This guy will be in a story someday

I’m sitting at a table near the door, which I regret now because it is c-c-c-cold outside, and whenever someone comes in the door doesn’t close all the way. There is a waitress and a bartender; she is stretched pretty thin, so when he has a chance he comes around the bar with fistfuls of beers and spreads the joy.

He is not a tall man, but he is a big man. He has neatly trimmed grey hair and wire glasses. His black trousers are held up by suspenders. He wears a leather apron that only just avoids being comical strapped onto the front of his bulk. I was sitting, staring into space, thinking about what to write next when he asked me if I wanted another beer. He had a great voice, smooth and low without being deep, soft but resonant. I accepted his offer and he set a beer in front of me.

This is one of those places where there is a piece of paper on your table and as you add to the tab they put hashmarks on the paper. A gloriously simple system, but one that prevents all sorts of misunderstandings, as well as fraud (there are places here notorious for adding items to your bill). The bartender produced a pen from his pocket, clicked it twice rapidly without looking, made a mark on my tab, then, checking the pen to make sure it was still deployed, put it back in his pocket.

4 thoughts on “This guy will be in a story someday

  1. I remember what Tony Hillerman once said at a conference I attended: He “collects” people like that. As he goes about his daily life, he will notice people that have certain habits or mannerisms or ways of dressing, and he will mentally index them. Subsequently, Hillerman will put those characteristics into use to create quirky but realistic characters in his novels.

  2. This episode brings up a question I’ve been wanting to ask of Jerry and all writers/bloggers in the audience: Do you sometimes to forget to “live in the moment” because you’re suddenly thinking about how to capture the moment in your writing? Jerry, at what point do you cross the line and stop being a part of the action but instead start writing of the action for the next episode of the blog?

    I have this problem all the time when I have my camera at some event. I should be enjoying the backpack/bike ride/birthday party, but sometimes I slip completely into framing pictures in my mind and worrying about angles. Of course, a little of this is good, otherwise you get poor documentation of the event (i.e. out of focus snap shots of the backs of heads, common blog noodlings about fuzz in the navel).

    Is there a sweet spot where one can both participate and enjoy life’s events AND adequately and skillfully document and explore the event for others not there in person?

  3. I would say such activity is more easily done with writing than with photography. Writing can be done later, providing it’s not so much later that one has forgotten important details. Photography pretty much has to happen on the spot.

    Recently, while looking for something else, I ran across some of my old clips. I had taken the old manual Smith Corona that had been one of my dad’s high-school graduation presents on a couple of church mission trips to build homes for poor people in Mexico. By day, I poured concrete and laid cinder blocks; in the evening hour between dinner and lights-out, I pounded away at that old typewriter. The result was a couple of the best feature articles I have ever written.

    I suppose nowadays, I’d use a laptop, but there just seemed to be something appropriate in using an ancient manual typewriter in the dust of the Sonoran Desert. At times, low-tech is really the way to go.

  4. Keith –
    I remember way back when I tried the garage band thing once. I love music, and really love being at live venues, watching the bands do their thing. I wanted to be like that, to be a part of that scene. So I did. Now I was a cool musician (not hardly, but anyway..) All of the sudden I noticed that when I went out clubbing to see live bands, I no longer enjoyed them in the same way – and more importantly, I no longer enjoyed the experience as much. Instead, I found myself unconciously joining the “panel” in the back of the room, watching the band intensely, trying to pick up pointers, judging chops, analyzing sound, investigating equipment. Look for the “panel” next time you go out to a small venue to watch live music. They’ll be there, a row of guys, longish hair, arms crossed, no toe-tapping, no head banging, they’re all just standing there “digesting” the product.
    I really really missed enjoying live music in a non-analytical way, and it took years of not being a musician to get back to that. My opinion? – there is no sweet spot, just the sweet tragedy of losing the moment to become the moment.

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