Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pick-up Lines in a FrenchBakery

"Mommy," the little girl says in a stage whisper that floats over the small patio where you are sitting,"that man--"  she is now pointing at you--"that man is a spy."

The little girl' mother sucks in a gulp of air.  "Shh," she cautions.  "Don't be rude."

"But he is,"  the girl persists.  "He's writing down things about us."  She is made to seem smaller than she is because of her oversized t-shirt.  A sun-bleached brownette, her face is all sharp lines and angles, articulating the heartbreaking beauty of her, struggling to get out and start breaking the hearts of boys.

You smile in recognition, confessing to her mother that you are indeed a spy, writing notes to remind you for some later use of your observations of the human condition.  You are in the outer, bricked patio of Renaud's, a small French bakery in a postage-stamp-sized mini-mall, directly across the street from The Arlington, one of Santa Barbara's iconic theaters.  It is a cheery, warm early Saturday morning.  Ordinarily, you'd breakfast in, more than content to take your breakfast at the window looking out on the large yard next door, your observations more likely to be focused on a number of California scrub jays and the occasional linnet, possibly concerned with the presence of one of the two neighborhood cats.  Then,off to your Saturday morning writing workshop.

This morning, mood, instinct, some summery itch for people watching, drove you hence to a favored table, set off at an angle that allows you to offer the subtext of enjoying coffee and brioche while doing exactly what you'd been outed by that young girl for doing.  If there are two or more individuals at a table, you invent outrageous relationships for them.  If they are alone, you imagine individuals they might be waiting for.  You imagine which of the nine muses you are waiting for.

"Are you expecting anyone?"  an elder version of the little girl will ask, and you feel the tingle beginning low in your stomach as you acknowledge her presence.  "You," is your response.

Which is she?  Which is her muse domain?  You try to identify her.

"Do I know you from somewhere?"  she might ask.

"I hope so," you say.

"Tell me,"  she says, "do you come here often?"

Now there is a spark of amusement that arcs across our gaze.  We are both amused by the humor of recognizing one of the oldest pick-up lines in the world.

"Mommy, mommy.  Now he's laughing.  That spy is sitting there, all by himself, laughing."
  

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