John Tang

In a Nameless Bagel Shop

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 21, 2010

The Owner

The owner of the bagel shop was sixty years old, as he told the customer over the glass counter. The customer recognized him from the gym. Full gray haired, thin hook nose, old potato faced, he was sweeping the shop. They hit a dead hour. Only one to four people entered at a time, enough for the employee to serve them alone. It was raining outside. A widespread of gray sealed the sky. Seldom had a car passed every minute. Wiping a table behind me, the owner asked about my net book. How reliable was my computer? He asked. According to his interests—learning nutritional facts, learning the human anatomy, learning Italian on CD—the net book was not beneficial. “Then go for the laptop,” I looked up at him.

Thank you, he said in a Spanish accent. He retied the apron around the neck, as we heard the bell rung and a black woman entered.


VA Thoughts in a Bagel Shop

My day off I spend it in a nameless bagel shop. On the side read Grilled Panini, Sugar Free Drinks, Fruit Smoothies, Bagels, and Cookies, dotted in blue one after another. Spring rain, morning people—older men and women, employees in the Vacaville region, and others also on their day off (as you could tell by the casual clothes of blue denims and a calico t-shirts—created little plots in the room.  The room was warm and dark, saving energy.

Looking over the counter at the line of coffee machines, they sponsored Java City. It reminded me how a small business functioned, as I currently work at a local optometry off of N. Texas in Fairfield. Companies would send us contact solutions, a plethora of contact brands, and brochures, sometimes including eye-games that would test distance and color. I assumed companies gave free coffee sleeves. There was a box of sleeves on the shelf, but the cashier ringed mine in one by the Academy of Art University, a red sleeve which said Active Duty Military and Veterans were one-hundred percent covered.

2005 my father applied for the Veterans Affair at Travis Air Force Base. His illness was sleep apnea, but he did not believe the disease qualified for a high enough disability percentage—you needed a minimum of fifty-percent. Our family was not sure how the doctors calculated the disability, but that Christmas my father came down under a severe flu. Coughing, poor dieting, sneezing, sleeping long and off hours, he took the test and came out ninety-percent disabled. His sickness surpassed December. We, although had trouble celebrating Christmas as a family, the Veteran Affair helped reduce our finances in covering tuition. Graduating from UC Davis in a year accumulated twenty-thousand dollars—equivalent to a new car or two years of housing in the Bay.

My brother has been craving Academy of Arts over a year now in San Francisco, but the tuition simply was discouraging. After calling and texting him, I slipped off the coffee sleeve and folded it into my satchel.


Writing Habits (Recap of Today)

Orhan Pamuk is perhaps my favorite contemporary author. Like him, I care about every line written, the texture, pace, consonance, syllables and so forth, almost like a poet (Although I do head John Gardner’s advice when he said attention to every line is detrimental). So I write slow or irritable, as I listen closely to every enunciation. Ultimately, attention to lines can disrupt the movement in prose. Prose seems to require a steady rhythm, a perpetuation, because there are two levels of movement constantly in motion: (a) the story itself, the piece seen, and (b) language, which is my weakness. Some “literary” writers, like myself, will ignore the first point and focus on language, usually creating a dream-like quality in their writings, i.e. Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. Some authors like Joyce and Faulkner will try to emulate the consciousness word for word, which is a jarring read, difficult to find the development.

I sat in a bagel shop working on an experience in Tomales Bay.  I hit bumps in the story, where I felt there were no directions. Unlike a play, you can avoid unnecessary movements in fiction, but I was not sure how to apply now—these were usually my writers block. But then I remembered Pamuk’s work habits. When he hit a wall, he would work on different parts of the novel. Admittedly, he wrote structurally. I took his advice and created the parameters of the first chapter, or at least, where the story needs to logically connect. In this momentum I am more attuned to sensory detail, and I can focus on language, which is my first priority. Plot, I’ll have to worry about that later once I develop a story.



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