Chaamah, or something like that. Adele’s Rolling In the Deep plays as the background. Both kids are here. Went to the Magic shop, the earring shop, and we’re eating at the Thai place my daughter found on Yelp, near Union Square. Was about to write my kids were “turned off” because they’re watching TV. But things move quickly: dinner comes and goes, squabbles over shrimp pass as dark clouds, suddenly here and gone. Diners pass through. The kids order dessert. Feels like nighttime now, so quickly…
The place has become crowded at 7:30 PM on a Sunday with people looking in from the street. The waitress doesn’t understand the word “dairy.” For a moment back there I tasted the green curry and recalled a recurrent dream of a trip to Thailand. In the dream I can eat at any restaurant in a whole park full of restaurants, and there are so many, and something heavenly about having my choice, and they are all good. For a moment tasting that green curry I’m there, the dream is here, this little hole-in-the-wall Thai place in San Francisco is one of the Good Places. I think Paris and eat Thai. In other words, moments that feel good can connect and momentarily coexist. Paris is a place of mind, a background for experience, a lot of yellow gravel walks and noisy cafes. When the sound becomes just loud enough you rise up into a different plane…and it’s easier to experience this Paris when you’re not there. The kids learn about magic and discount deals on earrings, we enjoy half-price Uber rides on a darkening Sunday and the patrons press in while the waitresses with their broken English try to help and the busboy with gold rings folds napkins and laughs with them. He may as well be in Thailand, or Laos or Vietnam but of course with his gold rings he is definitively in America. I’m momentarily as much in his place as he in mine while I dine in his restaurant. And the ultimate secret of Paris and Thailand is revealed while the kids grow restless and the arguing starts, and it starts to seem ludicrous that we’re holding this table while the kids fight over a bite of mango. The secret is it isn’t just a place. And there is no milk in this sticky rice sauce, and despite too much broth in the soup there was a moment when the music mixed with the fast motion of the staff here, and their positive energy, and it all came together. As we weave our way through the narrow entry corridor to the sidewalk, those outside add a final push of value to here even in the moment that it becomes there for us.
Another day. If I think hard about Paris, recall the summer I lay out on the grass in the park after rising at 5 AM to buy croissants leaving my newlywed spouse to sleep, I feel it pressing down onto this unusually hot Berkeley street side. Sitting in the shade at the beginning of a UC Berkeley semester while the heat of Paris comes down onto the roofs of the single-story retail shops on this street. In other words I sense the world, the hot, dry world, all around me as I sit at my table at the side of the pedestrian way. Yesterday, deciding how to spend my time while the kids were in school I found I’d divided it up finer and finer until there was little pleasure in it and after a meeting with my boss that morning regarding best sales team strategy I wondered if I’d spent the last minute before 2pm the best way I could. Actually the minute was well spent, it’s just various other minutes of which I’m unsure.
And today, as always the minutes pass while I, wander? Not quite, the Uber Pool brought me on a random walk to my several destinations. A less expensive, erratic path, nevertheless arriving with certainty. And I wrote during the last-minute again before arriving this time at my house. No one in it and still it was distracting. I have a lot of collected experience there. So much easier to write at a sidewalk cafe… And I’ve invited the kids to come down here and work with me and they are not here. So there is a gap between the potential to be with them and the actuality of it. It all happens in the gap. A former Berkeley professor called it liminality, the moment that you step from one thing to another. Really the only moment that matters. I step from here to Paris to Thailand and back, and you know, all these people driving and walking about North Gate at Cal are doing it too, I’m sure of it. It begins to feel like home.