Scampering Housewards

Another stroll down Smith St.

I got off at Bergen and there was a bear on Smith St. Big and brown, in the middle of the street. Someone said, “is that a bear?” I said, “yes, that's a bear.” She said, “what's it doing here?” I said, “I guess they have bears here now,” and went into Tabac to have dinner with a friend. However ten minutes passed, then thirty, and my friend didn't show up. My allergies puffed my eyes. I asked the waitress, a solicitous, tall, slender woman who had a bat-like heiroglyph emblazoned into the skin of her lower back, for the time and she told me it was almost eight, then looked into my puffy eyes with sympathy. I tried to see myself as she might: a sad lump of a man in a blue shirt, his face puffy and eyes brimming. Perhaps I'd been stood up by a Nerve date? Perhaps I was trying to get back together with a girlfriend who had just dumped me and now not come to meet me for dinner?

After a while I ordered soup and a soda. Someone at work had given me a copy of a book by Gertrude Stein, advising me that it represented a truly unique voice and was worth study; I read that as I ate, but the lack of punctuation made it difficult to pay attention. There was a woman next to me reading the New Yorker, also alone, and I wanted to speak with her to pass the time, because she was my age and looked like she had something to say, but unless I have a lot of coffee in me I can't initiate a conversation that is worth a damn. I finished my soup and asked for a check, tipped about the cost of the food, and walked home down Smith St.

Men with little beards abounded, as did women in sleeveless blouses. A woman sat on a stoop sobbing, and a man comforted her. I stopped at a drugstore, where a man held a large dog in his arms and cooed to it. “Just a moment, baby,” he said. “We're almost there.”

On the rest of the way home I tried to think of things that I had not already thought of seven million times. There used to be a number of people that I was worried about running up against in this neighborhood, dates gone wrong, braggart men, and bloggers, but none were in sight. The only idea I had was: pervasive public access wireless networks represent an extraordinary threat to personal privacy because anyone with a few dollars and some wit can set up a digital camera anywhere there is a network and have it email photographs through the wireless ether. The bathroom at the coffeeshop, for instance, can be monitored by anyone with a PDA and a tiny videocamera. This unsettled me.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

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Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

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