Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hard Times

It came down to a 15-minute walk to home and three-day old rice or a 5 minute ride to West Bank and getting lost trying to find this restaurant I've been dying to be at(since, hmm, the last 24 hours).Well, five minutes later, I found myself staring at a chalk board (vegetarian!) menu that says:
Coffee: $1.00
Stupid Questions: $5.00

People, I've fallen in love with Hard Times Cafe. Rather, fallen in love with the idea of me - this very uninteresting, barely alive, woman with deep-seated faith in a (now) conservative religion, the establishment/system, and order - stepping into a place that flaunts it's anarchist history (and present) and finally feeling like I'm home.

Like always, paused an awkward second while deciding whether to give my real name for the tab or that shorter-but-easier-on-the-american-tongue form I so hate and then spelt out a-s-h. The guy writing it down notices that I'd hesitated and wants to know if that's my undercover name. I whip out my card to pay for my food and was told they accept only cash. of course.

I find a table in a corner crawling with white etchings of what looks like somebody's thesis in theoretical physics. There's crazy graffiti all over the wine-red walls. Wine-red walls. My idea of a perfect room has been, for a long time: wine-red walls, moroccan rugs, mood lighting and the faint smell of an existence steeped in leisure. I look around for a blue-haired person, there's gotta be one in a place like this, hollywood says so. It turns out, the blue-haired woman with a mysterious air about her, who later in the night changes your life forever, is, in fact, a language major with raven black hair. She's scribbling furiously onto her legal notepad, I peer and discover she's practicing the devanagari script. of course.

At this point, I'm wondering if the novelty of West Bank will ever wear off. Been 18 months since I first stumbled onto this side of the river and I always find something to gape at for a bit longer than is acceptable. I catch a glimpse of a mural of a many-armed being with one hand clutching a severed head before a group of somalians obscures it again, a highly inappropriately placed hindu god, I reckon. A visibly stoned guy is smiling a benignant smile at me. I find out that my quesadilla is seasoned with lime. The visibly stoned guy is now feeling around on his table for his coffee mug while still smiling his benignant smile. I find out that spicy really means spicy out here. The somalians want to know why there's no music. Some ancient, awkwardly-tuned cambodian song with shrill female vocals and a hint of a western rhythm blares outta speakers placed right over my head. I pull out my copy of English, August: it's been on that reading list way too long. Perhaps, it was meant to be that I read of unbelonging at this very point in my life.

Spent two hours absorbing the dull clamor and irreverence in the air before making a trip to the loo. The restroom's walls scream out a hundred different thoughts scrawled on by those not satisfied with the larger, more open canvas outside. Some responsible citizen had carved out a list of 'chariots' - cab phone numbers - near the mirror. Zoned out for a bit in that tiny room, could feel a presence in there, it felt like the comforting touch of a million lost souls, felt like there's no place I'd belong to, no place that'd like me, none that I'd be at peace with and knew for the first time that it was alright. I walked out into a wall of cold air ten minutes later and for once didn't hate Minneapolis all that much.


Ziah said...

Aww Ash! :) Still settling down?:)

love and squalor said...

Ziah, settled down ages ago, trying to unsettle myself.

The Darkling Thrush said...

woman, you clearly are unsettled.
:) i hope that curiosity is what will let you fall in love with the new city.

take care, otherwise.
one warm hug to carry you through, just in case. :)

Anonymous said...
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Ziah said...

Haven't heard from you in a while... so when's the next post girl?? :)

Pranay said...

Awwww...I love happy endings...;-)
No seriously very nicely written.

love and squalor said...

Ziah, it's the lazy-male-half-of-this outfit's turn.

Darkling Thrush, can always use a hug, but moving outta here very soon.

Pranay, thank you! and welcome back, it's been a while.