From the Balcony: Breaking from the norm

I like routine. Not routine as in "ordinary," but routine as in "I wake up at 5 a.m., write a draft of my column, get ready for my day job, ride my motorcycle to work, review the first draft of my column, polish it up, submit it and get on with the rest of my day" kind of routine.

Some people spend their lives in pursuit of adrenaline, adventure and the thrill of not knowing what's next. As for me, I do better with regimen. Don't get me wrong, I like intrigue and unpredictability as much as anyone. But I've come to recognize that order keeps me happy and grounded.

A couple of years ago, I made a routine of going to Starbucks up in La Crescenta every day before work. I'd ride my motorcycle down the hill, get my coffee and chill out for 30 minutes. It was my own mini-moment of solitude, and I had grown quite fond of it.

I had even taken a liking to being recognized as a regular there. I could walk in, and whoever was on duty would know what to pour me. When I moved to Glendale, that ritual came to an end.

Lately, I've been making time now and then to grab a cup of joe at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on the corner of Glendale and California. While it's not a full-blown tradition, with my busy schedule, it's as close as I get these days. I like to park in the same spot when I can. I like to sit at the same table. I like that I recognize the people behind the counter and many regular patrons.

I see my youngest daughter's second-grade teacher. She greets me with a "Hi, Zoe's dad," which is more than enough recognition for me. There's the meticulously dressed woman in the Porsche 911. She gets her coffee, returns to her car, lights her cigarette and gets on with her own routine. There is the woman who runs the dry cleaners next door, forced to smoke her cigarettes pacing the sidewalk to avoid being ticketed.

And there is the guy who recognizes me from this column. I like talking to him about Glendale politics. They are all part of my daily grind as I am a part of theirs. I wonder if they see me as "the guy who always rides his motorcycle?" Maybe they don't even notice.

The thing about routine is, it's not always routine. There are subtle and not-so-subtle variations that I find fascinating. One day you're eating a cold blueberry scone, the next day you get it heated up, and suddenly the old routine is changed forever. Or, has my life become so boring that microwaved pastry is a revelation?

Aside from my self-revealed tendency to make the trivial seem monumental, I am capable of recognizing larger deviations when they occur. Like the other day, as I was parking my bike in my usual spot preparing to have my usual coffee and heated scone, I was approached by a completely unique vision in chartreuse spandex.

This was no ordinary vision. This was a big, burly man in the tightest, shortest miniskirt I've ever seen. It would have been completely inappropriate if it weren't for the fact that his 3-inch platform pumps, pantyhose and full makeup really tied the look together.

As I removed my helmet, "Awesome" was all I could muster.

The guy didn't flinch. He simply got in his car and drove away – leaving nothing more than a resplendent memory etched forever in my mind.

Inside the Coffee Bean, looks of shock and awe were pasted on every familiar face. As I got in line for my coffee, no one said much. Instead of the ordinary chatter, there were mischievous smiles and a shared sense of bewilderment. There would be no routine on this morning. No one's day would proceed as normal.

"Maybe he lost a bet," said a guy standing next to me.

"Maybe he didn't. Either way, green really isn't his color," I replied.

I like routine. You never know what's going to happen within it.

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