what sustains me

I’m not sure what kind of relationship is required to justify the term ‘friend‘. There’s a woman I encounter every Sunday and we often exchange greetings. She has a thick European accent of some sort and is rather focussed on her task, so we never talk much, but we have a definite connection. She comes, with her little dog and shopping trolley, to search through the dumpsters behind the green grocer/baker/take-away shops.
I’m not exactly sure what she looks for, but it’s part of the green grocer’s rubbish. On the other hand, I am there to search for discards from the baker. We both avoiding all those chicken carcasses and salad scraps from the take-away shop. You can see her in this picture looking on with a degree of curiosity (or is it suspicion?) as I take a picture of my dumpster. We have an unspoken agreement to mine our own territory and respect the other person’s claim.

[dumpster and friend]
[my ‘friend’ watches from her dumpster, while I investigate another]

I did well yesterday: two wholemeal sourdough loaves (which my older son enjoys), a fruit cob (of which my partner will partake), and a baguette-shaped wholemeal sourdough with sun-dried tomato, which is destined to be my weekend lunches for a couple of weeks.

[freegan bread from my dumpster]
[freegan bread from ‘my’ dumpster]

After retrieving my freegan bread I walked down the road a bit to Dose Espresso.

[my friend the barista in Dose Espresso]
[my ‘friend’ the barista in Dose Espresso]

I budget for two coffee-shop coffees per week, and both of them are usually take-aways from here. Like most cafés, they ask the customer’s name and write it on the lid with the order (always a LB) when they take your order so they can call out to you when the coffee is ready. They quickly learnt both my name and my order, so we’re kind-of friends. They say hello Michael, when I arrive, and the barista will often start on my order when they see me walk in; before I’ve even paid. I have no idea what their names are, nor do I wish to develop any closer relationship with them, but I do very much appreciate the job they do and in my head they’re my ‘friends’.

I uploaded the bread photo today as I was preparing this blog entry and auntysocial commented on it. She’s a ‘friend’ on LiveJournal. Auntysocial and I have never spoken (she lives in Los Angeles, I live in Sydney). I know a little bit about her, though, as I’ve been reading her blog for years. I admire her work and definitely regard her as a real ‘friend’, even though we have a very limited relationship. We’ve both had periods during which we’ve retreated into our own worlds for various reasons, but our connection has remained.

On reflection (and this reflection was prompted, I think, by seeing the movie Still Life yesterday), these connections I have with various people are what sustains and feeds and nourishes me – even more than my freegan bread does.

About oldblack

ageing and decaying, misanthropic, cynical...black
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14 Responses to what sustains me

  1. O.B., anyone you think is a friend is one! I have a friend who hates that the baristas remember her name and call it out when she walks into her coffee place (near where she works). She thinks it is overly familiar. I don’t drink coffee, and don’t frequent any place with baristas, so alas, no one knows MY name!

    Those breads look good! Can’t believe they threw them out. What a waste. Any silly person knows if good bread is stale all you have to do is reheat it to freshen it up. Yum!

    • oldblack says:

      I actually have very mixed feelings about barista-type ‘friends’. I prefer to be a bit distant and would be completely happy if they didn’t know my name. Of course there’s always the commercial aspect of the ‘relationship’ – suspected or real. I assume most shop people are friendly to me only to get me back as a customer again. But on the other hand, I can see that if you work in a coffee shop, making hundreds of coffees each day, it might be almost essential for your sanity to try & give the job a bit a depth and meaning by establishing any sort of relationship with the customers.

      • I’m sure you’re not alone in preferring to be anonymous. Also, it’s obviously part of the commercial aspect of the job that they take names, but as you say, it might also be a sanity measure in order to feel more connected to a deeper part of the job. If you’re a people person, it’s more fun that way. If not, then it’s just an exercise issued by the corporation that you must carry out in order to stay employed! I rarely, if ever, give my name to anyone I buy stuff from, but if I’ve gone in over and over and feel I will continue to do so, I might. It’s not essential to my well being, though. And honestly, if I had to give a name at a coffee place it might make me a bit belligerent, because I’d hate that it was so superficial, which in most cases I’m sure it is.

