April 29, 2008...4:12 am

Last days of being a bum

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“New York: The only city  where people make radio requests like “This is for Tina-I’m sorry I stabbed you.” -Carol Leifer

I’m sitting in bed, hours past bedtime, blogging away and drowning goldfish cracker after goldfish cracker with red wine. In my mouth. The only problem is that my supply of goldfish crackers is dwindling while my supply of red wine is everlasting.

Today marks the end of unemployment, sadly.

In my detour to the world of the unemployed I bummed around New England and New Jersey. My hometown is the quintessential picturesque little New England town. Our deck overlooks the rooftops of our neighborhood with a little slice of ocean and lots of sky. With the windows open at night the faint sea breeze can lull you to sleep; with them closed the suburban silence is deafening. The sea-worn houses are packed close together bordered by uneven cobblestone sidewalks. Parked cars are awkwardly jammed in between them in ill-conceived driveways. It’s really everything I would imagine immersing myself in for a really simple carefree life of vacationing and twiddling my thumbs by the ocean.

It’s remarkable how much surroundings can change you. I went for a morning run in 80-degree weather instead of staying inside in the comfort of shade and cool crisp sheets. I was on my second round of runner’s high when I started picturing myself similarly out of breath running trays in and out of the kitchen at The Pit of Despair, my weekend hellhole of a job. I started thinking of the disgusting, ranch-dressing covered uniform. The manly, filthy tie. The grandma black Reeboks I wear that are falling apart. And the permanent jaded look on my face. And I’m running like a fool in the 80-degree weather by the ocean and thinking “WHY DO I DO THAT?”

And on to New Jersey. The Boyfriend and I raced his golf cart over tiny hills that made me scream in horror (he has instinct only to gas, not to brake). And then we strolled absent-mindedly to a stream deep in the woods where I drank beers and he took pictures. We were totally alone, just blankets and beer and a lazy, lazy evening. It was everything I miss when I’m trapped in a crowded subway trying to fight my way off at my stop, when I’m climbing the six flights of stairs to my apartment, or when I’m explaining to my customers at work that YOU CAN ONLY USE ONE VOUCHER PER TABLE. From now on when that table stares blankly/angrily/dismissively back at me I’m going to think “Cozy blankets, bubbly stream, wind in the trees, New Jersey.” In your face, white trash family/British non-tipping couple/German tourist girls on your way to the club.

It’s hard to explain why anyone would choose to pay what I pay for my tiny slice of Manhattan life when I could live so much more cheaply in a life of leisure by the ocean. It’s hard to explain until I step foot in Manhattan again and everything just feels right. And I’m thinking, “That was a nice vacation, but damn don’t those horn-honking cabs and cursing pedestrians sound oddly comforting?” And if you’re reading this right now and you’re, oh let’s say a Mormon in Utah, overlooking your vast stretch of land as far as the eye can see, you don’t get it. But if you’re an East Village hipster, a slave to Midtown, a Soho artist, or a Washington Heights diva, you get it. You can leave, but you’ll always come back. The city is your heartbeat.

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