Construction in Expression – Holding Pattern/Joyride

“… it’s easier to get ahead over the corpses of those who disrespect you than it is to ride their coattails.”

I’ve recently found myself interested in compiling quotes. Oftentimes, they are silly, nonsensical, and essentially, fodder to save whatever tiny notebook I have on my nightstand that’s about to hit the trashcan. Lately, I’ve been scribbling down words of an angry Mel Gibson. As some of you know, I have what the socially prudent would call a fiery temperament. Aside from verbal assaults and racial slurs dismissed in a discussion on alcohol, Mel has some pretty interesting things to say. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, he professes to “murder inanimate objects.” The ability is so impressive that we should watch him “choke a toaster in the morning.”

It’s all quite amusing, but are the rants constructive? If I were to compile a book titled Quotes of Mel Gibson, would it be anything more than a list you find in your supermarket’s Cosmopolitan that details sixty-nine ways to please your man with a chocolate eclair? I highly doubt it.

Recently, I was privileged with reading and assembling over sixty poems from J. Walter Falconer’s blog, Holding Pattern/Joyride. Some pieces are worthy of an aching chest, others read like battle scenes from fantasy novels I’m too intimidated to open, but all the poems saturate, ideal for any weather and worthy of multiple re-reads. I’ve found myself doing this quite a bit, visiting the blog, admiring the precision in Falconer’s stanzas, and more so, reminding myself that my issues, both internal and interpersonal, aren’t unsolvable and can certainly be articulated in less than abstract ways.

I’ll reiterate that Holding Pattern/Joyride is more than a poetry blog. It’s a collection of writing that likely appeals to an ample span of readers. Students, nature lovers, hunters, enthusiasts of health, medicine, and psychological complexities. And let’s not forget those angsty people like myself who need a bit of a grounding. My obstacles aren’t necessarily insurmountable, and the grievances and ambivalences I clumsily attempt to juggle aren’t exactly sixteen-pound bowling balls.

If time allows, I highly recommend you read the blog from first entry to the most recent. Holding Pattern/Joyride is more than a glimpse into the happenings of a poet. Here, we have a cancer survivor embarking on patient advocacy, a friend with advice regarding relationships gone sour, the cool guy at the coffee shop who gives me the gritty details of what it’s like to be in grad school, and how working in a lab isn’t to be glamorized. There’s a poignant bit about the kind impartiality of animals we hold dear. As someone who frequently finds solace in the company of other friend’s cats as I save for my own, I can only smile at the declaration of “No prejudice here, no sir,” followed by an entry on therapy animals.

Indeed, not everything’s permanent, and the idea of the world constantly fleeting makes me pretty anxious. Self-identity is often muddled, and still, at twenty-five, my coping skills need work. Falconer’s blog reminds me of this, but not so patronizingly. It’s kind of like a self-help book, but better. A compilation of tips, poetic, detailed, and structured with a purpose that directs me away from the sinkhole angst can sometimes lead us to, including recorded arguments we’ll likely soon regret.

Swiftly Paced Intricacy – Oak and Mist by Helen Jones

Available on Amazon via Kindle or paperback.

Available on Amazon via Kindle and paperback.

Admittedly, I’m not what you’d call extremely well-read. That being said, aside from the first installment of The Lord of the Rings series, and the Harry Potter books that I’ve rarely ever re-read, I have hardly read any fantasy. Perhaps it’s all too intimidating, with its multiple worlds, factions, alliances, alter-egos, and allusions to mythology and other things I find elaborately rich. While I’ve intended to, I’ve never really given attention to the YA genre. It takes a skilled and enthusiastic writer to draw me into such works, and with Oak and Mist, Helen Jones does the job.

We see predestination’s lingering hold as Alma faces a tall order. Ambeth, a world outside the familiar, is threatened by an imbalance between Light and Dark. One does not choose the faction he is born into, and ultimately, one is not granted volition to shift, even in the unlikely presence of a desire to do so. Caleb, Alma’s friend, makes this clear as he dissuades her emotions for a boy from the wrong end of the spectrum.

Jones presents a world that I found highly believable, intricate though uncomplicated. Ambeth is lush with pleasantries, elegant party wear, a hierarchy and party scenes that warmly remind me of the Royal Diaries series. Alma, quiet though brave and resolute, reminded me so much of my younger self, overly impressed with the outwardly beautiful and concerned of other’s perceptions. She’s like a snow globe; you can sense when something unsettles her, whether it regards the dangerous, the lustful, or simply, the possibility that she has wounded a friend, however lacking the intention to. Her friendship with Caleb is something most of us have had, along with exasperating conversations about whether That Guy is worth dating.

