Just to sit and sip

Today I went to a coffee shop with my laptop to write.

There was just over a dozen customers in the cafe, some writing, studying, reading. Conversing. The usual, well-traversed cafe visitors.

One person stood out as I looked up in between paragraphs.

A man, likely in his 50s (though tough to ascertain on appearance alone). He wore a maroon t-shirt and cargo khaki pants. He sat alone at a table, had already been occupying it when I arrived, still there two hours later. He’d ordered and sipped at two different beverages in the time since I’d arrived.

He had not a book in hand, or a pen, or a phone or notebook. Nothing to read or write. No one sitting across to talk to.

Just stared straight ahead; occasionally sat with eyes closed, perhaps listening or meditating. I did not hear him speak to order his second drink.

There’s simple assumptions that I made: that he can hear, that he speaks English, that he prefers to be alone. That he likes people, that he likes coffee, that he is wealthy and spends all his days here. But these are all broad and based on personal experience and expectations, not on any gathered evidence or conversation.

Out of all of the customers in the cafe, this man stands out to me. Does that say more about me than him? That I found his sitting alone, without a book or a pen, to be interesting? How is that abnormal? Why do I think that is abnormal and not just, y’know, natural?

There are also judgments based on assumptions: that he is lonely, that he likes to be alone. But he’s also around people.

Perhaps he does live alone, but prefers to surround himself with people just to feel a part of things.

Or maybe he just likes the drinks and it doesn’t matter that he’s alone, not reading, not studying, not writing or doing a crossword puzzle.

Perhaps, to feel complete, he just likes to sit among people and feel the air tremor from the populace; for a short time every day recognizing that the society around him, the community, is family.

There’s a thousand reasons he could be sitting alone in a public cafe, and none of them really matter. This is just an observation of a person I found interesting as I was at the cafe today.

Perhaps he looked at me the same way: why does this guy sit with a computer, sipping coffee, instead of just sitting and watching, listening, learning. Why does this guy write out his thoughts instead of thinking about them?

Why does Joe not just sit and sip?

The Fly in the Window

There’s a fly buzzing by the window

and only I can see it.

He’s a quick one zipping in circles.

I can feel his wings,

one flickering and fluttering harder than the other.

He touches down on the sill resting, perhaps,

or just waiting for the chance to leap up

and zig not zag into my eye for

a visit through my cornea and

a venture deep into my brain,

the buzzing, it grows and it hurts

and sings and stings when the fly

is inside of my brain. But I will not

let it get that far, not by the window.

I swat with a wafer thin towel,

but I miss. My palm slaps the glass.

The towel trembles, empty and sad while

the fly spirals high, smashing into the glass again and again

as though taunting my failure to connect,

and each bounce a threat to my corneas,

an invasion of my ears.

The fly continues to buzz inside my brain and

all I can hope is that soon others will here it, too.


Joe’s top 5 films of 2019

Not that anyone has asked, but I was about to send this to my brother and thought, why not just share with everyone?

For the record, I LOVED a lot of films this past year. It was a wonderful year for film, film-makers, and cinematic art. Get your butts in the seats and catch more movies, and stream when they come to your preferred service!

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Special shout-out to “A Hidden Life” which just missed the cut for this list. Malick’s latest is a masterpiece, and there’s a beauty in that film that’s exceptional. See it. Soon.


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Image result for uncut gems5) Uncut Gems – At first I was annoyed. Adam Sandler is Howard, a barely likable NY City Jeweler with a big gambling problem. That’s not true. He’s not likable at all. He’s cheating on his wife, gambling with expensive fine items that don’t belong to him, and pissing off everyone in his life. But there’s one obsession that drives Howard, and the film, and elevates our experience for the entire 2-hour run: The uncut gemstone he’s smuggled into the country, and that now temporarily sits in the possession of basketball star Kevin Garnett (who is surprisingly GREAT in the film). The treat to this tale is discovering that, despite how gross you may find Howard to be, you can’t look away because the next big score has potential to get him out of the current spiral of disaster… but after that, there’s another score around the corner, and another, and another…

The Safdie brothers are film-makers who have found a way to pop kinetic energy on the screen surrounding characters you love to hate, and this movie has Sandler’s best performance — the outrage over his lack of nomination is real, and deserved. And the score adds a layer of mysticism and a universe of possibilities that, as a creative person, is inspiring.


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Image result for les miserables 20194) Les Misérables (2019) – Don’t let the title catch you off guard, this is not a musical or an adaptation of the novel. This is a glorious film about a special crimes division of cops in an impoverished suburb outside of Paris. The day-in-the-life plot begins as Stéphane begins his first day as a transfer into the SCU, an anti-crime police division. He learns the the power structure of the neighborhood locals while balancing the means to an end within the limits of the law. When Stéphane and the two cops are caught on-camera firing anti-riot guns at a group of kids amid a confusing, amped up arrest, all hell breaks loose.

I went into this film without seeing the trailer, not knowing what to expect, and was floored to the very last frame. If you’re a fan of “City of God”, then you will love “Les Misérables”.


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Image result for knives out3) Knives Out – As a whodunnit, “Knives Out” is pretty straight-forward, but that’s the fun of this flick. It’s fun, unpredictable, and a joy to watch because it was a joy to make. Daniel Craig is absolutely delightful as Benoit Blanc, a cajun investigator brought to a rich manor to peel back the truth about the death of a millionaire patriarch. Hijinks and discoveries ensue, and like a fine onion the layers of this family’s secrets are revealed, and no one is safe from the judgments and discoveries.

It’s no surprise that there’s already a sequel in the works from writer/director Rian Johnson. As far as a fun time at the movies, you can’t go wrong with “Knives Out”.


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Image result for once upon a time in hollywood2) Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood – My favorite Tarantino movie is “Inglourious Basterds”, which is a masterpiece, but this would be a close second. There’s a simple joy in watching a movie with smart dialogue that highlights the most familiar aspects of a film-maker’s career. Some say Tarantino simply recycles himself, but there’s nothing wrong with a creator sticking to what works, and exploring those artistic strengths in fresh settings with a multitude of characters. Tarantino loves old films and television, a history-buff when it comes to hold Hollywood, and it shows. There’s a romanticized glamour that comes from memories and pictures and films from Hollywood pre-1970s, and what Tarantino does is rip at the edges of that glamour to show the hints of what’s to come, the dangers of romanticizing the past, and the importance of the fantasy veneer.


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Image result for parasite poster1) Parasite – No other film last year is as well-orchestrated or executed than “Parasite”. Every 15 minutes there’s a new turn, not so much a twist as an adjustment, a re-calibration of how we are perceiving events. A family awash in poverty, pushing to make ends meet by folding pizza boxes and climbing toilets to snag free wi-fi, insert themselves into the lives of a rich family. Slowly, the poor folks assume fake identities to grab the reins, but their own views on status change from admonishing the rich, to admiring them.

There’s an incredible balance of humor, suspense, and, by the end, heart-breaking drama and trauma that are deftly handled by director Bong Joon Ho. It’s truly mesmerizing to watch this film and feel your brain “gasp” when new characters are revealed, and the plot swivels tonally to emotions completely unexpected. When people talk about movies being a roller-coaster ride, “Parasite” serves as a prime example.


Other films I loved from 2019 (in no particular order):

The Peanut Butter Falcon

The Irishman




The Farewell

Little Women

Blinded by the Light