Saturday, March 06, 2010


Saturday morning breakfast at a different cafe from the usual. The farther North you travel from Frenchtown, the more you move into earthier territory. While Frenchtown has antique dealers and artists and authors, Milford has farmers, laborers, and tradesmen. That fact is neither here nor there ; it does make for a different experience as you sit in a restaurant or visit the shops nearby. The waitstaff is very amiable, and if you sit at the counter the locals tend to chat with you. However, you do get a sense of the provincial--people look at you strangely when you walk in. They know already that you're not part of their community, and they tend to gravitate towards their own.

This morning, I am looking over some writing at the counter as I have my breakfast. Three men walk in, and sit at the counter nearby; I move down a bit to give them some space. They begin a rather animated conversation. Clearly they all work together, they all have families. One man is lamenting that he's never had a son--he ended up with four daughters. The other complains that he took his teenage boys on a trip out West, and they acted utterly indifferent to the magnificence of the Grand Canyon. His friend commented, "Kids spend too much time on their video games. They don't appreciate anything else." As their discussion turns to work, I hear them talking about various churches along the Delaware River. I come to realize that the men are professional gravediggers.

I finish my coffee, pay the bill, and go to my car. The first thing I have to do is find a CD with a Beatles song, because I had the misfortune to hear "Hotel California" on the cafe's radio when I walked in the door. I finally find a copy of "Help", and pop it into the CD player. By association, I recall that Fleetwood Mac's song "Sara" is about the abortion of Stevie Nicks's love child with Don Henley. It makes the song seem more like the theme for Rosemary's Baby in that light. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click here and look at #3 on the list).

The evil effects of Don Henley thus averted, I look at the muddy landscapes before me as I head off to my Saturday errands. The brownish, swampy fields dotted with white piles of dirty snow are the theme everywhere. I remind myself that this is a precursor to Spring ; indeed, this is supposed to be a warm day, and it's only supposed to get warmer during the week. The crocuses have pushed their way through the rocks in front of my house, and it's a heart-warming sight. I do see hints of Spring everywhere--little tendrils of green peeking up through yellowed grasses and barren flower boxes. There are human signs as well--the cashiers at the auto garage, the grocery store, and the liquor store are much more chipper than usual. The lines at the car wash are out to the road. Everywhere I drive, I have to be careful because there are people out walking--in pairs, in groups, or on their own. Clearly everyone has had enough of this winter. There is a need to move beyond the boundaries imposed by the cold weather and snowstorms.

Scott Adams wrote about moving beyond boundaries this week, though he was specifically talking about curiosity and its relationship to attraction. He put forward an interesting and sensible idea--that you can measure someone's attraction to you by the amount of curiosity they show about you. You can read his post here. I find it interesting, because I am what you call "socially challenged" when it comes to interaction with men. Most of the time I will talk to a man and will have no clue as to whether he likes me as a friend or is interested in getting involved beyond that. This can lead to problems in both directions. Since I am a friendly sort, I usually get into trouble because some men interpret my friendliness as a romantic interest. Often, I'm only demonstrating an interest out of basic human respect. But if I think I will be misunderstood, I will be colder than usual. Sometimes I switch gears quickly, because I realize I've made a mistake, and I feel bad about it. I don't like shutting people out because of that miscommunication of intentions.

While I think Scott's post is enlightening, I don't think it's a catchall--I'd be a bit wary. Not only is it possible that people who appear to be attracted are only being friendly, but it's also possible that people who don't appear interested really do have an attraction. If someone has experienced heart-shattering rejection or betrayal, they might always put on a cool veneer, and only give away interest through subtle clues. I'm sympathetic to this--why would you stick your neck out if someone is always trying to chop off your head? Such people don't tend to show much unless they've imbibed a lot of alcohol, or let their guard down for some other reason. Such people may also be more "stalkerish"--looking at your social networking profiles and such, but never commenting or showing their presence. They are trying to gather information surreptitiously, not because they're creepy--it's because they're cautious.

Of course, people may have an "attraction" for other reasons as well--you may seem like a good business partner or professional contact, for instance. It's just a shame that if men and women contact each other, there is automatically assumed to be an underlying romantic intention. But that is a long, convoluted, and complicated subject, and I don't feel like falling into that death spiral again.

Ah--Spring, life, death, graves, romance, mud--time, I think, for some Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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