While I found descriptions of Alma’s infatuation to be gratuitous and sweetly tedious to read, I was impressed with Jones’s integration of the conventional human world with that of contentious Ambeth. The idea of hybrid individuals and half-siblings isn’t new, though I appreciated the dialogue regarding acceptance of one’s blood, and awareness of one world over another. At several points throughout the novel, what appear to be gaps are eventually sealed. The story itself is considerably fast-paced to where one may not acknowledge that something is amiss. However, upon this realization, readers can appreciate that few things mentioned in Oak and Mist could be dismissed as trivial.

Oak and Mist details what I’d expect in the YA genre: formative relationships, both romantic and platonic, familial bonds, and reconciliation between how one would like things to be and how things actually are. Events and relationships are presented so cohesively to where the book could well stand on its own, though the detail in thoughts, interactions, and transferrals between Ambeth and the world in which we readers live leaves much to be predicted and returned to. Delightfully, Oak and Mist is just the first book of the Ambeth Chronicles, as Ms. Jones has just finished its followup, No Quarter. I anticipate the second book to be just as enjoyable.

With all being said, I should really give some genres more of a solid read.

Postgrad Indulgence by an Outdoor Elevator – $5 Catfish at Lone Star Cafe

I chose my current residence with the goal of saving money to further pursue my endeavors. Though perseverance in a whole week of miserly doesn’t exactly nurture a calm that facilitates a productive workweek, or weekends that leave you dreading and anticipating the upcoming Monday.

Iced Starbucks with coasters made by local artist and sold at the Texas Folklife Festival, 2015.

Iced Starbucks with coasters made by local artist and sold at the Texas Folklife Festival, 2015.

Downtown’s potentially expensive. I realize the Starbucks a minute from work charges a little more, and “little” adds up to a good twenty bucks, if mainstream macchiatos are your thing. I also realize that amidst the quiet dives hiding behind salt rocks and contemporary abstract hotel sculptures, good deals can greet in the open. And if you’re working Downtown, a fulfilling though affordable Friday lunch can feed your weekend excitement A thing to look forward to on Mondays as you conquer your workweek.

I’m raving about the five dollar catfish buffet at Lone Star Cafe, off Losoya Street, by McDonald’s and Fuddruckers.

For some, Lone Star is a bit hard to find, but my first week of training, it was all coworkers and supervisors could recommend. On Fridays. No one ever asked if those in my cohort or myself were “fish people,” though I’m aware catfish has a tendency to polarize, depending on how it’s prepared. Breaded, blackened, seasoned, plain.

I typically say “meh” when it’s fried. Not at Lone Star.

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I was informed it was a “catfish buffet,” so I thought I’d walk into a room filled with fine wood tables boasting heaps of golden batter on silver trays, livened with the glow of a modest flame and made approachable by five or six pairs of scattered tongs. This is what I’m used to when dining buffet style.

But as you walk down the street, there’s a host that greets you by an elevator painted white. You’re offered the choice of dining indoors, or out. I live near the unpopulated side of the Riverwalk, and already accustomed to what I call confetti-ized (or confetti-sized) tourism (the authentic calling your name in crowds of the gimmicky, and vice versa), I thought it refreshing to sit from above, look at the trees, and note all the colors down below.

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Fortunately, my first trip was nothing like this past weekend, bogged down with flash flood warnings. I visited in early March.

I was told by the waiter that simply, I finish my plate, and he brings another. While I readied myself for a greasy feast all too iconic of Long John Silver’s, my fish arrived easily managed. You’re left to enjoy several pieces of modestly sized fish with a whiteness and flakiness that left me thinking, “This isn’t American catfish.” But it is.

IMG_1395Maybe, in limited experience, I’ve just had crappy catfish. I realized I arrived a bit judgmental. The admittance was repeated as I bit into a sweet roll. They’re not frozen.

In training, we were given fifteen minutes extra when walking out for lunch. So I used it the best I could, warming up, studying branches, craning my neck to hear what people were laughing about at the outdoor bar several steps down.

I didn’t have to ask, and my plate was replaced. And replaced. And replaced.

Actually, I sat through three plates of catfish, several inhalations of dough rightly baked, and playful dips in tartar sauce.

I can be iffy on tartar sauce. And restaurants. Tourism. Work.

