Walking to Downtown Pub or 7/11 or to a beachside Holiday Inn, I’m struck by how little I want out of life. I’m not resigned or disappointed, but I am surprised—all that envy-induced heartache, and I’m happy enough just walking to a 7/11.
If only my whole life could be like this, half-dazed and sunbaked.
I like sweating and drinking coconut water from a young coconut as I stroll and the way the saltwater makes my hair and skin dry out a little. I like hearing Spanish and Portuguese and Haitian Creole and Vietnamese and Italian. Sometimes I pretend I’m in Southeast Asia or somewhere in the Mediterranean. I seek out the diaspora through hole-in-the-wall restaurants or YouTube videos and it’s as good as being there.
In my dream, I’m a dilettante and all that matters is reading books and getting a little buzzed and smoking cigars and just okay live music. Just okay food.
This is my ideal state, long walks punctuated by mundane sight-seeing. Maybe an espresso, and always the coconut.
My favorite place to do this is South Florida. My walks are always narrated by music, maybe Renato Carosone or Sinn Sisamouth or bossa nova. I’m a real fan of Nelson Riddle, too. I stop and take pictures on my phone and neither post them anywhere nor show anyone. I wander into hotel lobbies, take a seat, and look around.
I’ve also enjoyed some version of this in Italy. Rome and the Amalfi Coast are amenable to this kind of long form daydreaming, but I was surprised to learn that Paris isn’t.
Second to walking around is talking to random people.
I don’t often tell people this, but I moved to the Bay Area because I found Californians so easy to talk to in this way. I had a job offer too, but I would have never applied to jobs in this area were it not for this. All of my best early Bay Area memories are with native Californians I’ll never speak to again, who I met by chance.
I used to plan my days around running into strangers, ones I knew I’d never see again. They tell me a little about themselves and then we part ways. I am thankful when these people become friends, but that’s hardly the M.O. I still think back fondly to a man I met in a Fort Lauderdale casino in 2011. He told me he’d worked for NASA, but had been fired, and he was never able to move past the shame. The whole time, I got the impression he was making this up.
I was grateful I never found out one way or another. I cherish the opportunity to drop in, and let my imagination do the rest of the work. In 2012, I wrote a screenplay about who I assumed he was.
Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve been asked “What do you do?” or “What do you really want to do?” more times than I care to answer.
I’ve given a thousand answers to this question— “I think it’d be cool to be an investor,” “Be a creative director somewhere,” “Start my own company,” “Be a filmmaker,” “Build a community.”
There are shades of truth in all of these answers, but I think the real answer is nothing.
Write this newsletter. Write fiction. Go to parties and have nice meals. It’d be nice to have some money, but I think only if it’s in service of meeting interesting people or going interesting places. Long train rides are a recurring theme.
I want people to listen to me, but I want to listen to other people too.
And finally, take a walk. Hopefully by the beach.