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2005-03-24 - 4:49 p.m.

“How far is it?”

“Just a little up.”

“A little, like, a block, a few blocks, a little light year?”

“We’ve only been walking a minute or so.”

“Like a petite light year? A cute light-year with bows on it?”

“You see that red awning?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s right there.”

“Okay…”

The elevated N train shrunk in the distance behind me. Considering the occations I’ve accidentally taken a subway train to the ass-end of the line in the far reaches of Brooklyn, being eight stops into Queens shouldn’t bother me. But somehow, being at the end of any line is enough to churn my stomach. Simply seeing the tracks end is disconcerting. I can’t help but feel like I’m teetering on the last edge of the last circle of civilization. Such is the effect of brewing an entire existence in an, albeit well populated, three mile radius.

The diner was unlike any diner I’d been to in New York, and because of that, just like every diner I’ve been to in New York; equal parts cozy and edgy. Simple tables adorned with inexpensive candles obviously bought in bulk from a company used to selling their product off for Jewish religious ceremonies; an eight seat bar with inlaid pastel lighting built more for it’s appearance, and for a good spot to deposit the alcohol than as a possible spot to plunk down your posterior; and topped off a non-confrontational sign that drolls over it’s siren call, saying with apathy, “come on it if you really want to…”

My compatriots at the table whip into their menus and begin dissecting each individual dish, swooning over something called “Blackened asparagus.” In my mind, a scorched version of a vegetable I had nightmares about when I was a kid is nothing to get hopped up about, especially if one begins having flashbacks and suddenly feels a overwealming need for his blankee.

“And for you?”

“Jalapeno-turkey burger, but I’d like to replace the salad with the tofu soup, and can I have another mojito, but a little stronger this time?”

“And for you?”

“Fries.”
My gastro-intestinal system was busy enough processing the butterflies to jam much more than fried potato. I loaded on ketchup, while my friends dug into something white, garlicy and starting with an “a.” I didn’t ask questions. The more you know about the food you’re eating the less ecstatic you are to eat it. Next time you pick up a one dollar bill that was printed in the sixties, think about how many people who don’t wash their hands properly have ran it gingerly between their fingers. Ignorance isn’t always bliss, but it makes it a lot easier to function.

I stared out the window when the next bit of discussion whipped into high gear. The streets were wide and nearly bare. Across the street you could see air space between one building in the next. Someone had their own mailbox. It was enough to give me shivers.

When you swim out into the ocean, the tides can start to pull out and away from shore. At first the distance seems manageable, the company seems pleasant, and god damn it, you are getting that beach ball. But as the minutes pass and the waters have their way with you, before you know it, your unguarded shoes and towel are squintable dots in the distance. That’s when the pang hits. Kick me off to jersey, where I don’t know the rails as well, or out into southern Brooklyn, when only an engineer at MIT could tell you when the next G train is coming by, and that pang tightens every thread of my stomach lining.

Adventures into unknown territory seem exciting as hell, still, but when I suddenly I have friends, and appointments, and time tables, and something resembling, horribly, a life, I need to get there and I need to know how long it’s going to take and…oh god, I’m lame.

This is how complacency begins. I could go off into the Bronx and see that band that sounds like they’d be really good in a small venue, or I could stay here in my comfy little familiar coffee house and read the paper in the same order as I have every time previous. (Sports, News, Pulse, pretend to do the crossword.)

I feel a tugging desperate need to go out and have your proto-typical crazy evening, but it doesn’t feel my style, especially since those nights of insanity tend to end with me retching, either physically or metaphorically, on someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Compromise: Find a new coffee shop…but if they don’t have a nice cozy booth by the window, it’s done.

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