A Bit Part in Somebody Else’s Movie

PrintRick was a jock and Karyn was a cheerleader and I was a freak. That’s how my memory tells the story, but I am only certain about the third statement. It was high school and our tribes did not typically mingle, but somehow Karyn and I became friends. She was in love with Rick, hung up on him, big time. I don’t recall ever talking to him, so don’t know what he thought about her, or anything else.

My friendship with Karyn was sorely tested when she invited me over to hang out, one summer day, at the motel that her family owned or maybe worked at. I was bored and ignored for what felt like eternity, because Rick just happened to show up. In fact – as I realized, to my annoyance – I was there to dupe the parents. Karyn wasn’t allowed to date, or see Rick alone. She invited me over so she could see Rick without repercussions.

By the time we all graduated, I no longer saw Karyn much. I later heard, third hand, that Rick got Karyn pregnant, and broke up with her. I have no idea what their truth was, because I never crossed paths with either of them; nonetheless I filed them in categories: Karyn was ill-used, Rick was cold-hearted. The less one knows, the easier it is to hold a strong opinion…

Over the years, I forgot about Rick, Karyn. Completely. (Although I probably used that second-hand experience as I shaped my views about men, and women, and love.)

Recently – and as out of the blue as things get – I was contacted by Rick. He happened upon mention of me in a college alumni magazine, and from that wound his way to this blog, where he left me a note:

are you the one and very same Sue Perry that was sitting with Karyn *** on a small patch of grass in front of the S* Motel at the edge of the El Camino Real circa 1967-68, in the very middle of a very beautiful summer day while a song by the Byrds was playing on the radio?  This one little scene has stuck in my memory for all of this time (half of a century?!?!).

The instant I saw the names, my own memories rushed back. For me, Rick’s lyrical memory changes my perspective on so many things. First off, I was wrong about Rick (and probably Karyn, too): you don’t remember somebody for 50 years if you didn’t care about them. Then, too, I see I was a bit player in one of their key scenes. A day that gave me brief annoyance hit one of them with such poignancy that it stayed on the top of the memory heap for decades.

Which gets me thinking about all the people around me, living their lives in grazing intersection to mine. About all the pivotal moments that we share without knowing it.

And finally, all this reminds me how glad I am that the internet exists to connect us in ways that would otherwise never happen.

(The WP Daily Prompt asked about music when we were growing up.)

Java Joints in Space

Today’s WordPress prompt says: NASA is building a new Voyager spacecraft that will carry the best of modern human culture. What belongs onboard?

That spacecraft must have onboard a small independent coffee house.  In this coffee house, the menu should be handwritten, few of the wooden chairs and tables can match, and the room must be oddly shaped, with  unexpected nooks and cubbies. There should be local art on the walls (photographs by astronauts?). There may sometimes be live music or other performances.

Interior of the Espresso Bar, Pasadena, CA. Photo by Maury Cohen.

Interior of the Espresso Bar, Pasadena, CA. This wonderful photo by Maury Cohen really captures some of the essence of that place.

Certain tables will be consistently occupied by regulars: an assortment of neighborhood oddballs, artists, teens, activists, and seekers. It will be easy to join the conversations of strangers, and even easier to dissolve into the woodwork if that is what you prefer. The music will be obscure, worth hearing, and too loud. At least one of the workers will become your instant sibling; however, another must be haughty enough to make you rethink a tip.

In some ways, this java joint will be like thousands of others, and yet deeply distinctive.  In fact, I can easily picture all the coffee houses I’ve loved over the years. Despite so many features in common, each is unique, with its own culture, look, and attitude.

Motto at the Unurban, Santa Monica, CA.

Motto at the Unurban, Santa Monica, CA. They did, in fact, serve me decaf, and quite graciously, too.

In coffee houses I’ve written and rewritten novels, fallen in and out of love, dreamed my biggest dreams, escaped my worst problems. I’ve changed my attitude about many a town based on the quality or absence of its coffee houses. Where I live and work nowadays, I’m sorry to report I’ve got nothing but Starbucks and Peet’s. Hey, I like those places – and Starbucks has more than once been an oasis while traveling – but they aren’t coffee houses. They’re predictable, staged, repetitive. Not coffee houses.

Entrance to the Espresso Bar, Pasadena. Brilliant photo by Ted Soqui.

Entrance to the Espresso Bar, Pasadena. Brilliant photo by Ted Soqui.

Let me know if you’ve got a coffee house in your neck of the woods. If I’m ever in the neighborhood, I will want to stop by!

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