Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
Curling up with a good book at home never appealed to me. To truly enjoy reading I have to have life around me; life from which I can then escape and hide in the cocoon of the story. Beaches, playgrounds and parks are all great places for reading. A busy coffee shop is even better. Take Starbucks for example: the ritual pitstop of caffeine deprived adrenalin junkies. Armed with a copy of Scott St.Joseph's "Twice in a Blue Moon" fresh from Amazon, I head to Starbucks at the Encinitas Lumberyard.
The patio seating area is about half full, but choice tables, those with umbrellas, are few, and will probably be fewer by the time I get through the line. Unwritten protocol dictates that in order to stake a valid territorial claim one must leave something on a table. Those with pitbulls have a distinct advantage in this endeavor: tie the beast to a table or chair and no one will venture within chain's length of it. I don't have a pitbull. I have a book, a ballpoint pen and my glasses, none of which would scare off the sissiest of seat poachers. Leave any of those unattended, and they'll be gone quicker than I can spell frappuccino.
I beat three other people heading to the door, and quickly take my place in the line inside behind a girl wearing a tight sweater and tighter jeans. I look forward to a pleasant wait when her mom emerges from the restroom and gets in line with her. Mom has a butt the size of the Louisiana Purchase, which effectively blocks my view, so I try to amuse myself by checking out the rest of the surrounds. At the corner table behind me an unkempt teen with the requisite dreadlocks covering 3/5 of his face at an angle strums a guitar, but repeatedly fails at getting the G7 chord right. Two strangers sit facing each other at a postage stamp size table by the window, lost in their respective laptops. One bangs away at his keyboard while the other chortles at something funny in his email.
The line moves quickly, and I make a silent wager with myself about which barista's turn it will be serve me; the one with the overdose of spray-tan or the one with the severe two-tone hair that reminds me of my father's '56 Chevy. My caffeine craving kicks into high gear. There's only three people in front of me, so it shouldn't be long: Jeans, her mom, and a tall guy in front who looks kind of douchey with a crimson colored Bluetooth sticking out of his ear like some sort of electronic tumor. A twinge of guilt races through me at making this hasty judgment, but it's quickly justified. It is said that the longer someone's order is at Starbucks, the bigger douchebag he is. So when I hear Bluetooth order a decaf-soy-mocca-java-latte-grande with light froth and sprinkles, I know he's a real big douche bag. When my turn comes I order a tall house blend from Spray-tan, so I must be OK.
Back outside I find all tables with umbrellas taken, except the one thoroughly soiled by incontinent sparrows, so I take an uncovered two-seater close to the bubbling fountain. A pair of women sit at the next table with three toddlers, two of whom are dancing on the slippery edge of the fountain while the youngest one is leaning perilously over it to fish for pennies thrown in by superstitious dreamers. Previous observations lead me to believe this can't lead to any good, and at least one of them will be in the drink within a short time. I make a note on the blank page in the back of my book never to sit near the fountain again, and move to another uncovered table next to a planter
The chatter of the kids fades, and is replaced by the mellow voice of a white haired man playing a ukulele, and singing "Jambalaya". My other new neighbor is a long legged blonde with a short skirt who'd apparently misplaced her under-garments, but is trying to make up for the oversight by holding a small lapdog in a strategic location. This works well for her as long as the dog sits still, but any movement on the dog's part works well for me in turn. Nice doggie. I take a sip of coffee and open my book, but am distracted by the fidgety dog, so I move to yet another table vacated by two young men wearing Chargers T-shirts numbered 55 and 21. They're not fooling anyone: the wrong guy is black.
Ukulele guy is now belting out a creditable rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". I open my book again, but rather than reading, write another note to myself to look into buying a ukulele. A well-dressed man approaches the table left undesirable by the birds. He realizes his mistake, makes a face like he'd been weaned on a pickle, and looks for a more palatable place. He's in luck because several tables suddenly become available. A woman—not fat, just shapely on a larger scale—wearing a sweat stained spandex outfit, lays claim to one of the tables by placing her gym bag on it. Admirable, I think: in spite of all the exercise, she manages to keep her weight up. When she returns with a large creamy drink I realize how she does it.
I reopen my book, but am distracted by a sudden influx of giggling high school age girls dressed like they're heading to a convention of underage hookers. I glance at my watch and realize they're on lunch break from summer school. Before reading a word I find myself writing yet another note to come earlier next time...... and that's when it comes to me: I'm not reading— I'm writing.