An incident that occurred yesterday engendered a frustrating dream last night, or to be more accurate, this morning.
On most weekday afternoons around five o’clock, I walk to Chico Feo for two or three beers. Yesterday was particularly lovely with its offshore breeze and low humidity. I found a seat at the bar and chatted with someone named Thomas about Charles Bukowski. Later, I learned from my friend Jim that the operator of Folly toll booth of the 1920s could refuse entrance to undesirables. Right before leaving, I hung awhile with the swashbuckling twenty-something surf crew, Connor, Nathan, Ike, etc. Eventually, I forked over fifteen bucks to bartender Gavin for three low potency IPAs (tip included) and began my seven-block trek back to East Huron for a chat on the deck with Caroline before she prepared fried chicken, air-fried broccoli, and couscous for dinner.
When walking home, I take various routes, depending on the heat and shade or my mood. Yesterday afternoon, I took East Erie to 4th Street, and as I made the turn, I spotted a couple in their forties playing badminton. She was wearing a knee-length floral dress and giggling girlishly as she retrieved what we vulgarians call the “birdy.”
Lovely, I thought, wholesome.
As I turned right from 4th to Hudson, I encountered eight or so short-term renters who had placed the largest inflatable pool I’d ever seen in the side yard. Three of the young men, in their late twenties or early thirties, splashed around sitting in the pool while three or four women stood over them with their wine. Completing the tableau was a springer spaniel in profile defecating, his head facing the pool.
It was a wonderful sight to see, the cast of characters spaced harmoniously, the modest one-story cream colored clapboard house in the background, the dog triangular. I thought, “Man, Edward Hopper would love this,” and then, “I ought to take a picture,” but I had already passed and knew that if I turned around, the dog likely would have finished its business.
In this age of unlimited photo-shooting, many of us – and I’m including myself here – feel that if we don’t have a photo, it didn’t happen. I remember visiting the Louvre years back and marveling at Japanese tourists viewing masterpieces through the lens of cameras and my ruing their inability to nakedly gaze in appreciation of the art in and of itself. But now here I was approaching the fifth block of Hudson and chiding myself for both not taking the picture and for regretting not taking the picture, which led to more general musings about behavioral oddities in the age of social media.
Fastforward ten hours or so.
I’ve bumped into Bob Dylan on Folly, a younger version than I one I last saw in concert. He’s dressed modestly and is relatively friendly. Afraid of alienating him, I don’t share what a pivotal role he played in my life or ask any of the thousands of questions that have popped up in my now teeming brain.
I’m desperate, though, to take a picture, to prove to the world I was hanging with Bob. He is on Folly for an exhibit of his art, and I ask if I can take a picture of one of his paintings, but he doesn’t answer . I walk away to fiddle with my phone so I can take a photo, but when I come back, he has vanished, replaced by a core of festive people saying, “We heard that Dylan was just here.”
Yes, he had been, and I had been in his presence, sort of, but sort of not, because rather than living the moment, I abstracted the experience by wanting photographic proof, validation for my coolness, hoping that some of his immortality would rub off on me.
 I can’t bring myself to use “shuttlecock” even though “giggling girlishly as she retrieved the shuttlecock” sounds more musical, an improvement over “what we vulgarians call the ‘birdy.’”
 I don’t know if this is related, but Bill Murray was at Chico Feo three weeks ago, and I had no inclination whatsoever to engage him in any way or to take a photo. Also, a couple of Christmases ago, I met Stephen Colbert at a relatively small house party. We conversed about Porter-Gaud, his alma mater and where I used to teach. During the party, only one person asked to have his picture taken with him, which I considered très gauche.