by RIP RENSE
RIGHT ON TIME
I must confess to the ultimate
life sin: I am bored. I know, I know, "The world is so full of a
number of things, I'm sure we should all be as
happy as kings." But
boredom happens, and hell, it’s probably a physiological/psychological
And not only am I bored,
but I have very little brainpower for writing at the moment. I wouldn’t
dignify it with the term, “writer’s block,” as that implies that I might
otherwise set down something profound. Readers of this column know that such
seldom happens here except by accident or typo.
Normally, a jolt of
matcha turns my synapses
into darting cats, and I can barely set down one sentence before the next
one hunches up and pounces on the empty space behind it. No pouncing today.
My thoughts are curled up, asleep in the cool overcast April global warming
edition of June Gloom. Zzzzzzzzz. And my stomach can’t handle the acid in
matcha right now, anyhow, so I settled for something called
houji-cha, which is about as rousing as a lullabye.
I’m sitting in my
favorite joint, by the way, The
Green Tea Terrace in Westwood, where I have ground out many a matcha-fueled
paragraph in the past year. If you haven’t been here, well, there’s no
terrace that I can see, but there is plenty of green tea. Some of it is so
suffused with caffeine that it should probably be labeled a controlled
substance. I mean, I once upgraded from “choice” matcha to “supreme,” and
was fairly sure I could play basketball again, and possibly solve the
Israel/Palestinian problem. I also had four or five sure-fire ideas for
novels that I no longer remember, and was considering going back to college
for the sheer joy of it.
I got to sleep the next
day around 3.
A word about matcha,
incidentally: it is powdered green tea made from the entire tea leaf,
twigs and all, so as to furnish more antioxidants. It is also rife with an
amino acid called theanine,
which does a couple of proven things. First, it facilitates a “slow-burn” of
caffeine, so there is no coffee-like bomb-burst. Your nerves do not go
jingle-jangle-jingle, to paraphrase an old cowboy tune. Instead, you
essentially cruise along, synapses crackling, over four or five hours (or
more depending on the potency and amount consumed.) Second, it engenders a
feeling of calm and well-being.
Like I said,
controlled substance. It’s good head medicine.
But back to the
terrace-less Terrace. It is a slickly designed, narrow space decorated in
cool greens and pastel oranges and earth tones, and generally visited by
extremely intent-looking students from nearby UCLA. They hunt and peck on
laptops about comparative Spanish literature, and computer animation, and
philosophy, and occasionally take breaks to ingest Nutella-and-ice-cream
crepes with hillocks of whipped cream. (Afterward, they are less intent.)
Because I am bored, and
cannot subject my arteries to a Nutella-and-ice-cream crepe, and because I
was unable to complete two stabs at a column, I have contented myself with
watching a common melodrama here. A pained-looking homeless woman shuffled
in, spent about a half-hour in the ladies' room, then emerged to take soft
refuge on the couch in the front of the café. She walked like a person
remembering how. Her hair was a witch’s frazzle, her shoes a pair of
laceless trainers, her pants baggy and black, and her upper torso swallowed
by a navy blue hooded sweatshirt. One arm remained hidden at all times.
After perhaps an hour
on the couch, marked by periodic indefinable vocal outbursts, the woman
was asked by an employee to please leave. She took to this remark the way
Rosie O’ Donnell takes to Donald Trump, Dick Cheney to Patrick
Leahy---snarling that her arm was broken and that America is a vicious,
unfeeling beast, etc. The employee left her alone.
Moments later, a sweet young
Asian-American student approached and asked if the woman needed help getting
up. A nod. The girl held the woman’s good arm, and she managed to get to her
feet on the third try, then haltingly walked back into a world as
compassionate as phone company customer service.
The homeless haunt the
Terrace vicinity. One fellow wears about fifty protective layers of
clothing, and radiates a urine funk more potent than roadkill under the sun.
Another is a delightful, middle-aged African-American guy who inhabits
exactly the same spot every day, all day, calling out
stream-of-consciousness commentary to passers-by, probably because he can’t
stop the stream. Some days, he bats violently at invisible enemies, scaring
the hell out of pedestrians. Others, perhaps when he is on medication, he is
astonishingly lucid, if in short bursts, and says things like “Take care and
have a good day now” instead of, say, “You know what the company does with
molecules, don’t you?" and "You know the style king, right?" He refuses to
take money, always with the refrain, “I’ve got $50 million.”
And there is something
very, very mysterious about this gentleman, as many at the Green Tea
Terrace have noticed. He has a way of declaring things that, well, have
something to do with your life, or something you are thinking. I mean
really. I will have dreamed about donuts the night before, and he will blurt
something like, “Glazed are the best.” I wouldn’t remark on this, except
that it has happened too many times. He also enjoys commenting on one’s
general appearance, once pronouncing me---to my dismay--- “Glenn Ford
today!” My favorite greeting from him:
“Right on time!”
I suspect that this
fellow, who goes by “Jude,” knows much that he is not able to coherently
convey. His allusions are educated; it is probable that he has been to a
university somewhere along the line. But I love the implicit profundity of
“Right on time,” especially because I arrive at all hours of the day. When,
after all, are we not “on time?” We are on, in, and of time, whatever it is,
and it makes me think of John Lennon singing, “Nowhere you can be that isn’t
where you’re meant to be” from “All You Need is Love.” Which makes me think
of Buddhist notions of how you can only be what you are, and where and when
Me, I are still
here, typing and musing. My pal Jenn dropped by a few minutes ago, thank
goodness, and we spoke at length about a vanishing native American language
from the southwest called
Pima. Pima, it
seems, is only spoken by a few thousand people, and most are past age 50.
Their children are not bothering to learn the language, which, by the way,
is marked by an amazing grammatical feature. Or non-grammatical feature.
That is, sentences may be ordered any way you like. “I read a book” can also
be “Read a book I” and “I a book read,” and even “A book read I." You know, kind of the way George W.
I observed to Jenn
that this is perhaps a characteristic of much primitive language,
speculating that maybe the earliest humanoid tongues were not too strict
about word order, let alone subjunctive clauses. But she disagreed, also
speculatively, though she admits to not having wide knowledge of native
languages on which to base a judgment. We were discussing this,
incidentally, because Jenn is a UCLA graduate student in linguistics, and a
hell of a lot smarter than I am.
She likes matcha, too.
So it is my good fortune,
when I am bored and unable to write, sitting in Green Tea Terrace, to have
the likes of Jenn and other bright, unjaded UCLA students come over, sit
down, and regale me with all manner of insight and information, and to
sometimes witness acts of kindness offered to troubled strangers, and to
ponder Jude outside the door, yelling, “Right on time.”
And before long, I’m no longer
bored at all, and have finished a column.
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