I fished out my tip, feeling that my bill, in total, ought to have been around $14.99. It was a little over six after tax. And of course, add the tip that I prefer giving in dollar bills, quarters, and dimes.

Truly, there are places to foster my frugal hesitance. Some I’ve passed, everyday, unaware without the prodding of those who like me, dance for Friday, and sulk on Monday mornings.

Braised Comfort and Sips of Miso Soup – Kimura

“How do you survive?”

A common question, as I poke my fork at lightly salted Easy Mac most days at work. Currently, I’m re-living high school, a time of contentment with simple things like oranges and microwaved tuna casserole. I stretched out my checks earned as a tour guide, and I hope to do the same now.

But living a little hardly hurts.

I live a street-and-a-half away from work. A convenience for both the lackadaisical and eager as I leave thirty minutes before office hours start, slipping on pants with a speed not pressured. I count chain restaurants at each stoplight. Not many, but I find few little enclaves I plan to visit again.

IMG_2850Modest at its antiquated outset, Kimura’s offerings of Japan and satisfaction restored my spirits during one of my more stressful weeks these first months at the job. It’s tiny, yet accommodating to commiserating coworkers and childhood friends meeting up, if just for once within the past ten years. There’s a bar to the left as you open the door, though seating to the right against well-shaded windows grants a mellow reprieve.

IMG_2840I arrived around noon, seeking reunion with miso soup I forgot the taste of as barbecued pork, pasta, and Nutella sandwiches were swallowed in weeks prior. I looked to the waitress, pointing to a tall, frosted bottle. “It’s vodka!” she joked. I laughed in my usual awkwardness, asked for water, and she giggled, pouring me a glass. It wasn’t vodka, but it was invigorating.

Recently, my Asian dining has been limited to pho. Which is wholesome and widely accessible here, though I craved pork, which is hard to find at good quality. I’m always one to request tofu, or the vegetarian pad thai. It’s really more of a texture thing, my aversion to most meats. But oddly, I don’t mind pork. Cue the Chashu Don.

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Like the establishment, the dish wields a humility that goes a long way. Along with the soup and calming neutrality of cucumber sunomono, you get a bowl graced with braised beige and sprinkles of green onion. I’ve always preferred steamed over brown rice, so I spent my hour quite fulfilled, taking my time to slice through the meat with the same wide spoon I used to sift through my soup. I could never feign mastery of chopsticks, and I’m still too shy to request forks and knives when the setting brands them anomalous.

IMG_2834Here, you witness conversations familiarized by small-towny shows like Gilmore Girls. I haven’t dined here to the point of assessing the restaurant’s likenesses to Cheers, but Kimura’s no stranger to handfuls passing by. The girl who makes my coffee at the shop across Starbucks stopped to say “Hello.” A person in an office two floors below me smiled to ask, “Is it good?” as he opened a sturdy menu. I found myself looking around. At well-shaded windows, hues of glossy red, the uncrowded enthusiasm in those around, sipping their shoyu, chewing on bean sprouts.

IMG_2836It was a humid day. Gray, but unwilling to welcome rain. I walked to work with a cup of Easy Mac wedged between folders bent in my bag. But it’s not exactly the chicken soup that soothes. Chashu Don’s a close counterpart. Actually, it’s something more.

Acquaint yourself with Kimura, and if you ever find yourself in Downtown San Antonio, do give them a try!

Refusing to Die – Oneanna65’s About

For sale on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback.

Cancer. The frenzied multiplication of cells, here, there, anywhere, really. Most of us have met at least one person with cancer, perhaps experienced the deaths of several afflicted. I often think of chemotherapy, isolation, strict diets, dramatic weight loss and other complications to sadden, aggravate, and sour. But I’ve never heard anyone, at least in person, discuss his or her experiences with cancer so candidly as to mention the “doughnut machine” when recalling the day’s radiation session.

Oneanna65, as she prefers to be called, combines memory, poetry, social media, recipes, and faith-guided introspection in her self-published book, About. She’s been a fighter since childhood, though positive in her outlook. From the autobiographical start, to poetic revelations, and excerpts of her most memorable blog posts, she has you not only rooting for her, but thinking, “Wow, this is perseverance.”

We see perseverance in just one of many bits of reflective commentary:

“For one clean wine bottle I would buy a sweet bun. If I could find 10 bottles and make two trips to the recycling shop, I could buy sweet bun, candy, lemonade, and I could go to the movies.”

