Downtown Exploration

I walked downtown with my sister today, to explore the biggest area of the college town we live in.  I decided to have fun instead of do homework for a day.  

We got ice cream first – I decided we had to start out the day with a treat.  Then we went to the Asian food mart, where a mentally ill man was chattering along to the store owner, who was obviously trying to be smiling and polite.

We stopped by a gem, rock, and crystal store, where we watched with fascination the snake in the vast enclosure in the store center.  Snakes are so interesting to watch!  I guess it’s a mark of the irrationality of anxiety that bugs bother me but snakes don’t.

We went record searching at a local antiques store.  My sister got a record player for Christmas and she keeps trying to add to her collection.  I know pretty much everyone when it comes to old music, so I recommended the Paul Simon and Carole King records, along with the Beatles cover song.  She ended up buying what I suggested.

We went to the book shop next.  I’m still reading The Second Sex, but Beauvoir is a little dry and overly scholarly, so I need something to supplement my Beauvoir reading (not replace it).  I chose to buy The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing.  Here’s the summary:

What does it mean to be lonely?  How do we live, if we’re not intimately engaged with another human being?  How do we connect with other people?  Does technology draw us closer together or trap us behind screens?

When Olivia Laing moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis.  Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art.  Moving fluidly between works and lives – from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks to Andy Warhol’s Time Capsules, from Henry Darger’s hoarding to David Wojnarowicz’s AIDS activism – Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.

Humane, provocative, and deeply moving, The Lonely City is about the spaces between people and the things that draw them together, about sexuality, morality, and the magical possibilities of art.  It’s a celebration of a strange and lovely state, adrift from the larger continent of human experience, but intrinsic to the very act of being alive.

A dazzling work of biography, memoir, and cultural criticism on the subject of loneliness, told through the lives of iconic artists, by the acclaimed author of The Trip to Echo Spring.

I thought it sounded interesting, but it’s also very pertinent to my life.  I’m going to be graduating and moving to a single apartment in a new job and a big city soon, and I’ve been wondering lately how I’ll fare being alone.  This book, coming to me when it did, might turn out to be an absolute god-send.

My bookmark is probably going to end up being the bookstore receipt.  As any true bookworm knows, anything can be a bookmark.

After books, we went to the bagel deli for dinner.  The bagel deli is covered in music posters, and they were playing “Digital Love” by Daft Punk over the speakers.  I made sure to give the servers a nice big tip – I always try to be a good tipper – and I got something new I’d never had before from the bagel deli, again trying something different.  It was corned beef, Swiss, onion, and cream cheese on a toasted bagel – very much delicious.

Finally, we ended our trip at the Food Co-Op, where we got groceries.  There’s also a cafe inside the Co-Op, and we hung out there for a while.  I had an evening latte – you can sleep when you’re dead.  We had a nice conversation with one of the local bus drivers we accidentally met up with at the Co Op – I’m friends with all the local bus drivers, though I do want to start walking more now that the weather is getting better.  I also could identify all the songs playing overhead to my sister as they came up, and I bought some chocolate coconut truffle treats for us to share later.

My sister and I were so inspired by our day out that we have a new weekend plan for the several months until I graduate.  Every Friday after my music lesson, we go to the local industrial pub and coffee house to enjoy live music, then take a taxi home.  Every Saturday, we walk to the downtown and back.

We circled the entire West side to make it back to our home.


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