        On the “friend” question, I hope you consider me one. I feel like we are for sure online friends. I check in on your blog frequently and hope very much that things with your mother are settled a bit. It worries me when you don’t post (publicly) for a long time, but I know you make private posts, and hope that is something that you find helpful for yourself.

      • oldblack says:

        Yes, Julee, I unequivocally regard you as a friend, who is very much appreciated. It’s a funny world, the world of on-line relationships. When we meet people in the flesh and observe them and their interactions with us and with others we get to know them in many ways, including aspects that they may not be aware that they have revealed – their body language, their tone of voice, their facial expression etc. But with on-line friends only certain aspects are revealed. Most communication is well controlled and very few things ‘just slip out’. It can often take a long time to build up a good picture of what the other person is really like.

  2. I certainly do regard you as a friend, too. I’m auntysocial on live journal, and Laurie Avocado in many other places. I have a new blog– http://evanescent-city.blogspot.com I’ve just started it, looking for local readership. I’m going to try to keep both blogs going. Now that I’m getting the hang of my new computer, I hope to be posting more.

    • oldblack says:

      Hi Laurie! 🙂
      I thought of you just today – a couple of hours ago when I was out on my pre-breakfast stroll around rat-city where I work. I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt with “City of Angels” written on it…”I wonder if he’s met Aunty Social?“, I thought.
      Local readership is definitely not me, but I’ll be reading your new blog nonetheless. Not always commenting though….I have to be feeling rather positive about myself to be that bold.

  3. OB, I had a work friend years back, much younger than me. We worked on a help desk together. His ONLY friends, by and large, were online. I couldn’t understand it and thought it was unhealthy. He only ever met men online (he was gay) and once explained to me that his best friends were online, he’d never met most of them, but he felt very close to some of them. Fast forward to just a few years ago, when I began meeting people online through FaceBook, Craig’s List chat rooms, and through WordPress. How differently I feel about online friendships now! I think you are right that these relationships take much longer to unfold. I suspect that’s one reason that for me they’re more successful (of late) than my in-person friendships. I guess I tend to be hard on people (my husband thinks I am). I have too many expectations. Whereas if I read something you (for example) write and don’t completely believe it, I can just laugh, blow it off, and not think too much about it. Weird, huh? It’s definitely funny, the online world. Like a parallel universe, I think.

    • oldblack says:

      I agree that the world of on-line friendships is a strange and different one. As perhaps was the case for your gay friend, the risk of rejection and hurt can be better managed. There’s always more distance to begin with and you can very gradually build up the friendship in a very controlled way. And besides, as you said, the greater distance and absence of face-to-face confrontation allows you to just dismiss a person who offends you. For many people, and perhaps I am one of these, closer face-to-face relationships are way too scary.

      • I’m glad online relationships are an option, even though I didn’t think that years ago. And I know there are people who are not great at having many face-to-face friends (my husband among them) and prefer a little distance to make them feel more comfortable. I used to think I would rather have many friends (in person) and that was so when I was younger. However, as I’ve gotten older and apparently harder on people, the online thing has worked out really well. Since I tend not to socialize as much as I once did, it’s also nice to feel connected to people even when I am not getting together with them in person.

  4. Lucille says:

    Oh dear, I had my very own rat city this week in the garden. There was a dead one lying on top of the compost bin. Later it was transferred to the lawn, by a fox I suspect, where the maggots quickly got to work. I had to mow round it. You’d have been surprised to see it on my blog! I think I’d have lost a few friends if I had posted a picture of it there. Anyway I felt I could share that here. I thought of you on Friday too when we went up to Cambridge to see our son getting a scholarship. I hope your daughter is happy there.

    • oldblack says:

      That’s nice that we have the sort of relationship where rats are an acceptable topic of conversation, Lucille. And nice that you see a dead rat & think of me

      Your son getting a scholarship! Wow!! Congratulations to him!
      I do hope my daughter is happy at Cambridge. Her partner has now joined her, so that’s got to be a bonus, but I don’t hear much about how her work is going. I think she’s too stressed to write.

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