Tuesday, April 6

A few days ago I was polishing off Gary Wolf's "Wired: A Romance," at Caffe Pergolesi, a coffee shop in downtown Santa Cruz that attracts an eclectic clientele, from the leather-clad Santa Cruz Vampires biker gang and mods with slicked back, retro-50s hair dos who hang out in front and gather to look under the hoods of their trucks. When I need to get work done, which is always, I spend a lot of time at Pergolesi as an escape from the distractions of my house. I see a lot of the same people there, but one guy I'd never seen before sat down next to me as I read the final pages of my book. I had headphones on, my knees up and the book propped in front of my face, a "don't bother me" position if there ever was one. But this guy, a tall guy with well-groomed brown hair, wearing a backpack even while sitting, asked me, "What are you reading?" I had to take off my headphones and ask him to repeat what he said, then I told him what it's about. (See my last post on that.) All it took was the word "wired" to get him going.

"Wired," he said. "What comes through wires? Light. Light comes through wires."

"Umm. Actually, electricity comes through wires," I said, the scientist in me at the fore.

"Light," he said again, gesturing at the neon beer signs behind us. He held up his hand toward the signs and said, "But then the shadow of doubt comes, the shadow of doubt of the word of God."

At the G-word I knew he was a loony, but trying to be nice, I didn't interrupt and let him preach on for a bit. Finally it was obvious that he wasn't going to stop anytime soon on his own, and when he said he's here to bring wisdom to the world, then I tried to stop him.

"I don't like being preached to," I said and put my hand up. A girl on the deck below the porch I was sitting on looked up at me through the railing and said, "Justin, I didn't notice it was you. Come down here."

I was confused for a minute, but she looked cute, from what I could see in a moment between the posts of the railing. I stood up and started gathering up my stuff--my book, my backpack, some papers, my coffee--but he kept on in earnest. It was taking me a bit to get my stuff together and the girl said again, "Justin, come over here."

The preacher said, "What's your name?" and I said, "Justin," mumbled, lying. He said, "Jesse, you have to bring Jesus into your heart."

I finally got my stuff together and went and sat down a table next to the girl and her two friends. She had shoulder length, blond hair with some body that curled inward at the bottom, framing her round face and angular chin.

She asked me what I was reading, and I told her it's about the magazine "Wired." "Have you heard of it?" She didn't say anything, and I said something lame and partly untrue about how it wouldn't be interesting to most people but I'm a magazine writer and I wanted to find out more about this one. I realized I was being self-deprecating and said, "The guy who started the magazine was kind of crazy. He thought he was a revolutionary and that the magazine was going to change the world." This didn't seem to light a fire with her or her friends so I let it drop. I shot the shit with them for a while longer, and then they got ready to go.

The girl's friend, a burly guy with the black hood of sweatshirt over his shaved head, said sweetly, "If we leave that guy's going to come down and bother him," pointing at me. Al along the preacher had been sitting by himself on the balcony, muttering to himself and singing snippets of songs that sounded vaguely familiar. "I'll be alright," I said.

My new acquaintances got up to leave and the cute girl said, "It was good to meet you," then caught herself. "I mean, it was good to see you again, Justin." I smiled back, my heart warmed that she'd taken it upon herself to save me from being saved.


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