Cafe Witness

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

First Date Overload

Posted from Crazy Mocha, South Side Works

This place is ludicrously busy. I've never seen this many people in here at once, and I'm a regular. There was literally one seat open when I walked in, so I plopped down and have been surveying the scene ever since.

Evidently, I'm sandwiched between two "couples" on their first dates, except neither of them are admitting that they're couples or that they're on a date. The couple to my left are both students somewhere, one of whom is still dressed in his nursing or paramedic gear, and seem to have nothing in common physically but everything in common personality-wise. If the girl leans any further on her chair, he'll have to cup her chin in his balls.

To my right, I have two people in business casual. I'm guessing they're work acquaintances who decided to grab a coffee after work. He's turned this opportunity into a date and she's slowly realizing it as he regales her with amazing tales of his life (which, as near as I can tell, included a recent trip to the hospital and a sightseeing tour of Israel). He also can't help making eye contact with me every time I look over, as though I know his jig is up. He keeps asking her questions straight out of the "How to Keep the Conversation Moving by Asking Complex Questions" handbook, like "So, where do you want to travel?" She's offering imprecise stock answers, having decided long ago that this is not going down as a date in her book.

He just broached the "So, what do you have going on the rest of this week" question? She's rattling off a litany of possible plans, and capping it with the "I have a lot of work to do" caveat, which means she wants to do nothing with him unless there's a free meal involved. He's retaliated by mentioning he might have to take an intern out to dinner. I can't tell where his sales pitch went wrong, but he's now driving it into the ground in a misguided attempt to let her know he may soon be "off the market" (by dating an intern?)... He also has a "wine and chocolate thing" coming up this weekend, a charity thing he's going to with "people from the firm," and has no date for, to which she responds, "Should be fun."

Meanwhile, the guy to my left has realized that he can take this girl home whenever he wants to and is now toying with the idea. I haven't seen a full-on image of her yet, but judging by his receding hairline, he may want to move fast. To his credit, he's more relaxed than any man has ever been around this girl before (I'm judging by her voice and body language, which scream "why are you not falling all over yourself to impress me?"). They're currently outlining recent fashion choices they've made by indicating the cut of certain clothes they bought in a hands-on-each-other way, using one another as mannequins.

She has a dog named Marvin. "After Marvin Gaye?" he asks, seemingly logically. No, alas, after a shock reporter from Texas named Marvin, who bursts into restaurants that are in violation of health code. Unfazed by this sociological disconnect, he responds laconically with "I have a friend like that from Chicago." The guy to my right could learn a lot from the guy to my left (who is currently showing her a watermelon-cutting scar he got when he was 6, as she holds his hand).

The couple to my right have coats on and are exiting, walking just far enough to not be mistaken for a couple by anyone they know en route to their parking spots.

On the upside, the corner chairs are open now...

[Girl to My Left: (commenting on the music playing overhead): "Is this Johnny Cash?"
Guy to My Left: "No, it's the Soggy Bottom Boys from the 'O! Brother Where Art Thou' soundtrack."
Girl to My Left: "Oh yeah. I have this album."]

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Recalibrating My Purpose for Writing

I began this blog with an eye on film evaluation and criticism, but -- like my previous gig as a music critic -- something about the concept bugged me. While engaged in a debate about the merits of criticism on Ann's blog, I found myself naturally taking the side of the anti-critic and denouncing the role of criticism in modern art. Whether it's all criticism I disagree with or the current brand of reductive self-aggrandizing that passes for profound observation, I can't in good conscience continue writing film reviews (or any reviews) from a serious point of view without admitting my own hypocrisy.

There's a fine line between absorbing an influence and neutering it by way of analysis. Thus, I'll be gravitating away from that aim while I allow my disparity between Artist and Evaluator to settle itself out. Perhaps I can use the two in conjunction, but more likely I'll be using this space for something other than dry academic observations about someone else's work, especially when I have so much of my own I ought to be producing.