For a while, this skimming of the world's muchness felt meaningful. I convinced myself that I was pursuing the examined life, taking nothing on someone else's word, exhausting my options. But at a certain point, I just felt exhausted. Simple exuberance was not a real embrace of anything and did not constitute a meaningful life. A meaningful life was built of commitments, and that I had none was a cause for brooding. This I liked to do from the top of the unfinished parking deck next to our offices. You could stand on the unrailed edge and look out onto some of the great tropes of the city: the tops of all those palms, the cement-lined Los Angeles River, the Hollywood Hills, and, on some smogless days, the sparkling atoll of downtown.
People went up there mostly for the cell coverage—to have a private job interview or a conversation with a girlfriend—but it was also a good place to dwell on all of the nagging questions. Most days during the workweek, I ate lunch alone at a French-Vietnamese diner on National Boulevard. I sat on a stool at the bar and read for a while from a book or worked the crossword puzzle in a Times left on the counter. On Tuesdays during the summer, though, I usually walked over to the Culver City Farmers' Market in the afternoon. They held it on one sidewalk of a small park downtown. The selection was limited, but there was enough to cobble together a lunch, and the market always made for good people-watching: small kids kicking around the grass; their parents and nannies flirting; old people sitting in the chairs in front of the small stage where light jazz and funk bands played; and professionals lingering, on lunch break from the growing number of tech companies and furniture galleries and ad agencies in the area.