In the wake of the passing of film critic Roger Ebert, I am, like many of Ebert’s admirers, revisiting some of his writings. I was particularly struck by this essay, All By Ourselves Alone, in which he discusses his travel rituals in cities like Venice and London. He opens the piece at a familiar Venetian cafe:
Of course you must have a newspaper, a book, a sketchpad–anything that seems to absorb you. If you are simply sitting there, you will appear to be a Lonely Person and people will look away from you. If you seem preoccupied, you can observe them more closely. In any event, I do not sit there for the purpose of people-watching.
No, I am engaged in Being By Myself in a City Where No One Knows Who I Am and No One I Know Knows Where to Find Me. I have such places in many cities. London, of course. Paris. Rome. Stockholm. Edinburgh. Cape Town. Cannes.