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East Coast, West Coast

All About The Town

November 1, 2003

Yellow leaves sharing the same tree as green neighbors taunt them to give it up.

Go on, you’ll feel better letting go. Ours was a good season.

What makes one branch quit before another? Is it all part of some grand design? As trite as it sounds, I’m really digging these fall colors. I take them in walking down Eighth Avenue Friday morning, delivering my rent check. Some things are a constant, city to city, place to place.

***

Brooklyners, and New Yorkers in general, are heavy on the horn. Many project inexplicable faith in the device’s mystic capabilities. They don’t believe in beeping or tooting, but rather long, sustained blasts at anything within earshot, whether it possesses ears or not. If I lay on it long enough, this drugstore will move.

Generalization makes for dangerous living, but occasionally brilliant reading. So I’ll continue. The genius of the East Coast mind lies in its ability to cut through California bullshit and formulate. Half your state’s on fire? Somebody better get some fuckin’ water. And you might want to reconsider building in the middle of an ecosystem that burns by design every ten to fifteen years.

I remember my first trip to New York in 1992. I was in line to buy a bagel and the guy behind the counter asked what kind I wanted. “You tell me,” I responded cheerily, deferring to his native status. His response came without pause. “IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM, SIR!” I made a minor adjustment, ordered sesame garlic, and never looked back. I had gained the one bit of insight necessary to live in this city: Save the bullshit, get to the point. I still ponder bagel types these days, even having moved here. But this is in line with the one acceptable clause to the rule – if you’re going to deal in bullshit, keep it to yourself. Fortunately, I’ve never had a problem with bottled bullshit. My process went automated in ’84 and surpasses the output of Coke and 7-Up combined.

While the East Coast approach often avoids the cabbage-headed rumination common to holistic westerners, it sometimes goes haywire. I’ve seen it melt down a few times in a glowing ball of profanity and misplaced logic. When two New Yorkers fail to agree or reach compromise, they frequently resort to determining who the bigger “fuck” is between them. This debate often lacks a satisfying resolution.

My observations on the collective psyches of opposing seaboards are, of course, largely hunches. I’ve conducted no scientific research and my relative examples are based on sporadic interaction and a talent for making mountains out of molehills. All your best people excel in this.

***

“You come over to this neighborhood just to hang at the cafe?”

My friend Mark makes this observation one early evening last week, as I sit with my laptop killing time. Despite whatever qualifiers I add, the simple answer is “yes.” It’s what I’m most uncomfortably comfortable with, this inside angle looking out. The place supplies cheap caffeine stimulation and a steady flow of sufficiently gentle, generally liberal locals. It doesn’t matter whether I agree with their slant or not; they leave me alone. There are multiple copies of the New York Times and Daily News, decently amateurish wall photos, and the subway to Manhattan a block up. I like a place that doesn’t sweep crumbs off the table until shift’s end and technically, it does qualify as getting out of the house. Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” never resonated so.

Today puts me at the five-month mark, exactly. I want more than I currently have. I want to wake up in the morning minus the knot in my chest, with purpose and plan. I want a job that doesn’t mess with my frail mental balance, and makes me feel like I’ve arrived- maybe even one that pays. I want a few local friends I can call on for a movie or slice of pizza without feeling dependent. And I wouldn’t run away from a pretty face willing to listen to my bottled rants and tell me I’ve got something worth hearing, even if I doubt it myself. In short, I want the status of a guy who’s stuck around a while and put in his dues. I guess I better get going on that.

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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