The Rhythm Of Life

I couldn’t decide if the lady in front of me was a professional body builder or if she had once been a “he.” Nor could I find a courteous way to let them know that I don’t care what their gender is or their sexual orientation but was curious anyway.

We were seated inside a coffee shop on Ventura Boulevard. She was wearing a dress, had long black hair, bright red lipstick and was wearing a pair of Ray-Bans. Over to the right I listened to some guy try to impress the girl he walked in with and laughed at the ridiculous things he said.

I probably shouldn’t have laughed because I have been known to tell a tale or two myself.

He reminded me a bit of a peacock and I might have muttered something about how Marlon Perkins should have been there next to me.

The rebuilt Sherman Oaks Galleria, opened in 2002

The rebuilt Sherman Oaks Galleria, opened in 2002 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every city and every home has its own rhythm of life but the Valley is the one that I know best. I remember the old Galleria and even if I didn’t all I would have to do is turn on Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Commando or a million other movies and they would transport me back in time.

I was a teenager when Valley Girl became a hit. I remember some of my cousins calling me to ask if I knew that “Encino” was famous. I thought it was kind of cool but it didn’t make much of a difference in my life until I was in college and even then it was relatively minor.

Can’t say that I remember too many of the girls speaking like Moon Unit does in the song, but there are definite elements of “truth” in it.

Now I look back at it and wonder if my children will try to tease me about it in the same way that my sisters and I used to tease our parents about their old yearbook pictures.

Maybe they’ll watch those John Hughes films that we never get tired of and roll their eyes.

Sunrise, Sunset

I don’t feel old nor do I think of myself as being anything but that guy I was between 19-25. It is true right, that reflection in the mirror isn’t quite right but that is only because I am looking at one of those wacky funhouse mirrors.

And these children of mine can’t really be this big already.  Every time I go watch them play soccer or basketball I marvel over how big they have gotten. And when they challenge me to a race or wrestling match I always take them up on it.

Dad has a serious competitive streak and he doesn’t like to lose, but one day they will be faster.

That moment fills me with hope, pride and dread. I want them to be better in every way but I am not nearly old enough to be ready to concede the athletic side of the fence to them. I accept that I can’t do what I did at 20 but I refuse to let go of the rest. Not now, not yet.

That Couple

I am still drinking my iced mocha. It is 183 degrees in the shade so I am nursing this sucker. The mystery lady in front of me keeps shifting in her seat and I keep looking around the place to see who else is in there with us.

There is a guy behind me that is talking far too loudly on his cellphone. I am not interested in listening to his conversation so I turn around and make eye contact with him.

Initially he glares at me but I don’t stop staring and he looks away first. A small smirk washes across my lips and I think of Marlon Perkins talking about the fight to be the alpha male.

There is an older guy standing at the front door. He dressed in charcoal slacks, dress shoes and a button down shirt. Salt and pepper hair help to camouflage the glasses propped on his head.

I wonder why who he is waiting for and why he is dressed up. It may not be summer but it sure feels like it. A woman walks in and I can tell that she is looking for someone.

She wanders over to the man and I can see her say something to him and I realize they are on a blind date. She is not dressed up like he is but it is clear she spent time perfecting her look.

They wander over to order drinks and he lets her walk in front of him. I watch his eyes roll up and down her body and he smiles. It took just a moment for him to decide that he is happy.

She finishes ordering her drink and steps aside so that he can order his.  Now the roles are reversed and she is the one checking him out. I don’t see her react one way or another. She is a better poker player than he is.

While they wait for their order to be filled they stand in front of my table exchanging small talk. I watch and listen, their proximity to my table not providing many choices in the matter.

Their drinks are ready and they walk away. Moments later I finish mine and walk out the back door.

The rhythm of life continues.

This post is part of YeahWrite#54.

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  1. TheJackB May 16, 2014 at 11:46 am

    zoebyrd2  People watching is one of my favorite things to do. Something about it just fascinates me.

