One morning recently I was so busy that I couldn't even pause long enough to get a cup of coffee. This is not an idle matter, I need coffee or tea or something with caffeine in it each morning like a junkie needs junk or a vampire needs blood or a nympho needs whatever. After hours of suffering, finally in downtown Northampton I had a chance to stop in at the Haymarket Cafe for a quick cup.
The only downside was all the tables were taken but one, a very undesirable location, right by the door so that everyone bustled past me on their way in and out. Definitely the least relaxing table in the joint. But for coffee that morning I would have sat in the middle of the floor, and was therefore all preoccupied with administering my dose and restoring myself to normal. However, as the caffeine gradually soothed my jangled nervous system, I begin to take notice of my surroundings. I realized that almost directly across from me was a huge antique mirror.
At the angle I was sitting, I could not see myself in that mirror. However, I could see reflected in it everyone that was walking by as they entered or exited the coffeehouse. Then it dawned on me there was something about everyone as they passed the mirror.
They all looked at themselves. A few stopped outright to examine their appearance, but the vast majority were just casting sideward glances, never breaking their pace, yet all of them checking themselves out in the mirror. Everyone. I could catch no exceptions.
And why shouldn't they look in the mirror? Does the wind not blow hair? Do noses not run? Do clothes not become ill-fitting? But none of that fit the sense I had. I didn't feel that they were performing a utilitarian purpose of grooming or fashion. They were looking because we live in a culture where mirrors command our attention. We feel we have to look.
I decided to take a picture of the mirror with myself reflected in it. I guess I was experiencing mirror-envy from watching everybody else gaze into it.
Yet when I looked to see how the picture had come out, I couldn't see myself because the flash had obliterated me. I was a meaningless white blob.
I slurped up what was left of my coffee and headed back out on to the busy streets of downtown Northampton.
Even when Amherst does something bad, it does it in an arty way. Take for example this downtown graffiti I'm posing in front of. It looks less like an act of vandalism than something that should be the backdrop for a Pepsi commercial.
Of course not all graffiti is so delightfully colorful and artistic, but even the low grade one's can have some substance. For example consider this oddity:
The question asked by the Mad Hatter figure is, "If a secret is something between two people, what is a secret called when you don't tell anyone else?"
Nearby is scrawled the answer:
Finally, Jeff "sodafixer" Ziff writes me complaining about all this attention being paid to hotdogs in recent posts. Don't I know that not all readers share my phallic tastes? Okay, okay let it never be said that we don't honor diversity at this website. Here's a cheap thrill for you non-hotdog types.