The author lived a life I’d call chapped by poverty, absent fatherhood, and several childhood tragedies. In 1978, she made the transition to Chicago from communist Poland, evading the predatory motives of her already-married sponsor but knowing, as one seeking refugee status, that she could never simply return. This isn’t the only large transition. Throughout About, we learn that the author:

– Spent much of her life as a limo driver, encountering the strange, normal, sweet, and mean.
– Found herself in a homeless shelter.
– Caught herself in the disappointment of one stressful job after another.
– Continues to experience serious health problems, which About primarily discusses.

Despite all this, Anna keeps going. An impoverished child with a dogged will that persists across the decades. A scene I found most memorable was the one regarding church. Attending church was fine, until Anna was hungry. Her mother would hand her money to give to the local priest, but when Anna needed to eat, she never hesitated to walk to the bakery. She describes her lack of guilt in a way that’s admirable, and logical. She came to the conclusion that God loved her, and would continue to love her, even if she bought herself a piece of bread, rather than offer the prominent church leader the weekly tithe.

Anna’s forwardness in thought and action is a feature that manifests repeatedly. A woman experiencing a breakup gets into the limo, expressing her want to die. While similar scenarios I myself have witnessed were prolonged as bystanders thought of how to be polite, Anna never hesitates. She talks about her own relationship problems, acknowledges she too wanted to die, but says she’s overcome. And if Anna can do it, so can the girl. I thought the scene would explode with some diatribe, a rant about “You not knowing me.” But Anna made a friend, and treats us to another story of an ever-smiling girl in a wheelchair, thrilled that she can finally get inside the limousine, without help, in spite of multiple sclerosis.

This isn’t the only scene that displays Anna’s greatest strength as a storyteller: illustrating contrasts. Again, I’ll go back to her childhood memories. “Half-an-orphan.” This was a term Anna often heard growing up without a father. “But I’m whole!” she insists, and discusses the greater suitability of the word “father-free.” While the circumstances of their relationship dishearten, Anna assures us that there were positives out of this, recalling some often socially condoned practices she witnessed in the lives of her friends with “complete” families.

Aside from the autobiographical, Anna addresses the nutritional. A recipe for chicken soup, and a resigned acknowledgement that yes, while it’s healthy, one can tire of chicken soup. So Anna drops suggestions to diversify the meal. If you’re not familiar with her blog, you’ll find some insights on health, the brain, and food. Regarding the neurological, Anna comments:

“…our cells don’t have a brain, they listen to our thoughts and do exactly what we are thinking.”

In the beginning, she shares this quote:

“From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says I have survived.” – From Words of Wisdom – Mhar.

Anna asks not for sorrow towards her struggles, but invites us to live with optimism, faith, receptiveness to health, and renewal of the will.

As a reader, I learned that foods like tuna, pomegranate, red wine, and bok choy have cancer-fighting properties, and are worth researching. And as a blogger, I smiled reading Anna’s recollections of advice to use WordPress over other site-building services, the time she encountered a nasty commenter, and her declination to use the polished “About” statement recommended to her. Anna does mention several times that her English is not the best, but I find the imperfections invaluable to the work. It made the book absorbing to read and reminded me of books read to my third grade class from our audibly Ukrainian teacher. I admired that she was willing to share the intricacies of her ailments, explaining how writing can be a physically taxing feat. She even mentions it when explaining the lack of punctuation in her poetry. Like the foods Anna recommends we eat, About is fairly organic.

And that’s the lovable aspect of About. It’s natural, blunt, unhindered, though comforting. Ultimately, positivity lies within you. Praise, encouragement, and sunlit brunches are appreciated gestures, but in the face of adversity, no one can will yourself to wake up and live other than yourself. Anna lives, and keeps on living.

Small Town Friendships and Unconscionable Doings – Pete Deakon’s Buried Within

Pete Deakon’s second novel, Buried Within, is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Not everything is alright in America’s humble Midwest.

I’ve only been to Missouri for three days, at most. One day in Springfield, two in St. Louis. While I remember the weather being muckier than desired, walking from the botanical garden in an inadequate poncho, the people continued to grin.

In Buried Within, Pete Deakon illustrates just how the fond, playful winsome conflicts with the dreary, the two eventually coalescing as the horrific transpires.

“I’m here for you if you need it,” a friend offers in tragedy’s chill. But of course, the person facing loss may brood, in his own special way. Some understand, others are spooked. Maybe he’s not sad enough. Maybe he’s too angry. Perhaps, a bit obsessed. Crazed. They’ll still continue to talk about him, meaning well, though not immune to plasticized gossip and sentimental recollections of some romantic movie.