  2. zoebyrd2 May 15, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Hi Jack, Nice to be back here… I have been sluggish at best in the blog world lately. This is reminiscent of something I was writing on the blog recently about TMI … This is an enjoyable read … mostly I think because it feels so close to home… I am definitely a people watcher.

  3. pauline April 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    absolutely loved this. I found you on Write on Edge and will be back.

  4. Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson April 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I love to make up stories about people as I watch them. Nice job here.

    • Jack April 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you. It is fun trying to come up with the back story for the people we see. Sometimes I’ll go say hi to them just to see what their voice sounds like and to try to get a sense of whether my impression is close to reality or not.

  5. Lance April 28, 2012 at 5:45 am

    we’re the same age so I identified with every word.

    You write the way I talk, and I appreciate that.

  6. k~ April 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I must have missed something along the way; I never saw the movie “Valley Girl,” but I did grow up near the area where they were when I was a teen. “Like, Oh my gawd” I remember it well.

    • Jack April 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      Hi K,

      I suppose some of it might be age related. The movie is almost 30 years old now so if you aren’t of a certain age you might not have even heard of it.

  7. Katie April 26, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Great! There’s nothing more fun for me as a writer, than to observe people and try to figure out their stories. You did a great job of detailing your observations here. And I’ve gotta say I wanted to applaud when you gave the guy talking too loud on his cell phone “the eye.”

    Nicely written!

    • Jack April 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm

      Hi Katie,

      People watching is a wonderful source of fodder for stories or so I think. It is just a lot of fun. As for people who talk too loudly on their cellphones, well I am not real good at hiding my disgust with them.

  8. Kristin April 26, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Wow. I kept picturing each little scene as a fade in/fade out in my head. Fantastic descriptions and wonderful rhythm to the tale.

    • Jack April 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm

      Hi Kristin,

      So glad that you enjoyed it. This was a lot of fun to write. It has been a while since I spent real time trying to set a scene like this one so I felt a little bit rusty.

  9. WilyGuy April 25, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Come on, Encino didn’t become famous until Brendan Frasier and Pauly Shore made it so… But I totally remember seeing Valley Girl and thinking this Nicholas Cage can’t act and will be a one hit wonder.


    • Jack April 26, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Hi Wilyguy,

      We disagree. Encino was famous long before those guys, but none of that made a difference to me because I am still just an as yet to be discovered writer.

      OTOH, if Cage can make it big there is hope for us all. 😀

  10. Emily April 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I loved watching the world through your eyes. You really found the rhythm!

  11. Christie April 25, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Don’t you just love to people watch and create stories about their lives and imagine what might hide behind the curtain? I know I do.

  12. Sandra April 25, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Great post. People-watching occupies a lot of my time, and I can think of no better way to pass a long journey or a waiting period. I felt I could have been there, watching them at the same time. Do people on blind dates buy their own drinks? It’s a long time since I went on one.

    • Jack April 25, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Hi Sandra,

      I don’t know what the current protocol is regarding blind dates. I know in this case they definitely purchased their own.They were fun to watch. I figured that they were around 10 years old than myself, give or take a few years either way.

      It reinforced my belief that some things never change regardless of age.

  13. jamie April 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Jack, I must commend what a wonderful post this is. I love how you bring your observations to life. It’s so beautifully written.

    • Jack April 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Hi Jamie,

      Thank you. I appreciate that. I take great joy in writing and there is all sorts of fun to be had when I can combine it with people watching.

  14. TriGirl April 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I looooove people watching! And I just recently had an experience of having to decipher if i was seeing a man or a woman. Luckily I figured out that he was a cross dresser before he introduced himself. I just didn’t want to stare while I tried to figure it out. It’s not that we have an opinion, but we need to have things make sense.

    • Jack April 25, 2012 at 12:03 am

      Hi TriGirl,

      People watching is just plain fun. I never get tired of it. I still am not sure whether it was a man or a woman I saw- she had really big hands so I don’t know.

