People go on about places like Starbucks being unpersonal and all that, but what if that’s what you want?  I’d be lost if JJ and people like that got their way, and there was nothing unpersonal in the world.  I like to know that there are big places without windows where no one gives a shit.  You need confidence to go into small places with regular customers – small bookshops and small music shops and small restaurants and cafés.  I’m happiest in the Virgin Megastore and Borders and Starbucks and PizzaExpress, where no one gives a shit, and no one knows who you are.  My mum and dad are always going on about how soulless those places are, and I’m like, Der.  That’s the point. 

– Jess in A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby.

When I found myself with no lunch plans today it was kind of a relief because I didn’t really feel like talking or even listening or communicating in any way actually, and I could just go for a walk and be as antisocial as I felt like.  I guess I am in a withdrawing phase right now.  It is what I do.  When I am withdrawing I have a fondness for impersonal places too.

Fortunately, working in the Financial District means that you don’t have to go too far to find an impersonal place to hide.  Most people don’t leave their office towers because they’re all so well-equipped with food courts and shops.  I grabbed a bagel and a tea at a suitably impersonal Tim Hortons and started to head to City Hall but luckily I changed my mind and instead I walked one block north and one block east to Cloud Garden.  Which seemed like a completely different planet from the one I had just left.  It was the first time I’ve ever taken the time to sit down in Cloud Garden which is ridiculous given its proximity to my workplace.  The waterfall was running and it was not as busy and noisy as City Hall would have been.  A really beautiful spot to read in the sunshine.

Over the last couple weekends I’ve been trying to get more comfortable with the SLR I bought a year and half ago to replace my [really old] Pentax K1000 that sadly was stolen out of my apartment.  Apparently I am now joined at the hip with it and I carried it around with me on Monday and Tuesday, but was too pussy to pull it out – still intimidated by it I guess. Also, I feel weird walking around near my work with it where everyone is so annoyingly straight-laced and corporate.  It wouldn’t be so bad if I looked like a tourist, for example, but I look annoyingly straight-laced and corporate too, and you can see that people are confused, as if the camera might be some sort of external manifestation of a communicable disease. 

I didn’t bring it today because I had all my drawing class junk and didn’t want the extra weight, plus I thought the likelihood of me using it was pretty slim anyway given my tragic showing to date.  This was a mistake.  Cloud Garden was full of things that would make interesting photos.  Like a long line of pigeons sitting atop a chain-link fence that seemed to make a cool juxtaposition against all the modern-ish buildings behind them.  I have a hard time with composition, so maybe it was good practice anyway, just observing and thinking, trying to form good frames in my head first without just snapping away at any old thing just because I have a camera in my hand.

Sometimes a lunch hour can be really hard to fill by yourself but today was not one of those times.  And now, I am at home, having not gone to the art class because the thought of having to talk to anyone was too repulsive to me today and I could have substituted the sketchbook and tools in my backpack with the camera after all – but hindsight is always 20/20.

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