Mark, he’s a romantic. An awkward one who Deakon endows with calculative flair. Like The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor, Buried Within holds tight to the logical, each character’s thoughts, mannerisms, and relationships presented with the accessibility of a well-written instruction manual. But the steps you follow to assemble the cabinet, they’re written with heart and integrity.

Here is just an example of dry humor by which I was charmed:

“Like most men, Adam and John were not attorneys and they certainly made decisions that proved them to be hypocrites to their own lofty notions of morality, but still they held these notions.”

Of course, attorneys aren’t perfect people, and everyone, in a series however prolonged or brief, repeats the same mistakes. This is a human flaw, and while imperfection can embarrass and disappoint, Deakon describes everyday follies with a bluntness and dialogue that not only has one chuckling, but reassures readers that maybe, even through the appallingly unpredictable, things will be okay.

The thrill of courtship, the drabs of marriage, the challenge of keeping the flame at a flicker. Couples and partnership are key players in Buried Within, helping to establish the backdrop of a quiet town and steady friendships. Mark and Rebecca are great for each other. The girl, young and lively, shivers in her modesty, though comfort is found in the sheer stability of quiet, awkward Mark. Again, no one is perfect, but upon finding out, most would “tsk” and pry. So Mark and Rebecca keep to themselves for much of their married lives.

Before, things were better. Wholesome memories of a budding love that makes me think of that movie with a young Reese Witherspoon. Man in the Moon.

In time, Mark unravels. We see the petals of a vibrant rose gradually fall. Insecurity, infertility, the bureaucracy of adoption. Work. Because love doesn’t pay the bills, though you’d think it makes hardships easier to bear.

Mark gets struck with a hardship. Brought on by a different kind of awkward.

Deakon writes about the interpersonal in very personal ways. Again, I’ll emphasize that he’s quite technical, something I can’t deduce too often in the span of a short novel. The chapters read like vignettes, Norman Rockwell paintings that hang on the same wall, but don’t necessarily depict the same thing, like dogs or the ocean, hotdogs and cottages. We begin at the present, roll in the past, proceed to the present again. The woods, a car, a bowling alley. A garage. The trunk of a car. Deakon doesn’t concentrate too much on building a bridge from scene to scene, but they all fit tightly. More so, we appreciate detail in thoughts and dialogue.

But one thing I wish the author could have done more is drill more detail in those more unpleasant scenes.

In general, we tend to be more comfortable reading about atrocity than seeing it. Given the freedom of imagination, it makes a lot of sense. While Deakon did well with his fine brushstrokes the first half of the novel, I felt things grew curt towards the end. Know that the writing is always straightforward. But with actions we associate with high coverage trials, I was hoping for more exploration. The content itself is unsettling, though I wanted something more graphic.

However, this may be the point of it all. Contrasts are everywhere. The conventional versus the old-fashioned, the young and the old, the masculine and the effeminate. Pay attention to what Rebecca says about Mark’s dad, the perks Rebecca hopes for at work when she hits her thirties, the way Mark’s friends laugh at him because he uses the word “tendrils.”

By the way, I’ve never actually heard a man use the word “tendrils” in person.

So while I initially felt I was walking through some lush forest beneath some starry, lovelorn sky (and I do like to feel this way every once in a while), it seemed like I suddenly found myself in a pale tundra, with poison ivy here and there. Jarring and out of place.

But then again, maybe this was the goal Deakon aimed for.

The quirky and the creepy. The grieving and the vengeful. These, among a handful of other attributes, harbor similarities but diverge at a certain point. A fork in the road, or a fine line. The demarcation isn’t as harsh as the water of romance and the oil of postmarital boredom, but it’s there to be noticed. A point for reflection.

Despite its occasional brusqueness, Buried Within left me with thoughts whole and absorbed in our own flaws. The things we hold most dear, and things that really, anyone is capable of accomplishing when we lose our grasp on what we loved.

I do presume.

Originally posted on Mighty Optical Illusions

“And where did you meet Gerald Reeves?”

We sat in a booth, on strawberry clouds with form after form and my driver’s license littering the table, speckled with dry tea. Placemats for coloring. Coloring for postgrads.

I adjusted the lining of my ruched black skirt. “You look quite nice.” “Thanks, James.” Previously I made another “last” visit to my place of study, to sign yet another form. Hopped on the bus with Jim’s last dime, waited in their marble suite with a raspberry soda in hand, and said goodbye to another prospect as a legal assistant in the antiquated convenience they call Downtown. My favorite work shirt hasn’t been ironed since.

