Another day of high hopes

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Class went by quickly today thanks to internet access. I’m not sure I heard every word but I heard enough, and besides, I received my credits. Isn’t that what life is? The pursuit of empty ridiculous achievements that see you through the lonely nights? I’m venting. Surprise. I left class with high hopes tonight. The New York air was warm and the crowds were thick as cobwebs as I walked back to my hotel. Inspiration was in the air and I breathed deeply, filling my lungs with its heavy scent.

I returned to the hotel room, watched a wee bit of television before heading out for a steak dinner at a kosher restaurant. They don’t have kosher steakhouses in Seattle, and I thought it would be a nice change. The food was delicious but the service was less than fabulous. Since we’re close to Christmas, there were many company holiday parties sitting at pushed-together tables. I had forgotten the attitudes of New Yorkers. It’s not that they’re rude, although it does look that way to those who don’t understand them or those that have been away awhile. It’s that the city is big and you can’t be friends with everyone and maintain your sanity. It’s why I never learned to hold the doors open for other people when leaving a building. If you do that when in New York, you’ll never escape the door. There are too many people that walk in and out of those doors.

In Houston and Seattle (to a slightly lesser extent) there are smaller crowds and people tend to be nicer and in less of a rush. When I arrived at the restaurant at seven and asked for a table for one, the hostess looked disgusted. She made a remark about holiday parties and reservations before escorting me to a table. The waiter at the section made the comment, “another one top?” (a one top is a single table in restaurant-ese, and I clearly wasn’t the first that night). I frantically chose a glass of wine—selecting on spelling alone after they were out of my first two choices, which I had chosen based on geography—and settled in for my meal. I wrote notes in my Moleskine while eating, feeling a bit self conscious about pulling out the New Yorker I had brought with me to read. Eating alone on a Tuesday night used to be rather common. I’ve grown uncomfortable in restaurants alone. Doolies has spoiled me. I wrote that a long relaxing evening waited for me. There should be nothing wrong with relaxation.

I ended the dinner conspicuously. After paying the check I stood up and dragged the tablecloth with me, knocking over my empty wine glass. The glass fell to the ground and crashed loudly. At first I thought to leave without saying anything. Surely the wait staff heard. But I couldn’t do it, and I decided to do the right thing by telling the waiter. He ignored my first two attempts at eye contact and explanation, waving me off, before, clearly feeling my need for a response, said something along the lines of there’s nothing you can do about it now. I read his mind and added the “so leave” part to the end of his response. As I struggled to put away my New Yorker, Moleskine, and wallet with my dinner receipt, I managed to knock my water glass over. I caught it before the glass fell off the table. I didn’t bother to look back. I juggled my things into their respective pockets and escaped through the restaurant door and into the crowded night.

I don’t know if it was the heavy (if delicious) steak or the glass of Chardonnay, but something threw me for a loop. One minute I was jotting down notes for a story as fast as I could scribble, and the next I’m staring at the empty walls wondering when they planned to devour me. Depression struck and struck hard on my walk home. I ended up sitting in bed staring at the tube for the last few hours after typing about 20 words of a story that went nowhere quickly. And it was such a beautiful night for my final day in New York City.

I met my uncle for lunch today. We went to the Stage Deli, a tourist trap that my uncle had fond memories of. They stack deli meats high on rye buns and serve it with oversized pickles in crowded tables. A line forms outside each day, as the big red double-decker buses (some of which are no longer red) supply a constant stream of people. I ate tuna fish on rye. I was a bit nervous about my stomach after last night’s heroics, so I decided to go slow with the eating. I managed only half the tuna fish and very little of the bread. My uncle took home the other half of my sandwich and his, and the rest of his fries. He’s very good at eating leftovers, having been taught not to waste food by his depression-era parents. He tells me my father was the same way. He finished what was put in front of him. I never had to learn those hard lessons.