the impassioned observer (in present tense)

December 7. 1999

Sometimess I really think my purpose in life is just to watch.

And these days I really don't feel like participating. So I watch.

I had to go to South Street today to do some Christmas shopping. Since I have my car here, I didn't have to rely on the generally inadequate SEPTA or one of my friends to get me there and back.

Looking through a bevy of tapes in a box in my car, I found one labeled "Bestest Songs". No, I don't have bad grammar, I was just attempting to be cute. So I popped it in. Bethany's favorite songs, circa 1997 or so.

So I listened. And watched.

First song, Levon, by Elton John. Madman Across the Water was always one of my favorite albums of his. "he was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day when the New York Times said God was dead and the war's begun..." I was in that odd, introspective mood that every song I listened to had a deep and important meaning to me. I kept thinking about how I'm not happy. I turn onto Broad Street. I should be happy. I have a pretty goddamned cushy life. I passed homeless people and welfare mothers dragging their children with them. I've never really wanted for anything in my life. I've never been through anything remotely difficult or challenging in my life. Never woken up and wondered where I was sleeping today or where my next meal was coming from.

American Pie, by Don McLean. "so then we were all in one place, a generation lost in space..." Passed Olney, the boarded up storefronts and littered sidewalks. North Philadelphia really is a hellhole, I thought. When I moved here, for the first time in my life I was afraid to walk outside alone. It isn't so bad near Tyler, but as you go down Broad Street, before you hit City Hall and the nice downtown area, it's pretty seedy. I watched the car in front of me. The driver was hitting his wife or girlfriend, who was sitting in the passenger front seat. I could see the top of a child's car seat in the window.

Sweet Dreams are Made of this, by the Eurthymics. "everybody's looking for something..." I watched the people on the street, all making divergent paths toward some individual goal. I wish I knew what I wanted. I thought I knew, but the answers that satisfied me once don't anymore.

Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera, from the "Shine" soundtrack. I could understand most of the Latin, and tried to sing along with the soprano. I used to be able to hit those notes, dammit. Passed Temple University. Mentally waved hi to Jason, as I always do. Everything looks so worn here. Painted over, dirty and old. The only thing that glitters here is the university.

Barbra Streisand, You Don't Bring Me Flowers. This song used to make me cry when I sang it. What if, some day, I get lucky enough to fall in love, only to have it fall apart for some reason? It sounds so stupid, but I can't even conceive of what it's like to be in love. And I can't even wrap my mind around maybe someday losing that happiness. Almost every day I hear about one of my friends from high school getting engaged or is married 20 or 21. Am I missing something here?

Joan Osbourne, St. Teresa. I began to enter the nicer part of Philadelphia. The squalor is left behind and replaced with glittering architecture and sparkling sidewalks. The roads are filled with urban assault vehicles, or yuppiemobiles, as my mom likes to call them. Sometimes I wish I lived downtown. It sucks to have to live so far away from everything.

Yesterday I met yet ANOTHER govie while I was on South Street, going into Starbucks. It was Eric Roetter, who I had not been particularly good friends with, but it was still good to see him. I still can't get over how many people I see that I know in Philly, from high school friends to govies. I found out he goes to the University of the Arts. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to get together after the new year, along with my friend Becky, also a govie, who goes to UArts as well. I miss her so much. She's an awesome girl.

Parked the car. I am so paranoid about just leaving it there, even though it's locked. I need to get the Club. I walk away, reasoning with myself, "no one's going to steal a car in broad daylight...". I spent about an hour in Pearl picking out gifts (alas, I cannot tell in this forum). Whilst paying, my debit card got declined, even though I was positive I had enough money in my account. The clerk was really nice about it, she said that sometimes banks are performing checks on cards and temporarily freeze them. I am directed to an ATM next door, withdraw money without incident, pay for my goodies and leave.

Since I had no lunch (or breakfast, for that matter) I stop at Dairy Queen. I know, such a healthy meal. But I love their frozen hot chocolate. I sat facing the window and watched some more. So many varieties of people pass the window. A couple of kids make an obscene gesture in my direction. How nice. I watch a couple of squatters across the street. A thin black woman dragging a grocery cart passes the window. She's wearing an enormous gray fur coat and large white bow in her hair. A classy looking woman goes by, dragging her young daughter by the arm. All the while, numerous people on bikes and rollerblades flash by the window.

I arrive back at my car, it is unharmed. As I drive back, I'm still thinking. Jessie, by Joshua Kadison, is playing. "Jessie, paint your pictures about how it's gonna be..." Maybe I should stop thinking so much, and just do.

music: Falling into Infinity, Dream Theater
food: still working on that pepsi
read: nothing
sight: too many zip disks, which, being formatted for Mac, are useless once I
finish my computer class.
song lyric:
carry me to the shoreline / bury me in the sand / walk me across the water / and maybe you'll understand
-Hollow Years, Dream Theater