Photo by Matt Cawrey taken at  TenMinuteTales,  part of Story City Festival   

Photo by Matt Cawrey taken at TenMinuteTales, part of Story City Festival


People Watching


Most folks tend to agree that people watching is a fairly enjoyable and/or therapeutic activity. Maybe there’s some kind of romantic attachment to it or maybe it’s just the particular type of socially acceptable-zoning-out-in-public that people-watching affords the watcher, resting and taking a load off but still loosely being part of the world but really just being totally blank and momentarily excused from thinking about all the shit that you have to do later and all the shit that you didn’t do yesterday and how when you get home you were planning to make a recipe which has avocados in it and you know that at home you don’t have any avocados and how avocados are kind of hit and miss in terms of store bought avocado ripeness and ready-to-eat-ness and your avocado eyeball test and avocado squeeze test are both far from even satisfactorily adept enough to check for adequate ripeness, but nevertheless the bulk of this particular recipe’s nutritional supply is avocado meat and you really do have your heart set on it, so all you can really do is just buy the goddamn avocado and hope for the best.


There are loads of movies where people flirt with each other all nice while people-watching. And there totally is something about people watching that makes one’s life seem like some kind of cinematic experience. Maybe it’s the people that pass by who are the film or maybe it’s the watcher, remaining quiet and observatory at the center of the dense mass of activity, embroiled in contemplative introspection, the world’s busy-ness, a stark contrast to your own stillness giving credence to your deep-seated idea that you yourself are the center of the universe, a person of real importance and consequence. One can totally separate oneself from being part of the homogenized, unconscious human mass that strokes the streets of the city/town/village/township/conurbation/settlement/large city/isolated dwelling/ecumenopolis/megalopolis/metropolis or hamlet.


It’s unfortunate for everyone that enjoys this pass time that one of the most common people to walk the streets of this particular town is extremely difficult to watch. There is something utterly disturbing about their presence. It’s repulsive. Although not in any obvious way. There isn’t any strange stepping patterns in their walk, no air of arrogance, nor any sheepish fragility, no odd, ill-looking complexion problems, limbs all in-tact, in average proportion, and consisting of a full roster of digits in keeping with the general dominant human number of digits per limb, and situated evenly on each of the two limbs respectively, not shared out between them in any uneven manner, hair: totally inoffensive and clearly kempt but not to an excessive degree, like a newsreader or a football player. The clothing worn by this particular individual could best be described in a pinch as startlingly neutral and could by no accounts be referred to as gawdy, inappropriate, gauche or in-bad-taste, or even for that matter, displeasing in any way. Even it’s neutrality was a fashionable kind of neutrality as opposed to the ‘I have no interest in fashion’ kind. But even then it’s not pretentious, it’s totally the kind of clothing a regular bloke could get away with wearing. Maybe there’s some kind of weird, off-putting uncertainty in the direction and intention of their walk, nope. But neither is there any hot-headed, sure-fire, explicitly, garishly obvious intention. Their posture didn’t have any strange features, like how sometimes a person might have their head sitting back a little bit on their neck, not like leaning back exactly, just sitting back, so that their chin sort of disappears creating a kind of smugness coupled with gormlessness. It wasn’t like that. Nor were their face and chin jutting outwards from their neck and body causing an affront to passers by. They had no weird, creepy plastic bags of mysterious contents nor any loud and hypnotically, symmetrically-rhythmic breathing. But their breath wasn’t eerily quiet either, as if you couldn’t tell if they were breathing or not, enough to worry about the welfare of their respiratory circulation. They had no visible and contagious fatigue about them nor any OTT chipperness, nor any compulsive lip-chewing habits, nor a mouth that remained oddly still to a degree that could cause people any alarm with regards to the range of mobility of their cavum oris.


It’s just difficult to digest and receive the information of this particular person, on a sensorial level. It’s so difficult to pin down the cause of this individual’s unfailing, hit-and-hit ability to cause beef in the eye of, and the rest of, the beholder. Where is the lack of charisma/anti-charisma? no one knows. It’s so difficult to understand that people have a hard time talking about it, but sometimes feel an all-encompassing need to talk about it. This is all part and parcel of the whole revulsion thing. Those who do talk about it have such a hard time articulating their beef with this person that they receive blank looks from the people that they speak to about it. These blank looks force said person to assume that the problem is instead with themselves and not with the repulsive person and that it is in fact they who are the repulsive person. And whilst this having-a-mirror-held-up-to-oneself aspect of the whole thing is powerful and casuses immense stress and self doubt for the beholder, they still know on a gut and instinctive level that they were right the first time and it was the repulsive person who was repulsive and not them, the beholder. And no amount of self-reflexivity and blank looks from a confused friend can change the fact that the repulsive person was repulsive and caused a visible shudder to erupt from the core of the beholder’s being by sheer force of being around. Intense resentment grows inside the beholder towards their now former friend, the producer of the self doubt-inducing blank looks; this relationship has been tainted and remains un reconcilable due to the friend’s lack of understanding about the beholder’s extreme and terminally deep reaction/beef with regards to the repulsive person.


‘I don’t know what’s not jiving with you homeslice! This cat just totally funked me out okay? Can’t you just get with the programme with me and we can keep on truckin?’

‘you can’t discriminate like that against this pineapple jack if you ain’t clued into your beef sailor jerry. That’s one long yellow brick road to a whole bunch of hella rough steez, ya feel?’

‘I do not feel! What’s all this jive you talking to me Crispin Glover?’

‘You got some swollen nerve tellin me that name you grizzly chicken’

and so on and so on, voices raising gradually, then suddenly and words raising in temperature until a table swiftly enters the flipped position and a coffee cup has it’s receptacle-wise practical functionality removed forcefully against the side of the fridge.




6 months down the line the beholder moves away and now lives a simple life in a shack in Burma, sweating out the evil and meditating for impractically long percentages of the daylight hours. By this time it’s been two months since the beholder has decided that the only food that will pass their lips will be papaya. The beholder’s decision to eat only papaya appears to be related to some notion of the exoticness of the fruit to match the location in which they find themselves. but it seems that some basic information re: papayas, that could be yielded from a simple google search, would inform the beholder that the papaya is a native fruit of Mexico and in fact the fruit’s genus and origin have very little to do with the part of Asia in which Burma is situated. It’s not to say that if one is in Burma it’s not okay for one to ingest a fruit native to another part of the world i.e. Mexico. But to make the clear-cut and strangley nay arrogantly exclusive decision to eat papaya and only papaya whilst living in a country new to oneself seems to suggest that they thought that it was in fact of Burmese origin and that they were doing some kind of healing, getting-in-touch-with-the-land kind of thing and then didn’t check the facts and then things got out of hand.


This particular collection of daylight hours feels peculiarly like a Thursday be really the beholder has no idea. The now familiar feeling of papaya desperation strikes the beholder in the morning and down to the market is the next stop. Whilst performing eyeball ripeness tests and squeeze ripeness tests on a like bushel of papayas the beholder looks up and across the market and immediately upon raising eyes to the subject releases a visible, physical shudder not felt now for around 7 months, eye’s widen with shock disbelief, papayas everywhere...