10/24/2001: Would you believe I was standing beneath the lit marquee of the Music Box Theater this evening, reading an Emily Dickinson chapbook? I was, but I was doing a poor job of it. And, no, I wasn’t there specifically to read poetry. But I might’ve been the first dude to read Dickinson at that particular location. And, no, I wasn’t reading it aloud.* In fairness (to me), I hadn’t thought to read it aloud.
I bring a book or a magazine along wherever I go, just in case it rains. Gotta have something to hold open over my head. Can’t have a sudden shower muck up my carefully sculpted helmet of hair. And if I want something to read, I’ll take an umbrella. But seriously, it’s all about the waiting. If city life doesn’t cultivate patience, then it definitely cultivates insanity.
If I find myself waiting (anywhere) beyond the walls of my apartment without something to read, I’ll end up gazing at the passersby, instead. They might gaze back. They won’t smile, though. Never mind if I smile first, they will not reciprocate. This is, after all, the “City of Big Shoulders,” not the “City of Beaming Grins.” Only infants and toddlers are guaranteed the reciprocation of smiles. Ok, yeah, sure, somebody — one person — might aim a smile in my general direction. There’d be many more glares, sneers, and snubs, though. You could put money on it. In this city, you assume a stranger smiles at you because he wants what’s in your pockets.
Beyond that, some dude’s gonna come along — some beefy dude with muscles to spare — and he’s gonna catch me ogling his date’s chest — which, sorry, it’s a natural inclination. I’m not proud of it. A dog salivates when it’s hungry. If it helps you, write me off as little better than a dog. The world might be better off with more dogs and fewer men. Hey, I’ll get down on all fours if you like. And if I do, it’ll be harder for me to stare up at your chest. Problem solved. New problem: Now you’re more likely to trip over me. So maybe I’ll bark at you. Problem solved. In the interim, this beefy dude, he’ll pull back his arm and ball up his fist at me. That’s when I hold up my Emily Dickinson book. Gotta give him the impression that he’s got me all wrong.
So I was there, under the Music Box marquee, waiting for Ginny. It was her idea to see Waking Life. She ran late. She was waiting for the rice she had ordered with her spring rolls. The rice never came. So she ate the spring rolls and left. On her way to the theater, she stopped at an Osco Drug. She needed something more to munch on, but nothing appealed to her taste buds. I hadn’t thought to ask if she had an aversion to popcorn.† By the time she finally showed up, the movie had already begun. We bought tickets anyway. It was a curious flick, but I enjoyed it immensely. Ginny didn’t. Maybe we should’ve gone somewhere for rice instead.‡
*[09/19/21: But you should. Choose the shelter below any cinema’s marquee. (This assumes cinemas survive the pandemic. Given the ever increasing size and convenience of home flat screens, I have my doubts.) If, however, you choose a live venue’s marquee, that’s cheating. Playgoers tend to be a cultured lot. (And unlike the local multiplex, methinks the live venue has a bright a future, post-pandemic.) But when you read Dickinson aloud in front of just about any given cinema — again, one that hasn’t shuttered its doors — you’ll quickly distinguish the wheat from the chaff, and find the wheat wanting. (Unless it’s an art house, like the Music Box.) I mean, come on, do you know anybody who reads 19th century poetry and will willingly stand in line for the latest Fast & Furious flick? But, no, don’t blame the innocent patron. Everybody benefits from the occasional mindless diversion. Blame the capitalistic urge to pander to the lowest common denominator. In fairness, Hollywood execs have children to raise and mortgages to pay, too. With the excess of “content” spread across so many “platforms,” a typical Hollywood exec’s corner office probably comes with a terrific parking space and an incurable gastric ulcer.]
†[09/19/21: Although it wasn’t a proper date, the FireVaney does not recall why he and Ginny didn’t make it “dinner and a movie.”]
‡[09/19/21: FireVaney’s interest in Ginny remains a bit murky. Sure, he enjoyed her company. She wasn’t bad looking, either. But he was far more attracted to Mia, who was a mutual acquaintance. Actually, for a spell, Mia and Ginny were more than acquaintances. Quite a bit more. This made Mia all the more attractive. But not Ginny. FireVaney did eventually invite Mia to see a movie. She asked if Ginny could come, too. But then something came up and FireVaney had to cancel. Or perhaps FireVaney was too jealous/envious. The prospect of a ménage à trois simply didn’t occur to him. This was the second or perhaps third time in his life such a prospect seemed possible; and yet he dropped the ball (the wrong way) on each one of them. But this was a long time ago. His thinking was clouded back then. At least now it’s more of a haze than a fog — unless that’s wishful thinking, too.]