I've given up a lot of things over the past year and a half. Like some really comfortable furniture, half my wardrobe, a handful of apartments, and a large chunk of my humility. That all comes with the territory; when you're the (reasonably) new kid in town, you go with the flow. You go to shows in questionable locations (you don't know they're questionable until later), you go to bars and try a cocktail that sounds weird, you go to costume parties that have nothing to do with Halloween, and you walk around the streets and trying remember where you parked your car without seeming lost--or at least like the person who wrote the cross streets on a piece of paper in their purse (guilty).
It's all about adaptability.
I'll admit, I'm kind of a creep out here in CA. I smile too much and I'm pretty sure it freaks people out. I also wave. A lot. I wave at people like it's going out of style and I want, desperately, for it not to. Sometimes I walk down the street and say, "hey there, how's it going?" to a complete stranger, for no reason at all. My "southern charm" is just saccharinely disgusting.
The plus side to all of this: I can do weird things and no one truly cares. Californians are nothing if not accommodating. Especially if alcohol is involved. That's why I love them.
So my favorite new weird thing to do is read books in bars. No particular genre, just whatever, from an essay collection about New York to a Knopf novel with a cool cover. So far I've been met with zero judgment. And I live really close to bars. A lot of them. Putting a whiskey-loving nerd in the middle of a booze-lovin' city is a dangerous combination. Dangerous in a liver failure and I'll-never-have-a-savings-account kind of way.
But that doesn't matter because:
- Going to bars alone is liberating, and fun, and you can pretend to be anyone you want. Friendly or aloof? Glasses or no? A scholar? A Hemingway-type alcoholic? I usually go with mysterious out-of-town stranger with a sometimes-accent.
- It's surprisingly easy to concentrate on reading a book in a bar, and also writing. There are no distractions surrounding you like: tv, laundry, internet, or cheesecake ingredients. And no one judges you when your penmanship declines in quality with each empty beer glass.
- Between chapters you might get to hear some really funny bar conversations. These range anywhere from baby-mama drama, to awkward hookup stories, to philosophical discussions about cheese.
- You might meet someone that's on your same level of nerd and wants to talk about, say, the latest Murakami. You can even bitch and moan together about how it's hard to find Cutty Sark in this town. I recently had this conversation with a very sassy middle-aged Russian woman wearing too much lipstick, and my life is better for it. (This also directly feeds into the #3 theory)
- Sometimes there's free food. We're talking full buffets, catered and everything. One day I'll be brave enough to trust it. One day.