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The peculiar pleasures of reading and people watching

View from the Porch: The ‘Curious Charms of Arthur Popper’

Published on August 11, 2017 3:26PM

Summer reading at Sandpiper Square.

Eve Marx/Cannon Beach Gazette

Summer reading at Sandpiper Square.

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I had time to kill while waiting for a friend, so I took the book I’ve been reading for my book group over to Sandpiper Square. The book is “The Curious Charms of Arthur Popper,” a novel by Phaedra Patrick. It’s about a recently bereaved 69-year-old bloke (it’s a British novel) named Arthur Popper who lives a pedestrian and narrow life. A retired locksmith, he spends his time making cups of tea and eating sad, solitary meals cadged from casseroles and cakes his recently widowed herself neighbor lady brings him. (He finds her an intrusive pain.) Forcing himself to sort through his late wife’s things, he discovers a valuable charm bracelet. While hunting down the story behind each charm, he learns before they met and married, his wife had exotic adventures, a famous lover; and lived on a great estate where pet tigers freely roamed.

I sat reading on a bench for about a quarter of an hour. It turns out “The Curious Charms of Arthur Popper” is an ideal beach or bench book. The whole time I was reading, I was also able to eyeball and eavesdrop. Although clever and well enough written, the novel is not terribly deep. You can easily read it while taking in other things.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spied what I took to be a pair of honeymooners strolling by.

I overheard a tall red-headed woman speaking loudly into her phone.

“Yesterday we saw rabbits,” she said. “Today we saw deer.”

A middle-aged man walked by with some very serious cameras hung around his neck. No iPhone images for him. A vintage Mustang convertible rolled down Hemlock Street. I totally eyeballed that.

Moments later, an enormous mobile home rumbled by with Nevada plates. Have you noticed how many tourists this summer hail from Nevada? They must come to beat the desert heat.

A pair of women sat on a bench outside Duebers enjoying an old-fashioned catch up. They were very jolly. Their happiness did not extend to two grumpy men on an adjacent bench wearing floppy hats and carrying walking sticks.

A man in his 30s hurried past, bearing a large and wobbly cake box. The expression on his face was pure concentration as he struggled not to drop it. Skipping along at his side was an exuberant young boy. “Do you think Mom will like the cake?” the child asked.

His father responded, “It’s supposed to be a surprise, so help me think where we can hide it.”

Having reached a tiresome passage in my book where the protagonist is feeling very sorry for himself, I pulled out my phone to check the time. It was time to skedaddle. I stood up and placed a bookmark in my book. The moment my butt left the bench, a group of five freckled teenagers rushed in to grab it. And why not? Sandpiper Square is a super spot for people watching. You don’t even need a beach book to hide behind.


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