Sovereign Delights

It’s been a pleasant holiday weekend. Beth threw a party on the third, and I invited folks. Raad, my friend who grew up in Baghdad, came, as did my friend Tunji, who will never shake his tricky Nigerian accent. Elizabeth, who grew up in Chicago but has a foreign travel bug, also showed up, as did Milly, my prodigal young roommate, and we spent most of the night in conversation with Dervis, a Turkish physicist who lives upstairs from Beth. We talked about nerdy intellectual stuff, like national histories, how the system works, lifestyle choices and international political relationships. Elizabeth and Raad, both music aficionados, took some time out to talk about this shared interest. Raad shared with us some pictures he had taken of the artwork that he is working on at home, which was exciting and groovy. As the party wound down, Dervis invited us upstairs to his funky little pad, and played some of his musical compositions for us. Creativity was thus revealed, and shared, among like-minded strangers from across the globe. Not a bad night in America.

Tunji walked home, he lives nearby. Raad dropped Milly off at our apartment, while I opted to walk Elizabeth home, not far away. The next day Elizabeth and her roommate opted to host a get-together. The international cast, minus Milly, reassembled to eat meat and drink. The fireworks started and we marched off in search of a view, and found ourselves atop a parking garage with some tail-gating townies. It was another groovy night.

Then, slightly hung over, I was at work at 6:30 Saturday morning, to open with the Owner’s Wife, who shares her husband’s view that I am a dangerous, free-thinking radical, hell-bent on the destruction of their enterprise. She possessed a remarkably impressive amount of vitriol for me that day, which added to the slight hangover, and the complete lack of downtown business on a holiday weekend, to ruffle my chi. I made it through the shift by responding to her negative energy with my trademark, good-natured non-chalance. Despite all the flak I’m perfectly capable of doing a great job, for the time being. I’m likely to bail and move to Chicago when the apartment lease, and the special deal I have on it, ends in August. I’m not serving enough customers or making as much money as a barista as I would like. I can probably get a good gig serving Chicago-style pizza with a good break on Chicago-style rent by living with my Chicago-stylin’ Mom.

I’ve been pretty pleased since moving back to the morning shift. I get along with my regular cafe co-worker very well, and when I get home in the evening, even after a nap, I find myself awake and interested and getting things done … poetry, revising prose, some programming, transcribing journals. There’s the eight hours a day when I serve my employer, followed by a few more hours when I’m in the right mode to serve my own interests. Yum!

And days off rock, as well. I got three this week, thanks to the holiday. On Sunday, I was hanging out in the south lounge of the Illini Union, doing precisely nothing, and Dervis ran into me. He had been hoping to play the piano they have there, but was too shy to interrupt the peaceful-looking slumber in which one of the guests there was engaged. So, we ended up talking, and talking, and talking, about crazy ideas … physics, math, biology, identity, genetics, whatever. He joined me for an evening coffee at Za’s – they have splendid brewed coffee, which they serve by scooping a single-serving of beans, into the grinder, into a filter, which is then conveyed via hot water, into a mug. Damn! We talked more, on and on. I walked with him back to his lab, where he was going to get some work done. It was on my way home.

The only great wrinkle in that whole thing was that Za’s did not have their tiramisu available. This wonderful, wonderful bit of manna, that goes so well with their coffee, and deep conversations. I settled for a blueberry muffin.

One point Dervis made, among several, was that Champaign-Urbana, especially during the summer, is especially conducive to thinking, to meditation, to pursuing one’s intellectual interests. It is one thing to have the University, but it is another thing for there to be nothing going on … quiet solitude, for one to be alone with the World, and one’s thoughts. And that is what I’ve been tuning into, with pleasing success, lately.

Today I had to work early again. It was no effort at all. The only wrinkle was that the Cafe Manager came by and told us that he had finally met more flak than he could stand from the Owner, and that he would be walking out on us, as soon as some manifestation of the Owner showed up. He was sorry to go, sorry to leave us, and we were sorry to see him go, because he’s a sweet, mild-mannered guy, who helped temper our relationships with the owners. We’ve lost that buffer, which means the Owner’s Wife will probably be around more to fill out the schedule, and ruffle my chi. We’ll see how well I can keep my cool. We’ll see if the owners will start to re-evaluate things with an eye toward removing the negative energy that has been driving a succession of employees away. We’ll see what lies ahead.


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