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Old Peculiar

“Everybody funny – now you funny, too” – John Lee Hooker

December 1, 2003

I’ve shown up solo for a lot of parties in my time. It’s a familiar routine, circling the block alone after approaching the front door and hearing music and laughter. I usually get myself inside once I’ve completed a few laps, then I put in a couple of hours and leave, much as I came. Part of me still believes New York can be a different affair.

I came here with little idea what I’d be doing, and in large part this fact remains. Sometimes I cut myself some mental slack, reasoning that much has changed for me in recent months. On other occasions I’m not so kind. Brooklyn isn’t the place for deep sighs anyway. It’s more about Coney Island and Jackie Robinson than self-healing and positive affirmation.

***

“It would be nice to get away from Manhattan and go live somewhere quiet. Just take it easy and do some writing or something.”

This is part of a conversation I pick up, sitting across the table from two stylish twenty-something chicks, sporting walkway winter fashion and enough Soho shopping bags to supply the Osmonds at Christmas. Meanwhile, I’m half an hour into a shit paragraph composed of crap sentences and average thoughts. I picture the would-be author in a ninety-dollar bikini, feather pen and notepad in hand, getting an oil rubdown from a fourteen-year-old cabana boy. Three banana daiquiris later, she’s penned a tropical Harry Potter, and meets an agent on the dance floor that evening. Maybe she’s right and this doesn’t have to be like teeth pulling. Or maybe I need to do more shopping.

I pass by the stores outside, but don’t buy anything. It’s the beginning of the Christmas rush, a blustery winter day, and lower Manhattan is in full gear. A guy in short sleeves and a Santa hat laughs off the chilled air and barks a mean Elvis impersonation into a microphone outside some hip boutique. “Well it’s one for the clothing, two for the gear, three for the leather, folks it’s all right here..” Here’s a gig I haven’t tried to get yet. The sales people inside these stores look like magazine models, and the goods are all so nicely folded, crisp and new. I figure I’ll stay outside with the street vendors whose wares are outstanding as well. You can pick up goods in Manhattan you could never find anywhere else, and never have to leave the street. But right now it’s just the vibe I’m picking up on, and fodder for another paragraph.

***

The New Year will bring more choices. My current sublet will run out and I’ll have the option of remaining somewhere in New York or going elsewhere. I’ve even acquired British citizenship through my mother, who was raised in Scotland. Maybe my New York Bartending School certificate would have more pull in Aberdeen. Or I could just be a jaded outsider in a rainier clime. No papers required for that. I’ve received two bits of advice from different people lately. One was that things can change out of the blue, and the other was that you have to stick it out through the hard times, to see what might come in the light.

It’s occurred to me lately I might be a more peculiar case than most. Though the obviousness of this remark would draw audible chortle from some who know me, its stark reality has recently solidified. It’s a math thing, I guess. Here I am, a few years shy of forty, living alone in Brooklyn. Outside of random scribbling and weekly physical exercise, I still have nothing solid. And yet as I walk by bustling stores, offices and homes, I still choose my side of the window. It’s either crippling isolationism or aggravated narcissism. Either makes a fine lead in any personals ad.

***

Good God – somebody shut me up. Thank you. I’ve met a ton of people since moving here and seen a thousand things. I’ve ridden enough subway miles to circle the earth. I’ve landed a weekly Internet column, seen the Knicks and Neil Young at the Garden, experienced an historical blackout and even held an unpaid job for a short while. Last week someone I barely know invited me to her house for a great Thanksgiving dinner. And the Chivas bottle Mom sent is still three-quarters full.

Truth is always complicated, and this is why most choose to avoid it. On one side, this is a hell of an exciting place, offering cultured kicks and stimulating opportunities at every turn. On the other, it sucks to be alone here, struggling to figure yourself out. Getting out of the house some days can be a challenge. I’ve done an admirable job of staying in motion so far, but the demand never relents. I’ve now written nearly twenty-five columns for this website. Though I still enjoy the process and obviously have the time, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a novel approach. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep at it.

See you next week.

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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