Too Short

Kent Mitchell
5 min readMar 16, 2017


If I write now will time wait for the product? Or will I become one of the wrinkled souls walking up and down the sidewalk in front of me here. There’s a dog with white paws, a big dog, walking awkwardly on a leash. Followed by a younger woman with highly decorated shoes. With a baby stroller. And a middle-aged man wearing an A’s cap. And now they’re stopping at a shiny new Honda half-pickup with expensive rims. Impossibly enigmatic. I think they’re landlords because they do exactly what they want, but who knows.

Next. Slow moving man with cane passed by slow-moving woman without one. Yes, I’m sitting in the tapas restaurant with all the senior citizens. Wow, he turned around already and headed back, passed in the opposite direction by lady in pants suit carrying newly-purchased items. Next a woman with a very long black braid. An older woman in stretch pants and black hat. And young-ish Asian-ish bald guy in tee-shirt looking mildly lost but with determination. And I’ve never seen anyone around here quite like young-ish shorter guy all in black with black backpack and bare shoulders. It is one of the earliest warm days of the year.

The Spanish tapas music’s dippy and silly. I remember sitting in this same spot making quiet outbound sales calls several years ago. I can’t keep up with the diversity in Berkeley. And while I know other places aren’t as diverse I’m also sure they have their own forms of diversity, of age, wealth, thoughts and life goals, it just may or may not show on the surface as much. Time is too short for plans. Too short for predicting the future. It’s already here and we’re trapped in it like amber. Roger Zelazny wrote a book I found so engaging many years ago, Nine Princes In Amber. Life is a multi-verse with Amber as the most real and central dimension. Any place can lead there, if you’re a Prince of Amber. People walking around in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto are from many different subcultures and affinity groups (I think people really aren’t from affinity groups but affinity groups are imposed on them). Do we all harken back to some central place like Amber at the heart of the maze? Maybe. Or maybe there’s no heart all, just lots of elements jointly forming a system.

More dippy tapas music. Tried to catch it on Shazam. No luck. What’s the next step, or the next turn in the river I float? Someone’s shouting at the Cheese Board Collective. The dippy music has become jazzy. The sun filters through the Chez Panisse Bunya-Bunya tree. I recall a cool breeze long ago in the Sierra’s, either backpacking or at a camp or entering Yosemite. The river will carry me forward. If I stop and breath for a while I’ll notice more and the memories will wash over me like the words on the back and sides of Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Peppermint Pure-Castile Liquid Soap. I wonder. If I paddle just right, not even too much, can I bring myself into a place where the music is more jazzy and the contrasts a bit more late-afternoon? Obviously late afternoon happens once per day, but do we spend two hours appreciating it each day? Of course not? Too busy. Bizzee. The slow man with the cane goes by again.

Time’s up. Have to go. Before I do, I make another effort to notice what’s in the moment and sense an increased tempo from the traffic, and see a crow, wide wings outstretched, pass above me. If there were eyes to see they’d be noticing now. Only thing I notice is everyone seems spacey, and within myself I feel a void that’s filled neither by olives nor water nor wine nor the predominantly wrinkly passers-by. No, the void within me is emptied out further watching these people and nibbling these olives, leaving me hungrier than when I started as time ticks away and urgency to get to my haircut grows with each passing second.

Time’s up but still I write. Still the postal truck sits in front of me while another small truck gets noisily unloaded. And the crows caw. And the emails roll in. The emails? Yes, piling in and piling up. But what if every email was a gift that I could either accept or decline a I pleased? While a woman calls to “Finley” who has dropped his backpack, I think of a house up higher in the hills with lots of balconies, high above all this, a not-quite-real house that is a combination of places I’ve seen, including one I thought was mine that I lost to an all-cash Chinese buyer at 10pm at night. And the crow caws. And a guy walks by nibbling from a box. The crow caws again. What are these crows up to? Something is happening — I get the feeling I had in Florence when I’d sat too long in one place, as the background music, with loud flutes, becomes more insistent. I really will be late for my haircut if I don’t go. And the check has arrived, and I’ve signed it. And the flutes persist, and I don’t hear the crows but, oh, spoke too soon, I hear them and have a flash of memory. I remember playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends in middle school and getting bored while one of the other players took leadership of the group. Why that now? But I see it: the emptying out terrifies and at the same time it allows me to breathe. I’m supposed to be empty. The crow caws.