I’m in the new Blue Bottle Cafe on Piedmont Avenue in a tony part of Oakland southeast of Uptown. I pick up my daughter from tennis in 28 minutes. I just saw my dad at his nursing home. He was in his jerry-chair, covered by a plaid blanket, his large hands limp in his lap. The curtain behind him was partially closed.
Cool, late May, post-rainy-day light spilled over him, highlighting his handsome bone structure, cheekbones that only show now.
It’s odd and poignant how after a lifetime of fighting (unsuccessfully) obesity, he’s now more handsome than ever in some kind of macabre way. I mean, he looks positively spectral. Sometimes when I first see him after a few days, I take a sharp breath of shock. Sometimes I even approach cautiously, checking his chest to make sure he’s breathing.
People ask, “How’s your dad?” I really appreciate it.
I always say, and have been saying for years now, “He couldn’t be worse, really.”
Yet, he’s so dear. He never did complain. Not once. Now, he really can’t since he can’t talk and hasn’t been able to for a while. Sometimes he manages to form words though. Today, as per usual, when he saw me, he began to chuckle softly. Sometimes when he chuckles now, no sound emerges at all, but I know from his face and the way his chest moves that he’s chuckling.
He still tells jokes this way too. He did it today. I say something that he can quip at, and quip he does. He gets a specific expression on his face when he quips. His eyebrows shoot up and his mouth gets round, and he’s very droll. So he made a joke of some kind today, though no words emerged. We laughed together.
One of his Eritrean nurses came in. “Does he know you?” she asked.
She leaned down and peered at my dad’s face. “Do you know her?” she asked.
I said, “Yeah, do you know me, Dad?” I gazed at him.
“No,” he said.
I felt a little angry.
I chose not to believe it. He has moments where he may not know me, but overall he knows me.
Yep, I’m in the new Blue Bottle Coffee Shop. I left my dad after 45 minutes so I could check in with work and — yep — write a Medium article because I’m determined to find the time to write, by hook or by crook. So, here I am.
The floor here is shimmering grey, the walls are stark-white. The front and sides of the “coffee shop” are glass. A UFO-style light hangs over the round table in the front of the room. When my friend Bubby and I passed by here recently and peered in the window, we laughed.
This is a coffee shop? we said. We agreed it looked more like a chemist or pharmacist’s abode. The counters are all of marble, and short — they reach my hip. The barista has nowhere to hide but behind the espresso machine.
A canvas bag sits on a little podium attached to the wall behind me, as if it’s a museum piece. It’s printed with Blue Bottle insignia. A little cardboard tag reads, $28.
I paid $5.98 for a small (but perfect) cappuccino in a ceramic cup on a saucer. I read today in the Wall Street Journal, “You’re either a spender or you’re a saver. You have to decide which one.”
I am a spender who’s learning to be a saver. I justify shit like this — buying a $6 coffee — all the time. It’s bad. I’m almost done. I’ve improved a great deal, in fact, but have so much more work to do.
I’m getting hungry, hungry for more, more from life, more from myself.
Driving home from Redwood City today, I was falling asleep again. This happens a lot. I listen to National Public Radio looping stories over and over. I drive an hour or more to work in the morning, an hour and ten minutes minimum home. The car starts and stops, starts and stops. The sun pours in the window onto my shoulder and arm, spills into my lap. The announcer drones on.
I hear we’re getting ready to “go to war” with Iran. I hear Idlib is under major assault, that 300,000 civilians are in danger of being bombed to smithereens again. Why do I listen? I’ve know for a long time I need a news moratorium, but I don’t do it.
I left the office today for a walk, something no one in my office does.
I have to though. My health is under assault, and I need it back.
I arrived at work at 7 a.m., had a poached egg and some fruit, and a bad coffee. For lunch, I poached (stole) some Indian food from a meeting that wasn’t mine. After lunch and at least five back-to-back meetings, I slunk out. A weird combination of pride and shame propelled me down the stairs and out the door.
In the lunch room on my way out I saw a colleague heating up his lunch in the microwave. We shared a few words. I said, “Will you go eat in the sun?” He laughed ruefully. “No time,” he said.
I also ate at my desk during a meeting.
But then, I walked. I passed a mother and father goose and their baby geese. The parents hissed at me when I stopped to admire their fluffy offspring, who pecked intently at the grass just like their parents had been doing before I stopped. Then, they rose up menacingly, arching their necks as high as possible, their beady black eyes fixed on me.
I marched to the wetlands, where mysterious mud runes rise high above the receding tide. Delicate black, white, and cinnamon-colored birds pecked determinedly at the earth.
I passed lots of people, probably Oracle employees, and greeted them all. Not a single one acknowledged or responded to me. I’ve noticed this about Silicon Valley. People aren’t very friendly. I say hi anyway. When they ignore me, after they’ve passed, I always say out loud to no one in particular, “Greet your fellow human! Greet your fellow earthling!”
Today was no different.
Every day, I want to write about food, but then I don’t, and I don’t know why. I love the idea of writing about food, I love to shop, and eat, and explore, and cook for my daughter. I laugh at how much more difficult I make my life when I take on Easter Brunch picnic for six, for example, and make a really good meal. It’s exhausting, but I like it.
I’m going dancing tonight, and there will be a live orchestra. I told my daughter several times I’m doing this, which will help me to do it, no matter how tired I am. I will put on a pretty dress, my best — and go. I will shave my legs and go. I will lift my rib cage, spread my toes, keep my knees flexed slightly, ground myself to the floor, and keep trying to understand this beautiful mystery called dance.