I’m sitting here, comfortably ensconced, the sound of babbling and rushing water in my ears along with the echoes of screaming children, while strangers occasionally pass by, most giving little notice to the man sitting there with the paper in his hands. Now of course, the preceding would be an accurate description of the men’s room in Union Station, but I am in fact sitting in a mall food court as I write this. As many times as I’ve been here, I have to admit that I don’t know the name of the place. It’s in Chicago on the Magnificent Mile of Michigan Avenue. The food court is on the 8th floor, at the very top of the mall, and there is a large fountain that dominates the court in sight, sound, and smell. The mall’s most distinctive feature, to my eyes anyway, would be the motorized revolving door at the main entrance; you simply walk through as it turns. I suppose it would stop if something (someone?) got caught, but I’ve never been inclined to test that theory.
I didn’t come up here to buy anything. Well, except for the Pepsi I’m drinking.
“I’d like a Pepsi.”
“Did you say root beer?”
Yes, that’s it, word for word. I didn’t even come here to window-shop. I came here to write. Here’s the deal: It’s Labor Day, and I am determined to do nothing with an air of grown-up responsibility today. Hey, if someone wants to call and propose something, I’ll listen, but I’m not looking to generate social opportunities myself today.
Here’s part two of why I’m sitting where I am – I do some of my best writing in mall food courts (though you’d hardly know it from my present rambling). I think it’s easy to see why. They offer stimulation and indulgence in myriad forms. All sorts of people walk by. There are bright lights, sounds, and smells. But I’m still alone and operating entirely on my own schedule. If I get hungry or need to relieve myself, those amenities are close by. The only slight downside is that I will occasionally get caught up in a moment of creation, and I may suddenly gesture or call out a phrase that is detonating in my brain. And at such moments . . . well, I probably look like some guy who is suspiciously spending far too many hours sitting in a mall food court.
So what did I come here to write? Besides this, I mean. There’s actually a project a-bubblin’ for me right now. FP sent me a notice about a short story contest, one with various rules and parameters regarding form and content. I don’t want to say too much just yet, especially since I’m far from convinced that I will end up with a serviceable entry, but I will say that it’s been many years since I entered such a contest, and if I’m not deluding myself, I think I’ve continued to grow as a writer. Here’s an unoriginal thought for you – the more you do it, the better you get at it (and a tip of the cap to CL for steering me toward LiveJournal, which has been giving my writing muscles an overdue workout).
I’m not certain as I write this whether or not I will post it (but . . . wait, you’re reading it now, so I guess I am going to post it . . . now I’m confused). I hope you’ve all enjoyed this Labor Day, the first warning shot across the bow of summer, warning us of the armada of cold days just over the horizon (hey, if you’re going to start with a metaphor, you have to follow it through).