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Charlie

(Meshuggah, the Loop)

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Then there are those like Charlie. He's great company -- a pleasure even. While he mulls over the neurotic details of his daily indecisions, you can mentally stretch out and relax. While he verbally squeezes out his morose confessions, epically revealing to you the anatomy of his quivering mind, you can take long country strolls through the landscape of your own imagination, occasionally offering a reassuring "uh-huh" or "no kidding?" just to keep his neurosis properly nourished. Throw him a bone, so to speak. Somehow it's easier to daydream while Charlie chatters than it is alone in a quiet room. It's a likable quality about the guy.

As we sit at a table outside drinking our coffee, up stumbles a bum. The coffee is transcendent -- a string quartet, a carnival in your mouth. The bum hits us up, one after the other. Charlie doesn't miss a beat, answers with a quick brush of his hand. "Go away," says the gesture. "Can't you see I'm busy with my self-absorption?" The bum dawdles off, shrinking into the pavement.

Thing is, he'd told us two different stories: To me he said he was trying to collect bus fare to Detroit. To Charlie it was Memphis.

"Did you notice that?" I ask, interrupting Charlie midsentence.

"Notice what?"

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