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Friday March 30, 2001, 00:36

[ March twenty-eight, one forty in the afternoon ]

I am still in a panic. Every time I walk outside. Every time I walk out of my apartment. Every time I return home from work, or whatever it is that I do all day (case in point, I did very little work yesterday, instead spending my day running errands and sitting around my new favorite coffee shop in the East Village - that is my definition of work these days, though there might be a day in the future that I discover that it is important that I actually get one of those jobs to which I go every day and loathe, simply because that is what people are supposed to do, but until that time I will simply refer to it as "work, or whatever it is that I do all day") I am worried that the landlord (whom I picture as a little old Italian man, though that is probably as far from the truth as could possibly be, but really, my only experience with landlords has been either old men of vague ethnicity [ well, Portuguese ] or nameless, faceless corporations [ well, except for Jake, who was the face of said particular corporation ] and so, because the super of the building actually referred to the landlord as a "he" I consider him a real person to be feared, and for some reason, I am personifying that fear in the form of a little old Italian man) is lurking across the street, waiting for me to return to pounce on me and ask me all sorts of questions to which I do not know the answer. Well, of course, I do know the answer, but the truthful answer would be all kinds of not at all what anybody wants to hear, namely that I am not living in the apartment with any sort of a lease, and while he (this faceless "he" again) is still receiving his money (albeit from California and not from an apartment in the ever so trendy but increasingly expensive East Village), this would provide the perfect opportunity for him to evict said individual who actually does hold the lease.

So I am trying to limit my entrances and exits to the building to an absolute minimum. The decision I am trying to make at this moment is whether or not to return to the apartment before I head off to see a movie this afternoon. Currently sitting in my aforementioned new favorite coffee shop (or should I say "cafe," which conjures images of smoke-filled dingy rooms with the usual assortment of ruffians as opposed to the cleanliness of a place like any of the corporate, cookie-cutter "coffee shops" that have found their home in the hearts of Americans near and far), breathing in the smoke of a hand-rolled cigarette hanging in the lips of an Italian woman, nursing my one cup of coffee and staring at the sign that reads "No Loitering Allowed - One hour permitted for consumption of food purchased on premises" and wondering whether they are ever going to kick me out for sitting here for at least three hours on one purchase and whether or not I can barter computer support for an ethernet jack for my laptop so I do not have to spend ten dollars an hour (pro-rated) to check my email, I wonder whether the landlord is sitting across from my apartment around the corner, waiting to pounce. I am guessing that he is not, and playing the odds, I notice that I have less than one week left before I must move out and figure that I can avoid him for these remaining days.

But for the time being I will enjoy my life as a freelance something or other. Thus far, my attempts to sweet talk the management into any conversation relating to computers have fallen flat, mostly because the person who handles the computers is not the person who runs the establishment. Or perhaps he is and he just does not want to field banter from the likes of me. Though this is most likely not the case. Instead, I believe that the gentleman at the counter, with the goatee and the slouch, is the technician, and as of yet there have been no attempts to form any sort of geek-bond with him. All in time, for this is soon to be something resembling "my neighborhood." Well, once I move out and move back in again.

While full-immersion might be the way for one to enter any given community, I wonder if this means that my laptop will come away from this experience smelling like smoke. I note, however, that the room in which I am sitting is sufficiently large enough and lit enough that the smoke, while dense, does not serve so much as an oppressive fumigation but rather as a reminder that, there are real people sitting in here, and they are smoking. I believe that there is a subtle distinction here, though to those with asthma, I believe that it could be irrelevant.

I have come to believe that all aspects of smoking are absolutely disgusting, except for the smoking itself. The act of smoking (as demonstrated by the numerous web sites and newsgroups supporting this statement) is inherently sexy. And what is it that forms this appeal? Certainly not all of the side-effects associated with sticking a burning bundle of shit in ones mouth and inhaling, and certainly not the stench that lingers in the wake of said burning shit. But the manipulation of the fag, the pursing of the lips, the deep inhalation and the subsequent exhale. Well, this is nothing that has not been said before, but I only recently started to notice this particular appeal. Growing up, I was raised to believe that smoking was bad, that it would turn your lungs black and your teeth yellow. And I still believe this, which is why I do not smoke. However, if done correctly, smoking a cigarette can be one of the more appealing vices out there, from a purely aesthetic point of view. Drinking has the unfortunate byproduct of making and individual drunk. Cigarette smoking merely causes long-term damage that is not noticeable during or even immediately after the fact. That said, while smoking can enhance the individual who knows how to hold herself, she who is awkward and/or trying to hard will look even more so with the addition of a cigarette. And so I present the largest myth of smoking: Smoking will not make you cool. Only if you are cool will smoking make you cool. Otherwise, you will be the loser you've always been. Sorry.

[ A lapse in time. The next afternoon. Three thirty. ]

The feeling is different now. Noisier. Outside, the sky is white and it feels like winter all over again. Inside the cafe, the fan blows the smoke out a hole by the ceiling, attempting to cycle the air. The door, unlike yesterday, is closed. There should be a fire burning in the corner. Or perhaps that would destroy everything, the feel, the mood. But I feel like there should be a fire burning in the corner as I sit in this tattered chair, drinking rapidly cooling coffee and watching a woman in worn combat boots read to her child sitting in her lap. The child may or may not be listening to the story involving, I can only imagine, a tree, for that is the illustration on the back of the book. The child is instead looking at me, eyes wide, never blinking, mouth obscured by a bottle filled with apple juice.

Though I've only been here a handful of times before, it already hold so many memories, most of which it can't even claim credit for. The thermostat has been taped to the wall, much as the thermostat in my old theatre was. The room, filled with smoke, reminds me of late nights in that same theatre. Some experiences are new, however. Sitting in public, while being absolutely alone. Being able to glance up over the top of the screen at the conversations taking place on couches and chairs over cups of coffee and tea. Having no one conversation so loud as to distract me when I'm working, voices and music and the exhaust fan all melting together into white noise. Until, that is, I start to think about it, as I am doing now, at which point I try to isolate conversations and, in the process of not being able to, begin to lose my concentration in doing whatever it is that I am doing here.

Which, again, is quite undefined. Concretely, I am trying to wean myself off of using two spaces instead of one after periods, for reasons that I do not quite understand but which have come up multiple times in the last several days. At this time I can not even recall the context of these conversations other than to note that the second time I heard that I was not supposed to use two spaces after periods it occurred to me that I had already been made aware of that fact in the recent past. And now I can not recall either context. Which is probably ok.

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