Monday, October 03, 2005

Trip the Station, Change the Channel

The thing about living in the town where I grew up--the Wonderbreadiest of suburbs--is that the illusion of diversity is undercut by certain common denominators. Old Navy jeans, for example. Across the board, everyone in suburban Northern Westchester owns at least one pair of Old Navy jeans, whether they be the mom-fab "Weekend Jean" roomy taper or the ass-slung "Carpenter" popular with the crowd who falls off their skateboards and picks their knee scabs in front of the A&P. There is the 7-11, a necessary stop for scratch-off lottos at rush hour, or Sour Skittles after school, or a sweaty hot-dog at midnight for the cops who tour Y-Town in cruiser 513.

There's Starbucks for all. There's the mall, which is for runners in the morning, and the retirees at midday, and the families in the afternoon, and the kids at night. There's the Texaco, a necessary stop for minivans, exterminator trucks, and souped-up Hondas. It's a universal destination, whether for the weekly drudge of filling up or the buzz of the under eighteen social epicenter in the back parking lot.

Moving in on Friday and Saturday was like a shedding of old skin--nearly literally, having snagged my arm between many an unwieldy box and our front door. My belongings are all shuffled and shoved in new places and I've completely shot to shit my usual rhythm of going to work, taking the train, eating dinner, watching Jeopardy!, putting on an absurd outfit, and spending the last hour before bed on the Starbucks patio drinking a Venti cup of ballsacino with my sunglasses on. The rest of the patio would be the same every night as well: the goth-circa-1995 kids in one corner shifting their queen bee's baby from lap to pleather lap, the quiet professor type on his laptop in the chair in the window, the three Clinique salespeople who are also ex-members of Girl Scout Troop 1379, a couple of moms, a couple of people in spandex buying a courtesy cup of coffee in exchange for using the bathroom.

The fabricated boundaries between them are severe and uncrossable. Six unoccupied chairs around a mom or two will remain unfilled despite thirteen alternaturds lurking around a single table in the opposite corner. Each social caste (which run more parallel than vertical) has cultivated an identity that sorts it from the others despite the fact that everyone drives up 202 to buy bagels; everyone rents their movies from Captain Video; everyone pays their water bill through the window in the vestibule of Town Hall.

My first two nights as a legal resident of one of the five boroughs, however, were spent flipping through the disparate demographics of New York like television channels. I'm in a Dunkin' Donuts in Sunset Park where no one speaks English, then I'm walking down the street to find a salsa band playing in the basement of a deli, then I'm covered in hipster sweat at MisShapes, then I'm eating White Castle and watching the Muppet Movie with my little brother and parents, then I'm navigating a crowd of upper-crusty gay men at Hiro (I know it's not possible for all of them to be employed by Logo, but I swear to God I heard at least four people say it), and then I'm having dinner with guitarists and career reality personalities and professional gossip bloggers.

To get a little ninth grade algebra for a moment, the Venn diagram of life in a suburb overlaps in the stupidest of places (the gynecologist's office, the annual summer Gazebo concert series, Yorktown Auto Body, Sue and Hai...) despite how vehemently the members of individual circles claim autonomy. Here, the circles really are just floating around. Everywhere I turned at Hiro I was eye-level with a pec (all of them shapely, many of them lovely, some of them naked) attached to a man with impeccably coiffed hair who was the kind of person willing and able to drop ten bucks on a dixie cup full of Stoli. Their circle will never ever cross paths with the circle Eunice, my seventy year old super, belongs to.

This is strange to me.

I guess the moral of the story is that even when you're in a small and classy club, with a classy soul trio classing it up on the mic, and everyone around you is so slick you'd lose their grip like a bar of soap if they tried to shake your hand, it's important to look up.

Chances are there's at least one very well dressed guy in the crowd across the way picking his nose and eating his boogers.


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