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2007-08-28 - 8:34 p.m.

I’m beginning to think I worry a bit too much about location. I’m not sure exactly where it became so rooted in my head, that the place you came from, or where you live, or where you go drink, that it could become such a defining characteristic.

I caught a show last night, where a friend was lost for becoming too “New York.” Granted they were spoofing on Sex and the City, and their caricatures were clubbing, striving, prissy women, that just about anyone would be annoyed by, but that was the point. That meant they were clubby, striving, and prissy. There was nothing New York about it as far as the New York I know, and I found myself, on what should have been a nice quiet night at home, grinding my teeth.

Thankfully this was a helpful process at the time. I made myself a bowl of my own recipe of popcorn - butter, garlic salt, and fresh grated parmesan cheese - and one bowl translates to at least twenty minutes in oral repair afterwards. I can’t be the first to submit themselves to an impromptu teeth brushing to remove a stubborn shell from it’s bunker. The mere fact that I consider flossing at any juncture should be a strong enough deterrent to keep me from munching down the fluffy bastards, but they’re too damn lovely, and the number of people who are genuinely impressed with the fact that I pop it in a pan on the stove...it’s staggering really. There is awe. Awe! My Dad always made it that way. Fer Christ sake, kernels in pan, oil in pan, turn on heater. It’s not exactly my highest culinary achievement, but everytime...’I’ve never done it that way! How does that work?”

If all the microwaves in the world just up a disappeared would the world still function? Would popcorn still exist, or would it just disappear into the ethereal mists of our pasts? Would we sit in our old age, rocking gently on the porch, telling our grandchildren about the halcyon days of our youth, where we dined on this glorious manna that could double as packaging material? We'd spin tales of butter soaked kernels and massive tubs that no one ever finished, and no one ever carried out of the theater. We speak with discovered curiosity that the standard snack food to gobble down where 'Silence is Golden', (So says Cingular, so say we all...) is one with a distinctive crunch. They’d of course, simply nod, and go back to their holographic iPods depicting bloody executions done in the round to benefit the state.

“Popcorn,” we’d say, in teary remembrance. “That was the stuff, kiddo.”

“Right, Pops....” our children would mutter. “Ma! I think it’s time to up grandda’s prescription!”

Popcorn...

Oh, right, sorry, New York.

But I guess that’s my point. New York has this image of being a cadre of professionally minded neurotic individuals who dine out every night, use the term “lunch” as a verb, and frequently “lunch” for the expressed purpose of obtaining professional gains from the unlucky individual across the table from us. Unlucky, of course, because we’d be trying to scam them into paying for our soy latte, and garden salad.

They probably don’t picture a guy sitting around his shitty couch watching the game, and dining on a bowl of homemade popcorn, and a double bacon cheeseburger. Pig, Lactate, Cow, Pig, Lactate, Cow...its enough to give the Orthodox Jewish community fevered nightmares. If only I could find a way to throw in some chicken, venison and duck. Were there a dish like that, I think they’d have to augment the Ten Commandments. Anytime someone bit into one, a member of PETA would wake from his sleep enveloped in sweat. The double bacon cheeseburger is a meal so potent it requires a post-coital cigarette: “Was it good for you?” You’ll say. And you’re stomach would respond. “That was the best!”

Note to self...don’t write whilst hungry.

Still, the double cheeseburger, bacon or not, speaks more to the Chicagoan’s soul and expectation. (Bacon or not. Who am I kidding? Bacon is the very glue that holds the beast together! It’s the sticky, greasy...jeez...stay on topic, stay on topic.) The show spoke from that Midwestern point of view, and having made visits out there recently, I rather enjoy that point of view.

I’ll grant you though, while I stood on my friends stoop, outside of downtown Chicago, but no where near Chicagoland, I couldn’t help but mention the fact that it didn’t feel like I’d left Brooklyn. Same tenements. Same local bar. Hell, even the hipsters were identical. There was a little more love for Metal out there, but outside of that, little difference.

Maybe my mind just cringes at the thought that someone would think of me that way, since I’ve lived in New York now, as of August 6th, a whopping five years. (I think that makes me, officially, a New Yorker. Hold for a moment, while I do my little dance. A little shimmy-shimmy-shake, bop-shu-wadda-wadda, du-wop! And I’m back.)

I notice, these days, when I might do something a bit prissy, or even faintly striving, when I find myself living up to the New York reputation in any small way...well, it doesn’t stop me from doing it, but there’s an itch at the back of my head that lays on a little guilt. Granted, the last time I was remotely prissy was when I removed myself from the lip of the stage of a strip club where the forty-some-odd stripper was lactating HPV, so I feel somewhat validated in that particular “chicken-shit” moment.

I still spend time trying to defend my birth state, Connecticut, explaining to people, that it’s not all people named Muffy and well tressed china patterns. (Though I do know a Muffy. It was a nickname, but her real name was Wilhamina, so that didn’t help much.) It was industrial, blue collar, mainly Italian, lots of Cameros.

Now I feel like I have to defend myself from the New York stereotypes too.

When I went to my friend’s wedding out in Iowa, every time I was introduced I’d immediately be greeted with, “Oh, you’re the one from New York.” It got to the point that I started asking the bride and groom to “Just say I’m from Brooklyn. Such a better tang.”

I guess the truth is, there is a large prissy, neurotic, striving community, but they’re across the river in Manhattan. I’m sure there are some Manhattanites who’d defend themselves here, but come on, if you’re spending a thousand dollar premium to live in a neighborhood twenty blocks from a subway station, just so you can avoid living in the boroughs, you’ve got to be a little striving and neurotic.

A bartender at my local bar somehow managed a cell phone with a 212 area code, and he’s been offered neigh on a thousand dollars for his number. Not his phone. For his number. Let me repeat that.

There are people in this city willing to pay good money for the veneer of being stationed in Manhattan.

I’m earnestly deathly afraid that at the mere mention of my home town, all of that sad reputation that my neighbors to the West have cultivated will be hefted onto my shoulders.

Maybe it’s not even that I’m afraid I’ll have to endure it. My insistence on drinking Budweiser and cigarettes, and my love of dive bars tend to dismantle the expectations.

Maybe it’s more that I need to believe that the New York I still love, the one I grew up with - gritty, harrowing, honest, horrifically and terribly honest - that it’s still out here somewhere. I’m can’t even say I exemplify that by any means, but I still feel a bit of it here in my neighborhood. Somewhere in the scurf. But I worry when I see those condos being built all around McCarren park. I worry when they show off the new building plans for downtown Brooklyn, or Coney Island.

I worry terribly that if that grungy spirit is quashed here entirely, I might, just might...and God the nightmare this would be, I can barely even type it. If that walk and talk were beaten out of us here in BK, then I might...just might, have to move to Queens.

Shudder the thought.

Now I really do need comfort food.


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