbuds consult their phones all the way down the block.  Another double-decker google bus comes to a stop in front of the café, its monolithic form stretched across the entire front of the café, with no beginning or ending in sight. Inside, the old guys again re-position themselves against the sun, and here and there a stranger ponders all the things that he is not.

sunlight, cafe chairs

sunlight, cafe chairs