a writer's journal - politics, music, american culture, esoteric aspects of life, and stories

Friday

Peoplewatchingholes

God, I love McDonald's. Not the food so much, although I am a salt fiend - will lick for salt - but the atmosphere, the ethos, the Hannah Arendt's-banality-of-evil of it. You know like, you can compare it to the 50s diner and so lucidly see what's changed about America.

I became an enthusiast of peoplewatching a few years ago, and there are some places you can go for invisible peoplewatching, like shopping malls and museums. It's almost expected there. You can smoke in a park and stare for five minutes and that's plenty of both for a day - turn around and walk home with spring in step and the brain's tongue wags. But McDonald's is a perfect place to Provocatively Peoplewatch. When we were in college we'd sneak a bit of p-watching or e-dropping at Perky's (Perkin's - it was a block from the strip club come to think of it), but you can go too far, get grilled for that. If you gawk too much in a country bar you can get your car molested as I have, or much worse I'm sure.

McDonald's, now, it's by its nature safe, like a graveyard. Lack of rules, etiquette and pride; but lack of meaning, value or risk. You can shout in a McDonald's, so long as you bought your food and don't look like a bum; you can sell things in the back, so long as you don't make a fuss or do it every day. Making out, singing along with the soundtrack, running children - vibrant things there, framed in that whiteout backdrop. So you can peoplewatch pretty openly, with ice on your tongue from the never ending diet coke (I'm too lazy to chew ice anymore). We all learned to peoplewatch in school under flourescents and on molded chairs: just feels natural to me.

I'm in there every couple of months normally, to kill a few hours with a book in a corner, in sunglasses, and it's good for me, I stare a bit and think pretty hard, squeeze the stone-mind and try to get some blood to drip. But on the road, in towns unfamiliar, times I need the jolt of the raw truth, I look more at the structure itself, the furnishings (again just like malls) are always different always the same; I also scrutinize employees, food, and tray liner. So I was there last night, checking in on the Stewart beach one. Two gulls were watching two girls claw at each other's straps in the play area, past the brackish half moon shadows cast by the carnivalesque striped parasols. Inside I was immediately struck by a hanging three ply mobile that certainly wasn't there last year..: It caught the stuttered breeze of my casual entrance and spun, showing a panel of fries, a panel with a girl who looked a bit like Garofalo in black eyeliner and a provocatively obvious foundation line giving oral sex to a french fry with a rather driven look leftwards, over a caption reading "shoes aren't my only obsession", and then the third panel was revealed a cropped closeup of Ronald McDonald's feet. I smiled at this, and smiled at the plump, sweaty girl and overly tall begoitered boy who took my order together in some sort of retraining mind meld. God, I love McDonald's. Like loving guns I suppose, or a worthy enemy you've been sleeping with for some time.
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