Friday, November 17, 2006
A Cold Burrito
This night should have worked out better than it did.
It's Friday, always a good thing. I wanted to do something different, so I went to a reading at KGB Bar, a cool East Village saloon/reading space.
I don't go there often, but when I do I usually have a good time. It's small and the crowd is always supportive. I feel that if I'm going to live in New York I should go to places like this, instead of parking my rear end in front of the television and slipping my brain under the sofa.
I was so proud of myself. Instead of going to a movie and hiding in the dark for two hours, I was going to be out with fellow humans, listening to real live people reading their work. It sounded emotionally satisfying and rather sophisticated.
So how did it end up with me being angry, frustrated, and alone? Well, I think it started with the burrito place.
The reading was pretty good, but as the place filled up with mostly friends and family of the authors, I began to feel more alone. A woman next to me asked me how many authors would be appearing after the intermission and I told her three. (Turned out it was only one more author, but it felt like three.)
I guess I thought things might happen from that little bit of conversation, but I found this woman and I didn't have much to say to one another, despite our mutual interest in writing.
The reading ended and I got ready to leave.
"Have a good one," I told her.
"It was a nice talking to you," she replied.
You call that talking? I had to struggle for every syllable I said to you, honey, so if something nice passed between us, I didn't see it. And if you're being sarcastic, bite me.
There was still a pretty large group of people in the place and I was tempted to hang out for a little while longer, Miss Personality notwithstanding. But everybody seemed to know everybody else and I didn't feel like lurking on the fringes of conversation. And I was hungry.
I walked down Second Avenue, which was filling up with the Friday night crowd. I was going to eat at the Thai Cafe, which I really like, but I couldn't take another night of eating by myself in a restaurant.
I've done it too often and it's just depressing sitting there shoveling food into my mouth why groups of buddies laugh it up or young couples hold hands and smile into each other's eyes. I needed a fast food place that wasn't a fast food place, if you know what I mean.
I looked at gyro places, a hamburger joint, which claimed to have every burger imaginable, except, of course, a turkey burger. I was walking up St. Mark's Place when I spotted Chipotle, a Mexican food chain (duh...). I've eaten at the Bowling Green branch and liked it, so I went it.
The Bowling Green location is a gold mine. by the way. I walked by there on Monday on the way to the post office during my lunch break and the place was jammed like the IRT at rush hour.
People were crammed up against the counter while a line of customers snaked around the interior. It looked like a movie version of a New York eatery, only this was real.
The St. Mark's outlet wasn't that crowded on Friday, but it still took me a long time to get my food. I ordered a burrito and watched it sit on the counter, half-finished, as the woman who was supposed to be working on it struggled with another order. It was like Chaplin's Modern Times when the assembly line gets all fouled up.
For some reason, the woman dumped the contents of the burrito into a new wrapper. And then her co-worker did it again, like some kind of strange ritual or rite of passage. If you can take the burrito from my hand, it'll be time for you to eat...
When she finally got to mine, the attendant started wrapping it up, even though I kept saying I wanted lettuce. Finally I had to wave my hands in front of her face and pretty much shout "I want lettuce!"
As I was paying for my meal, I heard her say something in Spanish, and with my paranoia running full blast, I figured saying something about me. I looked at the tip dish with all those dollar bills and decided they didn't need my paltry single.
As I was getting my napkin two young guys were talking as they dumped their trays.
"I remember this movie, Twister, I used to watch when I was a kid," one said. "My nanny and I used to watch it on tape."
Your nanny? I remember Twister; I saw it when it came out, at the multiplex in Southington, Conn., back when I was a reporter for the Republican-American in Waterbury.
It was a miserable piece of crap (the movie, though the newspaper wasn't much better) full of mindless destruction and abysmal dialog. (Just like the newspaper!) I went and found myself a table.
So I'm sitting there by myself, struggling to slice open my cold burrito with plastic utensils. Everyone in the place was rubbing me the wrong way. The young guy in the t-shirt who steps right in the path of the woman on his way to the counter. The fellow on the crutches who bangs against the blond's chair on the way out.
Two young guys are leaving and they see more young guys at another table and it turns out they all know each other, they're shaking hands and exchanging greetings like its Old Home Week.
I hear this grating noise over my shoulder and some guy on roller skates sails up the length of the room to the counter. I can hardly eat this damn burrito and it goes down like wet cement. I open up the Village Voice to check my horoscope and it goes something like this:
"The last few drops in your chalice will soon evaporate," it said. "Your luxurious indoor swimming pool (you know, the one in your fantasies) has barely enough left in it to give a water bug traction.
"And you haven't reached out your arms and cupped your hands in a gesture of feisty anticipation for far too long. So what are you going to do about it all, Gemini? Here's what I suggest: Fill 'er up! (PS: The gas tank of the flying car you sometimes take for a spin in your dreams is also on empty.)"
Great, I got the worst of both worlds here. I don't understand it, but it sounds terrible. I figured it was time to call it a night.
I don't know, but it seems like I'm in a definite rut. It's been said a thousand times, but once you get to a certain age, you really have to work at making and keeping friends. They don't just pop up at the park or playground like when you were a kid. You have to search for them--and not feel like a desperate loser while you're doing it.
On the subway ride home, a man with a guitar got on at Court Street and started singing an off-key version of the Beatle song "Something." I like giving money to street musicians. They literally are singing for their supper and they don't go walking around the car with their hand outstretched, giving you a sad story. These people try to entertain you.
And since I hadn't tipped the burrito buttheads, I thought it would be nice to throw a bone to the working stiffs before the night was over.
I fished out this Sacagawea dollar coin I've been meaning to ditch since the Post Office vending machine spat it out to me on Monday. I squeezed it, trying to put all my anger and frustration into it, like I was driving out an evil spirit.
When the guitar man walked by, I dropped the demon coin into his little black satchel and watched him get off at DeKalb Avenue.
I'd like to say I'm cured of my anger and frustration, but, of course, it's not that simple. No, it's going to take time and effort to make my life more rewarding. I'm going to have reach out my arms and cup my hands in a gesture of feisty anticipation and see what the hell happens.
Fill 'er up.