I’ve been a bit under the weather recently, coughing and wheezing with the usual late-summer cold I inherit at the end of every planes-and-hotels-and-convention-centers season. Such being the case, I decided to forgo the gym and instead take a walk through the neighborhood. The air outside would do me good, I figured, and it had been a while since I went anywhere for the sake of the trip as opposed to the destination (even if the trip was only half an hour in length).
I like Atlanta. It’s a beautiful city and I’m utterly enamored of my neighborhood. It has an undeniable veneer of yuppie douche, but that’s thankfully localized and there’s enough to be a part of that eclipses that aspect.
I walked past the fountains at the hotel, where the mist and water made the air cooler — barely perceptible, but a degree or two nonetheless, which is all the more noticeable after our mild summer and into this breezy early fall.
I walked past the courtyarded buildings in the Tuscan style and that of El Escorial, where the greenery breathed back at me.
I walked past the changing lane of intown restaurants built in renovated houses, smelling everything among them (cucumber salad, dill, fresh fish, olive oil, rosemary, table wine).
I walked past a midrise where I went to a party years ago before a concert. I made some interesting friends there, most of whom were regrettably transitory.
I walked past the high-rise where I’ve had drinks on the roof and shared a jacket with someone special because it was so cold outside.
I walked past the hotel where a quartet of hospitality folk were playing cards at an impromptu table in the service garage. Not a bunch of salty dudes, either, but a pair of men and women, each of whom looked distinctly not like the kind of person who’d be playing poker in a parking lot just after the dinner hour.
I walked past the terrace where I loaned Evander Holyfield fifty bucks and met a mediocre Cindy Crawford. The erstwhile champ never paid me back.
I walked past the Fabulous Fox Theatre, currently hosting (ugh) The Phantom of the Opera. I don’t hold that against it, though, as the place is dazzling even if its offerings aren’t always.
I walked past the little Italian bistro with the city’s most striking staff.
Guiltily, I walked past St. Mark and the Church of the Redeemer, hoping that I could sneak past with my truancy unnoticed. Maybe someday again, when I have a weekend that I don’t have to work.
I walked past Bulthaup, vowing to resume cooking for the joy of it, oh, and to build a kitchen like that.
I miss so much of this, even though I’m right here among it. I never see it. I go to work, I come home, I read until I fall asleep. Days don’t matter. I never taste the food anymore. I don’t hear the hymns. I need life back. What I’m doing isn’t living.
That’s a maudlin sentiment, and of course I’m overstating. I’m as much to blame as any outside influence. I spent last Friday after work drinking myself blind, pitied by my Dutch girlfriend and pulling over at the side of the road to vomit so I could make the rest of the trip home. I didn’t walk my neighborhood last Friday, even though I might have made the time.
It’s odd that life becomes a series of rote maneuvers unless you actually change what you’re doing of your own accord. I’ve made my own routine and I keep to it. Occasionally, it pays off — I’ve read more in the past few months than I have in years and I just finished a television miniseries that really ignited the creative urge in me. (Bully for me, I’ve even progressed a bit on my outside fiction work. Not much, but any progress at all is better than no progress and another pointless hangover.) On the other hand, I’ve let things pass me by that… well, that I shouldn’t. I have a few bits of correspondence laying fallow, friends who seem to be growing distant, and other things I should be happy for that pass me by as I remain locked in my stasis. My brother got married this past weekend and where was I? In a conference room, then at DragonCon — DragonCon — and then throwing up on my shoes while those Dutch dimples frowned disapprovingly.
I need to be two places at once. I need a low-impact methamphetamine substitute so I don’t have to sleep but it doesn’t wreck me. I need time to myself and time with everyone else and the wisdom to realize that nothing happens but what you make of it.
Unfortunately, all of that stuff I want is made up. Like my Dutch girlfriend.