The Brie Burger

by

01/20/2002

78 W 11th St, New York, NY

Neighborhood: West Village

There were a lot of things that should have been taken into account before our plane even touched the ground, but they were not taken, and we just kind of sat there. It rained all week. I’d come about three days earlier and Travis showed up later, his plane was a little delayed. I’d been highlighting things in the back of the Village Voice for two days waiting for him to show up. It was sunny when he did, but then the rain started that evening and didn’t stop. He left six days earlier than me, and I was jealous. We were having an awful time.

There’s an innate desire in a large part of those growing up in the midwest that lodges itself in the heart and has some kind of tin-can-string system rigged up to quietly whisper into the brain: You cannot die here. I had been there a long time.

Our first inclination, with so little money in the coffers, was to avoid a broker’s fee, to just find one of those magical gems. But we were stupid, and we didn’t have any idea where to start. I’d booked twelve days for the trip and wasted the first six eating pizza slices as large as my head and hanging out with friends in bars and sleeping on floors.

Travis was in no better shape. We depressed each other. Every other person we called on the phone about apartments would laugh, derisively, and mutter something like “You have never lived in New York and you don’t have jobs? Hoo-boy…” and hang up.

There was a bar back in Michigan where the man who took Travis’ senior picture worked as barkeep. He was nice, we got a couple of free beers from him over the many dark nights spent slumped in a booth or fixed rigidly to a straight-backed wooden chair. Anyway, Travis and I were at the end of our rope, we just wanted to keep drinking in order to pass out faster in order to shorten the remainder of our trip. New York had never been like this before.

Our interest in getting out of Michigan seemed foolish and laughable, despite Andrew’s constant reminders that lesser-people than we had made it out. Peter was in town for a furniture show, he designs things like shoes, and we all decided to go to French Roast on 11th and 5th Ave. It was open twenty-four hours, proposed something as pretentious as a brie-burger, and didn’t card for the bottle of wine we sought.

It took forever. Andrew forgot where the place was and even though it was beautifully summery out, don’t forget about the rain, and we walked for about forty minutes, long after the interest had worn off. When we finally did get there and stepped inside the door, who was sitting by himself eating some kind of steak and drinking some kind of wine, but P—, the bartender from Michigan. So, you know, that was weird.

But all of this is just prelude to the real point, which is that Travis didn’t make it out and I had a different roommate to share the apartment I found on a different trip, when it didn’t rain as much, was unbearably hotter, and I did have to go through a broker and she was racist and thought perhaps Michigan was a city, not an entire state, but had heard of Detroit and loved Giuliani.

Three weeks into the official move–where I sat heavily on my Ikea furniture and smiled the smile of a benevolent king in his naked wood kingdom –I went back to French Roast, and this time there were no remnants of other bars, no familiar faces hiding behind lush velvet curtains or smiling up at the replica tin advertisements for Gitane Cigarettes only to turn into a leering head and wind up being my father, no, none of that.

But I went once again with Andrew, and I ate the brie-burger, and what was most fantastic was that it was the night of daylight savings time-switch, so we had one free hour, an hour we spent drunk on vodka-cranberries we’d made in Andrew’s Columbia dorm-room and drank while walking down Broadway.

I got on the train at Fourteenth Street, sated with beef and coffee and wondering how come it wasn’t so much later than it should have been, and marvelling at the elasticity of time, and wishing that Travis was in his room, where there was that other guy, and admiring the black-gum-speckled cement under my feet, and thinking: lesser-people than I have come this far.

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