      Anyway, I am a curious fellow so sometimes I just want to know because I want to know. You are right about things making sense, it makes me feel better.

  15. Sensible Moms April 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Oh, John Hughes!! Love him so. He will always be the muse for those of us growing up in that time! I loved the way this piece let me feel like the fly on the wall I have always wanted to be.

    • Jack April 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm

      Hi SM,

      John Hughes is like a patron saint for us, or so I think sometimes. Ok, saint is probably the wrong term for a Jewish kid so we’ll go with muse. I like muse, that works.

  16. Mayor Gia April 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Ha! People watching/describing is fun. And yes, you will be made fun of for your yearbook in the future. We all will be.

    • Jack April 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm

      Well Mayor, I have this fantasy that my kids will look at my pix and think I look really cool. Ok, it won’t happen but a man has to have a dream or two.

  17. Jens P. Berget April 23, 2012 at 2:32 am

    Hi Jack,

    I don’t remember “valley girl”, but the video was awesome (it’s the first time I’ve seen the video and heard the song).

    What I do remember, is how it’s like to think about your kids growing up and just waiting for them to be stronger and faster. It’s going to be a while, that’s for sure, but on the other hand, it will happen. Like me and my dad, I am way faster than he is now, but I’m still not stronger, and he’s 71 years old. That’s the rythm of like 🙂

    • Jack April 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Jens,

      That song was really big out here for a while. I love hearing that your father is still stronger than you. I think that is so very cool.

      My dad is pretty solid, but he is not supposed to lift anything heavy so I haven’t been able to wrestle with him in years.

      I hope that when my kids are our age I can still do it. It really is fun watching them grow.

  18. Craig McBreen April 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Hey Jack,

    It’s funny you mentioned “Valley Girl,” because most people I knew way back when loved the stupid movie (You know, the one with Nicolas Cage?) but the Moon Unit song was okay too. I actually liked that stupid movie too, really … really.

    When I was a teenager (or early 20-something) in Maryland, I often wondered if girls in the valley really talked like the unit. I did want to find out but never made it to Cali. Somehow I ended up in the Evergreen State though, but I arrived just in time for Grunge thank God.

    Fer Sure, fer sure!

    About the mystery lady. Well, very, very interesting and good for you … staring down that cocky peacock.

    Ah, the rhythm of life. Well, my friend. What a gift you have for bringing such life to the mundane. Actually made me wish I was there watching these weirdos. Now it’s time to hit an L.A. dive bar 😉

    • Jack April 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm

      Hi Craig,

      I remember that movie. Not all of the girls in the valley talked like that but there were plenty who did. Got a lot of flack from people about that and all sorts of other LA stuff.

      My first trip up to Seattle was in ’93 or so. I remember lots of people bringing up the whole grunge thing and complaining about all the Californians who were moving up there.

      That stare down was sort of a waste of time. Sometimes I forget that I am old and responsible now. 😉

      Come down to LA and I’ll take you to a couple of bars and we can blog about the experience.

  19. Michael April 22, 2012 at 10:28 am

    I love and appreciate how you created a mental slideshow with your words. This embodies what writing truly is. Congrats on an Excellent post!


  20. Claudia April 22, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Hi Jack,
    Wow!!! This was fabulous. I felt as though I was sitting there next to you observing it all first hand. What a gift to be able to communicate that sense with your words. I loved each character from the woman/man in red lipstick to the couple on the blind date. Well done Jack. You are a talented man!

    • Jack April 22, 2012 at 11:58 am

      Hi Claudia,

      Thank you. I have been working hard to become better at showing the reader what I see and I am glad that it worked this time.

      That lady who sat in front of me really got me thinking because I couldn’t decide if she was born a woman or not. She was big for a woman but not quite big enough to be a man.

      Anyway, I like people watching and that set my brain in motion. Coffee shops really are great blog fodder.

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