Commentary, Culture, Philip Alderton
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Watch-less Part 1

City Writers Room

I’m watch-less. It seems to be happening more frequently these days.

In days past it would never happen. It shouldn’t be an issue. I have a smart phone. It can tell me the time anywhere in the world. The problem is that I usually only need to know the time where I am. Secondly, I have to reach for the phone, which means I only know the time by then, not now. Now is gone.

I’ve spent the weekend waiting for friends to visit. It started Friday with Eva, due at 5 to watch the sunset. It didn’t happen. She was delayed. The sunset went. Darkness came. Eva finally arrived. We re-arranged for Sunday about 5.

Eva is nutty and well meaning. She’s my neighbor’s daughter. Whatever she did in her true youth, she had fun doing it.

I like Eva. She moved to a little town in Baja California called Todas Santos – a strange name for a place in Mexico – a few years ago to open a real estate office with her boyfriend and her dog. I’m not sure the dog is officially a partner, but I really liked Jack. Jack’s the dog. He used to spend most of his day next door at my neighbor’s while Eva worked. I’d go and wait until he’d come out the doggy door for a play and a chat. A Lab/Rhodesian cross. I missed Jack when he went on the big adventure to the south.

Later that night, as I watched cricket online, Anita called. I’m not sure what time as I was once again watch-less and when the cricket is full screen the computer clock is invisible.

Anita lives in Australia. She is visiting the US to see her sister and will work her way through LA to various friends the next day. That is Saturday. She’ll be there sometime mid-afternoon, but it’s flexible. I’ll be home. Good, there is something to do in my world without time. Wait for Anita. I can ponder the universal meaning for her visiting. Or not.

I go to the market to get a snack to have with her. I buy cheese and forget the crackers. I don’t want to go back. She’s probably gluten intolerant anyway. Vern hails me, friend and neighbor, well, we live in the same trailer park so it’s that sort of neighbor and, like I’m noticing about myself, I’m not sure he wears a watch. Maybe he never did. He is on Grace time anyway. Grace is his wife. Maybe it’s what trailer park people do. He knows about Anita. They are coming over when she arrives. Do I have enough cheese? He’s on a diet and Grace is gluten free. Screw the crackers. I don’t know what time it is. But Anita hasn’t called so she isn’t near. Is that what time is now? The near and far?

Sunset is coming. Vern calls. It must be urgent. He never calls. He takes calls. We have soon to go to dinner with Juliet and Rob, friends who are moving to the UK. Bath to be precise. We don’t know when, they don’t know when, but they are moving. The time frame is vague. They’re applying for jobs and visas and the banks in England never get the paper work to them in time for the application window. Must be within 30 days. Not the move; the paper work.

We talk about California road trips one should take. We talk about places they have all been. I haven’t been. I wonder what time it is. I have my watch but I don’t want to look at my watch as it’d give the wrong impression. I’m not bored. Familiar stories are like a fireplace and a bottle of scotch on a cold night. My chicken sucks. I don’t feel well. What time is it?

Anita texts. I don’t look until I’m home. I’m not a texter and I was with friends, so why check texts? Anita is “mildly embarrassed” at the confusion. She thinks I got it wrong. It is Sunday that she’ll come by. I’ll stay home again to see her.

I go to the farmer’s market with Vernon and get the usual. It’s Valentine’s day and he buys lots of roses, but none for me. So much for friendship. He thought Anita said Saturday as well. He may be around later. He and Grace have things to do. We talk about how stupid it is that the LA Marathon is ending in Santa Monica, a major Valentine’s Day destination on Valentine’s day. It’ll be chaos. The sun is setting. There is no Eva and no Anita.

Well, it is Valentine’s Day, the day couples robotically go out to show how much they are in love. They sit in stems of traffic, like streams but they don’t flow. Stagnant. They cue at restaurants to be hurried through their meal for the next couple wanting to prove their love to whom?

I’m not good at relationships. I never have them. I’m single. But what does all this prove? I’m clueless to love and relationships, to the meaning of love perhaps.

Eva arrives, just as the sun is a sliver on the ocean. She was delayed. It’s Valentine’s Day and the LA marathon turned Santa Monica into a 2 hour traffic jam. We sit inside as she is a little chilly. We talk isolation. She in Todas Santos and myself here in LA.

Eva wants me to come visit. She doesn’t think I’d like it there. There’s only 5,000 people in Todas Santos and I’m lonely in LA. Maybe not lonely. I’m isolated in LA. The rich from places all over the world are buying in. Prices are on the march. Build your dreams on the beach in rule free Mexico. Isn’t it better to pay a cop a bribe than spend 8 hours in traffic school? Is El Chapo really that bad a guy? It’s reality down there. Question to ponder as I sit watching the night.

Anita calls. Eva is motioning she isn’t staying much longer, so make plans with Anita. Anita asks about the traffic. I stare along the coast to the highway and see it is stemmed. White lights and red lights going nowhere. All to prove their great love. Anita thinks she should skip the visit. I agree. It’s best she doesn’t come. It must be time for cricket.

Sadly New Zealand’s last wicket falls as I log on. Australia win by innings and 50 runs in three days. Two days early. Two watch-less days gone.

Tomorrow I’ll wait for something else to happen. It’s a federal holiday. If it’s warm people will come to the beach and people will say they may come by. They won’t. Traffic will be stemmed. I’ll be trapped in paradise. No reason for time; it’s a holiday. No reason for guilt at another day drifting by; it’s a holiday.


(part 2 to be continued next week)

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