Humans being humans, vol. 2
Recent overhearings and things observed
An update of “humans being humans” with things seen or overheard recently in New York City and Los Angeles.
In New York, a thirty-something woman on the subway says to another thirty-something woman, “I heard a girl on a podcast say every girl spends her twenties working through her daddy issues. And then you hit your thirties and realize it’s actually all about your mom. That’s so true.”
In Los Angeles, I live near the Hollywood sign, and I’m often asked during walks for directions on how to get there. The other day, an SUV pulls to a stop next to me. A German man in his sixties, sitting shotgun, shouts at me, “The Hollywood sign!”
A woman in the backseat chirps something at him in German.
“Please,” he says to me, in a quieter tone. “The Hollywood sign.”
In New York, at JFK, a man and a woman in sunglasses and Red Sox hats sit down at a bar and order drinks, Michelob for him – they’re out of Heineken, his first choice – and a glass of Pinot Grigio for her. The bartender sets to work. The woman perches her sunglasses on her hat. The man turns his upside-down and clasps them to the back of his skull. The bartender serves their drinks, and the man drinks about third of his beer, then pulls a plastic bottle of Dr. Pepper from his backpack and pours it into the glass, in the manner of a Black and Tan. They watch CNN for ten minutes in silence. The TV is on mute
On the plane from JFK to Los Angeles, I read “Crabbed Age and Youth,” an essay published in 1915 by the British writer Jane Harrison. I stop on this:
Anyone who honestly wants to be young again has never lived, only imagined, only masqueraded. Of course, if you never eat, you keep your appetite for dinner.
In Los Angeles, I order breakfast at the counter of a no-frills Mexican family restaurant. Behind the bar is a framed, autographed poster of Lionel Messi. I sit in the back of the restaurant, read the newspaper on my phone, and then look up to find my eggs being delivered by a robot.
I’ve never seen a robot server before. It’s the shape of a beside table, with two shelves and a beaming blue light. I remove my plate, the robot lingers a moment before gliding away, I find myself saying “thank you” out of habit. A minute later, a man sits at a table next to mine. Ten minutes later, the robot returns with his meal, an enchilada plate. The man is nonplussed. He thanks it, too.
In New York, a person in their twenties in an Irish bar near Penn Station: “I’m going to be assuming from now on people are queer until they’re proven straight.”
In Los Angeles, I receive a text from a friend who’s an employee at the county sheriff’s office:
Spent the morning digging for bodies in the backyard of a meth house. Didn’t find much. Just some very big weed plants. The guy clearly had a green thumb.
In New York, a friend tells me a joke he wrote recently: Nice pants – do they come with their own cologne?
I still don’t get it, but I like it.
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In Los Angeles, specifically Burbank, I’m invited to an architecture school to speak about my latest book. The event is well attended and goes great. A student approaches me afterward, he’s twenty-something, Latino, he tells me he wonders if cities like Los Angeles, deep down, maybe aren’t defined so much by their lack of distance between people as the presence of ghosts, ghosts of earlier people, earlier communities, ghosts of old houses or storefronts knocked down. He tells me he sometimes felt as much, growing up in the Valley, like he could look someone in the eye and feel this strong impression of detachment, like he saw something ghostly in them or around them, and for him, this had led to a type of lifelong doubt about who and what is real in the first place, at least in L.A.
In New York, in Chelsea, a man walking in front of me wears sneakers from On Running. The blond woman beside him wears tall athletic socks with ballet flats that I think are Miu Miu.
About forty-five minutes later, in the West Village, a man walking in front of me wears On Running sneakers, the woman on his arm wears white socks and ballerina shoes, likely Miu Miu, and they are not the same man and woman.
I text a friend who works in fashion. He replies:
In Connecticut, at a tennis club, I’m shown a special locker room where members can store their liquor bottles in lockable, private liquor cubbies.
In Los Angeles, at my office, I look online for more information about Jane Harrison, that British writer I read on the plane. I find out on The Marginalian, by Maria Popova, that after Harrison died in 1928, the novelist Virginia Woolf wrote a condolence note to Harrison’s partner, a woman named Hope Mirrlees. The condolence note was one sentence long. Mirrlees is said to have told a friend later, “It was more comforting than all my other letters put together.”
The sentence was:
But remember what you have had.
I’m editing this essay at a bar in Denver International. A man just sat down next to me and ordered a double Jack and Coke. The bartender asked if he wanted any food. “Can I get the cheapest sandwich you have that doesn’t have pickles?”
I really do love people.
In tomorrow’s supplement for supporters
Instagram accounts I use for weird inspiration, weird meditation, weird coffee breaks.
Many trips (both mountaineering and drug) through the High Sierra.
An interesting history of linear cities and some other favorite reads from the week.
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What the what
“Meditations in an Emergency” is published Saturdays by writer Rosecrans Baldwin, a weekly micro-essay about something he finds beautiful, with a longer piece once a month for paying subscribers, written in the woods.
Also for paying subscribers, a Sunday supplement, three weeks a month, with three-plus ideas of things to love, no paid placements 💀
Rosecrans is the author most recently of Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles, winner of the 2022 California Book Award, now available in paperback from Bookshop, Bezos Farms, or (preferably) your local store. Other books include The Last Kid Left and Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down. His debut novel, You Lost Me There, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.
Books mentioned in this newsletter are featured on a Bookshop list.