I stopped by Whole Foods this morning after dropping my kids at school (the only non-carb my daughter Vivian will eat is the overpriced organic beef jerky) and ran into an old friend, Allen, on the checkout line. As often happens these days, he and I were able to jump right in to less superficial conversation than if there were no Facebook. We decided to grab a coffee upstairs in the teak-and-bamboo Zen-consumer lounge-like atmosphere that they have in every Whole Foods. Not for nothing, I suddenly found myself craving agave nectar. Coincidence? I think not.
Allen and I were never close, but we hung out in the same young journalist circles when we were in our 20s, and had spent many a Tuesday night putting away cheap pitchers at this nasty-ass old man bar in midtown, the kind of place that leaves the Christmas tree lights up year round and serves screaming orange buffalo wings, that no longer exists. It seemed like the newspaper reporteresque thing to do. Ye Olde Tripple in, it was called, and it was right near Studio 54, which also no longer exists.
It wasn’t long before we agreed that we no longer existed either, at least not in the same iteration.
We talked about my book and the one he’s working on, and then people we knew in common and eventually wended our way around to marriage. He told of a broken engagement, and I reminded him of something snarky he said about me and my husband before we got married. Allen shook his head. “What an asshole,” he sighed, as if talking about someone else entirely.
He looked more or less the same, but he did seem calmer, less edgy and less angry than he was back then. Life had kicked his ass around a bit, as it had mine and, well, the ass attached to everyone else who has had the privilege of becoming 30, then 35, and then 40 and on. And there we both were, sipping Fair Trade coffee at a table next to a rack of stylishly packaged dried fruit. It had come to this. We laughed at our older selves. “The truth is,” Allen said, looking around at the plexiglass dividers with autumn leaves embedded in them. “It’s kind of nice.”
Then I noticed what was hanging on the wall: signs, scavenged or recreated, from former attractions in this Formerly Marginal Lower East Side neighborhood which is now home to a mighty swank supermarket–CBGBs, B&R Bar, and a few others. Whoever chose the decor obviously wanted to allude to the gritty, raucous Bowery scene, to let shoppers know that the Ramones once breathed the same smoggy molecules that we were breathing as we contemplated the benefits of Goji berries and gluten-free arrowroot cookies. There was something embarrassing and comforting about it at the same time.
Allen laughed at the signs and said that he sometimes turns a corner in the city, and expects to see a bar or a shop that has since been priced out of the neighborhood or just plain expired. “I think it’s coming back, but it’s not. Living in New York City is an exercise in detachment,” he said.
So is being a Formerly. But, like Whole Foods, it’s also kind of nice.