From the Front Lines, November 29, 2011

I should be writing the new chapter of my new novel.

But…

… there are Christmas carols playing in this cafe. Anne is writing on the other side of the table. We and our laptop computers are facing each other as if we’re engaged in an intense, wordless game of Battleship.

Santa Claus is winding his way between the cafe tables as if lost in a maze, his jolly eyes eagerly seeking the wide-eyed wonder of a child, but he’s finding only mild amusement of the adults on their gadgets and the knitting circle at the community table.

An enormous chess set sits neglected in the middle of the dining area, its pieces arranged in bizarre clusters, as if the pawns and knights and horses had been involved in some new game of their own when someone shouted “Freeze!”

A man is carrying a large bird-roost upon which sits an enormous fake owl. He’s been part of a community meeting here in the cafe about wildlife in our neighborhood. Someone else is taking down an exhibit about the increasing number of coyotes in these parts.

And I just felt like it was a scene that shouldn’t go unreported.

I hope you’re keeping your eyes wide open for unusual activity in your neighborhood. The holiday season inspires more than dehumanizing scenes of shopping madness. It serves up silver platters of hilarious human behavior. You just have to stay at the edges of the madness and open your eyes.

More than one of these details will find a way into the chapter I’m writing tonight. The world is just throwing good ideas at me, better than any I would come up with if I were at home staring at my laptop. I like to set my writing tools out against a backdrop of spontaneous, bustling, unpreditable life. It’s the best generator for wild ideas.

And it’s free, 24 hours a day, if you know where to look.

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