7 January 2020.

I picked up my nieces at school today. Two locations but close to one another. I wanted to embarrass them. Who’s that? Ugh, it’s my weird uncle. It was a lame attempt, though. Besides, they’re both capable of throwing it right back. S can out-goofball me, and A can throw eye-rolling shade daggers. I’m no Uncle Buck.

I picked up S first. A wave of students filed across the playing fields to waiting cars. I don’t have kids. It was nice participating in a daily, global ritual that is completely foreign to me. It made me think of walking home with my friends. I can’t remember if we hung around after school for a while before walking home. Most of my friends played sports, so we had different schedules. But right or wrong, I remember it all being more informal, fewer calendars to juggle. My parents might disagree. I’m still close with my childhood friends – I’ll ask them what they remember about the day’s end.

(I’m transcribing this from my notebook. Transcribe is a strange word. I was trying for a shortcut, an economy of words. I don’t think it worked. I was trying to avoid explaining that I’m inserting a little warning – this is going to bounce around a bit. In terms of non-linear stuff, we’re not talking The Sound and the Fury here. Man, I never understood what the hell was going on in that book. But this is mildly non-linear. If you’re not good with that, click away now. If you’re not good with that and choose to read on, don’t worry, it’s about 4 more minutes of reading hell.)

I’m not the first to mention this, but it can be jarring or weird to simultaneously feel that the world is tearing itself apart and participate in activities like picking up kids at school.

I can only imagine what it’s like for the kids. Navigating the every day routines and challenges of middle school and high school while also worrying that the world is on fire and constantly at war. (Adding another afterthought – I might try to piece together some sort of timeline to see if there has ever been a moment in my life that we weren’t bombing, invading, or arming others in my lifetime. Go ahead, say I blame America first.)

I’m at Copper Star Coffee*. I had the chai. I was waiting for my order and there was an older gentleman behind me. Reminded me of my grandfather. Flannel shirt, hat, jeans. He was standing behind me, at the counter, not at the register. I looked back and moved to the side, worried that I was blocking him from his drink or the straws. He must have sensed that I was wondering why he was standing behind me. The penny dropped. He smiled and said, “Oh, sorry.” He put his hand on my shoulder and turned toward the register. That’s either ok or really creepy. This was ok, a throwback to a small town sort of don’t mind me, just waiting to order.

Copper Star soundtrack. “When you lie to me, it’s in the small stuff.” Is that Tegan and Sara? (It wasn’t.) I first heard Tegan and Sara in Iraq. I think it was 2008. Rockets and mortars were hitting the Green Zone. I remember one explosion during the day. Memories can be deceiving, but this is how I remember it. It was a crisp spring day, it was sunny, and then there was an explosion. Dust kicked up. I might be imagining that. I might also have the time wrong. I don’t remember it being hot yet. We learned later that a worker at the U.N. compound died in that attack. Shi’a groups in and around Sadr City were firing the weapons. For a while we still ate in thin-skinned chow halls. That was dumb, and nerve-wracking. Gravity’s Rainbow and all.

The people here at Copper Star are studying and working. People always have big text books out. I think there must be a med school or nursing program nearby. There’s a woman in the corner in medical scrubs. I wonder if she works at the VA.

I looked out the garage style massive window. You know those windows. For a while they were all the rage. A garage door turned into a window. I’m a fan, but the trend seems to have died off a bit. A young man was on the other side of the window holding a leash attached to a Dobermann. The Dobermann’s unblinking stare was fixed – I wasn’t sure where. The older gentleman walked outside; the young man handed him the leash and walked inside. The old man set his coffee or tea and a wrapped muffin on a table. He sat down. He and the dog shared the muffin. The young man returned and sat down.

They had what looked like a friendly, earnest discussion. A discussion…

“They’re so pretty it hurts. Not talking about boys I’m talking about girls.”

More Tegan and Sara? (Note: It was not Tegan and Sara. Marie Ulven Ringheim, a Norwegian musician with some catchy indie pop.)

…a discussion that seems increasingly rare. Two interested, engaged parties, participating equally. No phones.

I often try to imagine what people are talking about. What’s the relationship? I like the older guy. Anyone who shares a muffin with their dog can’t be all bad. He’s wearing an Arizona hat. I bet he drives a truck and can fix anything on it. His conversations are probably laced with old sayings and wisdom. He no longer says things like that dog won’t hunt. It’s been said too many times.

Reading glasses are a double or quadruple edged sword. I can read in coffee shops and bars again. If I remember my glasses. I bought a second pair. I’m one of those people who will buy several pairs and stash them all around. I’ll go out, open a book, and realize that my glasses aren’t in the bag. I’ll say shit and put the book away. I’ll drive home later and for some reason, I’ll open the center console. There are three pairs of glasses next to some hand sanitizer, an emergency head lamp, and a bunch of recharging/AUX cables.

I picked up S first. I asked her to remind me how to get to A’s school. S said she wasn’t entirely sure, but my guess is she could have done it. Ever know something, but when you’re put on the spot, you question yourself?

It was a busy pickup site. S mentioned that she and others sometimes stay and do homework at the coffee shop.

It’s really busy at first during the mass exodus. But then it settles down, and it’s nice.

I couldn’t speak that articulately at her age. I still can’t.

S mentioned that all the talk at school was about WWIII. S doubted it would come to that. I agree, but I think it is going to be bad and unnecessary.

We picked up A. The initial rush had died down, so it wasn’t hectic. A, who’s older, asked S about some classes and teachers. S lamented the across the board low scores on tests in one class. I think it might have been math. A doesn’t pull any punches. “Get used to it.”

I dropped them off but went into play with the dog. I am inexcusably out of shape. D the Dog generously pretended that the tug of war was fun and challenging.

Rockets hit Iraq airbase housing US troops. ~ CNN

At least 10 rockets hit al-Asad airbase, where US forces are located, a Sunni commander says. Iran says it’s behind the attack.

CNN website headline. Seems to be some confusion between rockets, missiles, and locations. They’ll sort it out.

* I should have tried to swing a property buy in Melrose the first time I visited Copper Star Coffee. When was that? 2014? Back then it was a historic neighborhood with a lot of empty shops. There were a lot of houses outside the historic center for sale. I got the sense that it was still a little sleepy. I’m sure that still puts it somewhere on the gentrification spectrum, but at the time, I didn’t get the sense that people were being pushed out. I might well be wrong. I mentioned that to a person working at a Melrose vintage store last week, and she said the area is exploding. Rents have tripled. I’m not sure if she means for businesses or rentals or both.