“We met on the bus.”

Keeth chuckles in Irish mirth, motions to the Oreo Crumble and asks me how I like it. Applying for serving and barista positions certainly carries its perks. Peppermint mochas, green tea lattes, milkshakes and slices of mousse cake. On the house, as I scrambled for cash to stay in the laundry room of a friend’s.

Gerald convinced me serving was an art, that rewards follow refinement. Humanities degrees aren’t useless. They supply fodder for conversation. And this clientele, they’ll pay for fodder. Most are cops who come for the free coffee anyway.

He was only thirty-eight and claimed to work six days a week, seven if lucky. $500 a night since age seventeen at the same place. A different picture on the wall for twenty-four months straight. Two dozens’ worth of the “greatest employee we ever had.”

***

“He’s full of shit.”

I folded my hands over my apron, still boxy with tucked away tips. This was reprieve from the usual talk with disgruntled aunts at call centers. But a date would soon follow. “To be fair, you meet ’em on the bus.” “Thanks, James.” My disappointments with men aren’t worth speaking of as of today. Probably a good thing.

“You can really make good money, if you work the long hours and are fine with kissing ass. I mean, Gerald is going to retire. He put a good deal into an IRA Roth and some other stuff. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“Must be nice to live at home. What kind of parents charge rent nowadays?”

“Mine.”

“Well, that’s you.”

Presumptions flutter and stand by our doors. The easy-to-access two-by-four they say to beat intruders with if you don’t have a gun. People you don’t know.

***

It’s very much like saying only dirty kids get lice, and I’m only reminded of a bubbly cop I really enjoyed pouring sweet tea for, until he offhandedly said that people get arrested for a reason, that trials were a waste of time. Yes, if they’re prolonged. “Innocent until proven guilty?” I quipped. “The arrest indicates guilt. Nine times out of ten.” “So what about that ten percent?” “Well, they sure did something.”

Sometime in 2010, or 2011, Justin Bieber told Rolling Stone that rape was a sad thing. Something along the lines of not liking abortion, that yeah, it’s really sad when a woman has a baby by rape, but “everything happens for a reason.” Well, yes. But what are you implying about the rationale? Is every reason justified?

Three weeks ago it was asked if I had an eating disorder. Anyone who lives with me would laugh at the question. I think Ren would be pissed. And today it was asked just how much I allocate for groceries. “How do you afford to get everything from Whole Foods?”

For the past five days, I’ve brought quinoa in a Tupperware, a bag of avocados, and mangos to spare. Put these together, glaze it with salsa, and you’ve created a filling salad.

All from an inner-city grocery store for less than fifteen bucks. And there’s enough to last for the week ahead.

Not that Whole Foods is bad. I love salmon jerky and matcha green tea powder. And if I can’t get matcha online, I’ll go to Whole Foods.

***

Perhaps I am oversensitive. But after a while, comments like this are no more grating than belittling someone for moving to Austin, “where affluent students panhandle.” Bring up the beauty of Portland, OR to hear similar scoldings from neighbors and friends. “A better Austin. Richer people.”

Today we sat through a sales pitch. Another local wholesale store hosting a membership drive, wedding cake, cookies, and photo packages lined on a table, set to tempt. They praised this part of town for its spending potential, family needs, consumers aplenty. And I turned to a coworker and whispered,

“Most people can’t afford to live here!”

“And really, he hasn’t done his research. Look at the study that made the paper. Where I grew up, you’ll find the greatest disposable income. It also costs the least to live there.”

I smile.

“Sorry. Just proud of my South Side is all.”

***

Turns out I’m already a member. Welcome to Costco. Not certain if I love you.

My plastic spoon sifts through quinoa in ways Rocky Road could never allow. But mousse-filled cake is always nice, chocolate chip and oatmeal comforts waiting in a brown paper bag should I seek them during break.

Another coworker apologizes for not inviting me to lunch.

“It’s okay.” I point to my empty tupperware. “Maybe next Friday.”

“I admire your discipline.”

Less than two years from my interview with Keeth, I’m finally working Downtown. Restaurants scream with specials and an authenticity I don’t entirely doubt. But even the doors of McDonald’s and Whataburger stand ajar and aloof, as lines stretch on and I only wonder how everyone dines inside and returns in due time.

Maybe I’m not so disciplined.

Perception reflects off each of our eyes. Myopia, astigmatism, and more. Not everyone needs glasses, but no one peers through a magnifying glass impervious to the drawbacks of subjectivity.