Part of my morning ritual as of late is the pre-cofffee coffee. Rebecca and I often go for our coffee and bagel around ten or so, but I get a hankering for caffeine while she’s either asleep or semiconcious.
I showered, got dressed, and was out the door around eight. I headed down to Trash Muddy’s near 16th Street to get in some exercise in case I was a complete slug for the rest of the day.
The walk down Valencia Street was far less irritating at this hour than later in the day. There were no slow-moving phalanxes of douchebags impeding my progress. There were just a few joggers, cleaning crews hosing off rubber mats dragged out from restaurant kitchens, and homeless folks lurching down the sidewalk from where they slept last night to where they’d sleep today. The morning crowd wasn’t much of a crowd at all, and that made me like them just fine.
There is usually the same woman working there at that hour and this day was no exception. I don’t know her name and have never seen any point in finding out. I paid her for the coffee and was sure to tip. She thanked me by not spitting in the cup. We have a healthy professional relationship.
I found an empty table (there are plenty on a Saturday morning) and drank my coffee. I have a weakness for stimulants and caffeine is a safe way to indulge it. It feels great in small doses, but ceases to be fun if I’ve had too much of it, unlike the more illicit substances that also pep me up.
And also unlike those other substances, caffeine fuels the imagination without fueling delusion well. Self-criticism is necessary. That’s why coffee addicts can produce such great writing while cokeheads churn out complete crap. I had no germs of ideas to write about bouncing around in my head, but one was going to hit me during my walk home.
An idea, yes, but far from a perfect one. I was about halfway back around Valencia and 20th when these words formed in my noggin:
A prisoner of the shadows and angles of your own selfie.
Good Lord, I thought, that’s cheeseball as fuck. You see? A cokehead wouldn’t react like that. Instead, he would have taken that phrase and run with it, and in a day’s time knocked out a screenplay envisioning himself in the starring role. A sane and mature individual, on the other hand, would realize not all ideas are good ones and quickly vanish the phrase from his mind.
I did neither. As cheesy as those words were, I could not dismiss them as pure bullshit. There is an element of truth there, hamfisted certainly, but truth nonetheless. It reminded me a little of this quote from Mother Night: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
But only a little. Vonnegut, being Vonnegut, said it better, but he also said something somewhat different. His words carried a message of social responsibility. Mine did not. They rarely do.
I’m kind of the wrong generation for selfies to resonate, except that I’m not. Millennials did not invent self-involvement. They just came of age with the technology to share it with the world. I may be an old fart, but I engage in more self-absorption before breakfast than most of these whippersnappers will do in their entire lives. It all comes down to a sense of community and I have none.
So yeah, I get it. Narcissism is a losing game yet one you’re compelled to play if you’re of the mind to. You focus not so much on yourself as the self you want to be seen as. You become a willing slave to this and it all seems natural to you.
That’s what I was driving at. I just wish I had a more clever way of saying it. Instead, I have a verbal ball of cheese, as unsightly as a booger and like the real sticky ones, just as hard to flick away.