Perhaps it occupies a drifting, rote place in my footsteps because it was the first coffeeshop in Eugene I visited, down the street from the Timbers Motel on Pearl where we stayed when looking for a house to rent in early summer. It rained that first day only as we hurried from the noodle place to the coffee place, both noted on our roll into town. The room seems filled with sun in my recollection, at least the bakery side, which I in fact did not visit until later, and I chatted up the barista about the good places to live in town. I don’t recall what she offered, but recall the growing understanding, after polling all the people we could find in restaurants, shops, cafes, and thrift outlets, that we most likely would not be rendered insomniac for fear of having our door kicked down in the middle of the night in Eugene. Thus, not having formally left, and still with some soul-aching to suffer upon my return, I mentally departed my longtime home of Atlanta.
Working from home has pressed me to confront my mortality. For ten years the day-by-day routine of office life slowly transformed my perspective on consciousness from empty vessel to collect experience to vessel on which to sail away from the body. I felt that the repetition of those days, the unsurprising surprises and dependable infuriations, was license to believe that were I to leave my body, were my consciousness, the homunculus in Principal-Skinner-aqua tennis shirt diligently monitoring the conditioning of my senses from the tiny upholstered office chair in my skull, to make tracks, that my body would continue on its way thanks to the training of the repetition, thanks to the inevitability of every gesture and response. Though I of course do not believe such a thing is possible without the additional benefit of mental illness, or perhaps drugs, or perhaps a few more years on the rack, it has been a source of limitless preoccupation for me, even baiting me in the last several months of the ritual to read several books on the mechanics and anecdotes of astral projection, something else I don’t believe is possible… without drugs.
Then I moved. All of a sudden, everyone disappeared. My office disappeared. My coworkers disappeared. The highways and booming bass cars disappeared. My patronage to the homeless drug addicts of east-central downtown Atlanta expired. I spent the days in isolation, first in sun, then in perpetual fog and cloud, in the unfinished basement of my remote office in Eugene, Oregon.
Perhaps consider Thos. the Charon who ferried me three thousand miles to the shores of this purgatory. Our drive across the country folded the routine and belief in mind and body duality into a vanished little fantasy. The only problem was that nothing existed in this new isolation to replace it, and I considered the beauty, not of escape, but of the consciousness disappearing, of the graciousness of mortality. I felt I almost physically approached it in this isolation. I even read several books on mortality! Yet within this gray concrete void, the roar of the little heater at my feet, and the drips of rain dead glistening in the bare limbs outside the tiny high window, I soon found a new routine.
Like the seasons from whence planted seeds of Peachtree Center in Atlanta, by happenstance prepared in the distant past when my family visited Atlanta and stayed in the Marriott Marquis, overtook my liberated Atlanta lunch-hour consciousness and drew me there no matter where I fancied my feet might stroll, Full City has become a reflex. I fancy much like an addiction, the body absently acting through the preparatory steps toward the consummatory action, I find myself, long after shutting my front door in oblivion, three-quarters of the way downtown on foot with Full City’s tile and arched window (is it arched?! (yes, but only on the bakery side!!!)) already enveloping me. Upon realizing this, perhaps nearby Sweet Life, or even on to Willamette where I could turn oddly right toward Perk, I still admit the strength of the habit and pay my fix a visit.
The routes appear confused when marked out on Eugene’s grid in an intentional nod to my belief that I am a man of impulse in love with the chance of the drift. That they all pivot about Full City like a Spirograph x-ray of my days belies the fact that I am an inflexible old prick. Though, sometimes, like today, it is enough to simply walk by as a punctuation to divide my visit to the bank with a climb up Skinner’s Butte.
This resurfacing of routine, or habit if you prefer, in the indefinable midst of telework-annihilation clarifies to me that the old routines that I venomously attributed to the endless progression of days at the office were merely the fiber of stability I needed, woven thicker with each passing day, to keep me from spinning out of control. I mistook the annihilation of simply growing older and having responsibilities as the cause of routine not the illness to which routine was anodyne. Here in Eugene, where the lack of structure helped me tend toward death, which though I am now quite well-read in its character, often stopping to recognize its theft of my senses in the silent gray of my basement, I still hope to avoid for some time, I needed to find the geography of new routine that forced me to be alive.
A woman at the university told me before I moved here that she had found, in a period of working from home, it gave her comfort to wake up every morning and go out for coffee with her laptop so that she felt like she was going into the office. That is not the sensation I am hoping to cultivate. Annihilation, as I have read, is a phase of life. I am fine to recognize it coming, from the safety of my selected routine, in the midst of my life. It may be in fact the whole of life, offices, coffeeshops, tortuous walks, strained livid writing, as they all fixate, however repelled, on that gray finish line.
Full City, Pearl842 Pearl Street
Eugene, Oregon 97402