Down to the Last Bite: And So It Was

NYC – 1992

I used to find myself in a small coffee house on the corner of 38th and Broadway, facing the street and looking out the window at all of the business people as they passed me by. I was young and new to the working world.
I was unsure of how to make the jump from an equivalent stock boy to a highly paid sales executive in the matter of a few months. I grant that the idea was far from realistic yet there were so many dreams and ideas of me living in the big city.
I would envision myself, like Big John Bigshot with a loft or some kind of trendy apartment. Perhaps, this would be somewhere downtown in SoHo where I could offer elegant parties which, at the age of 19, my best version of elegance was a chicken and rib combination with extra cornbread from BBQ’s on 2nd Avenue. 

I was new to a life of which I had no understanding. I was unaware of the difference between arrogance and confidence and to me – everyone I knew was confident, or so I thought. 

Safe to say that I spoke too much to overcompensate for my lack of experience. Safe to say that confidence is a skill. Therefore, it is also safe to say this was not a strong skill for me. I was a young man who was trying to escape the shell of my past by running around New York City’s garment center with a briefcase and a suit. 

I’d find myself at the coffee shop watching like a spectator through the large plate glass window. I would observe a small version of the world through the lens of a coffee shop window and note the people who would frequently pass me by.
All the while, music played in the background. Sounds of the likes from Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and, of course, some of the other names like Frank Sinatra or Bobby Darin and even Perry Como who had a velvety voice that was festive and soothing at the same time. 

These musicians are from generations before me yet there was something apropos about the music. There was something fitting about this while sitting in a coffee shop eating a pastry or a scone.
I sat there through the eyes which emphasized me as a young, hopeful poet; yet, I never dared to share my prose with anyone. I’d sit and watch the scenes from Broadway, noting the world around me and observing the way people dressed or walked to seem more business efficient or to me, were they professionally inept?
I recalled a t-shirt that I had seen in my youth which read, “It’s not who you are, it’s what you wear because nobody cares who you are . . .”
There was a picture on this shirt of someone cool, leaning back against a wall, like James Dean in a pair of jeans, a jacket and black boots.

I would sit in the coffee shop with a soup bowl-sized coffee mug which was light with milk and sweet with a little sugar. I would think about the person I was as opposed to the person I had hoped I’d become.
The world was changing. Or better yet, the world was simply evolving and it was me who was changing. I had to find out how to “earn” a living. But how?
How do people do this every day? Work for a living . . .
I had no idea about the future nor was I aware about the optionality of making a brighter future for myself.
Who was I?
Who did I want to be?
What did I want to do?
These were my questions; whereas in the grand scheme of it all, I had no idea about my potential nor did I understand the terms of living up to my best possible potential.

At the time, I was more status driven than personally balanced. I was codependent which is something that I do not mind sharing openly and honestly. 

Perhaps one could say that this is age appropriate. Maybe I was just a kid in a suit. Maybe I understood more about why my Old Man used to swear, “I’m telling you right now, kid. You better pay attention in school because you’re not gonna like what happens if you don’t.”
Of course, I was a know-it-all kid at the time. Of course, my response was, “Don’t worry about me, Pop. I know what I’m doing.”

Perhaps the challenge came when I understood the realization that, in fact, I did not know what I was doing. Moreover, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was 19. I had a criminal record. I had a lack of education. To me, I was professionally inept. I was inefficient and insufficient at best. What could I do or possibly offer to this world?

Somehow, the doors of life had opened up and it was as though I had to grow up, really quickly, and guess what, kid? It’s time to go to work!
I had to figure out my next move in a game called life.

I noticed things while sitting in the coffee shop. I noticed when they would change decorations. I noticed the emotion of the holiday seasons and the snowy winter of flurries coming down on Broadway, NYC.
I can tell you the experience for me was surreal. This was me in the new world of working for a living. Additionally, this was me yet I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

This was me, standing at the foothill of a mountain while looking upwards at the climb ahead- intimidated as ever and partly hopeful, partly dreamy, partly eager and partly terrified of what might come.

I had questions like, how do I act?
What do I wear to appear successful?
What are people thinking when I talk?
Do they listen?
Do they hear a kid with a street-like accent who (in my head) was mainly an uneducated drop-out who could barely read and write or understand the complexities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

I’d find myself here in this coffee shop as a place of refuge and to look at the world. With at least a mild form of introspection, I would write postcards to my Mother who was on her own and was going through new versions of life as well. 

Mom had finally achieved the step which she and my Father had planned before he passed on December 29, 1989.
Mom took the leap and moved to Florida and I stayed behind to start my life and move ahead. There was no room for me in Florida and certainly, had I gone, the trajectory of my life would have been uncertain and different. But nevertheless, I would write to my Mother on a weekly basis while sipping from my oversized coffee mug, listening to the music of golden oldies, eating a scone and jotting down the thoughts of a son to his Mother.

It’s amazing to me how we grow, how we learn and how we meander through life so cosmically or automatically. Then somehow, life changes and we evolve. We become who we are as opposed to who we’ve been.
We learn and if we’re lucky, we laugh. If we’re lucky, we find out how to love. We find out how to create wealth and build our options or support our future options with annuities and a pension, 401K’s and health insurance. Adulthood – it happens to everyone (like it or not).

Our life evolves in stages of realization and like the seasons; like the fall and the autumn months when the summer folds down and moves into the stages of winterization; life is equally cyclical in the sense that springtime will come and essentially, we find ourselves at the rebirth of spring which blossoms into summer. 

Our life is equal to the span of the day; in which case, our birth is the morning that grows until noon. At the sundown of our lives, our personal sun begins to set before we sleep after twilight.  To all, this is a relative span of time. But this time is mine.

In the meantime, this was me in my younger version of life. This was me, trying to figure out which way to go and what to do. I thought about the big business tycoons. I thought about the successful business people in my industry. Then I thought about myself. I wondered if I’d find love.
I wondered if I would ever find that apartment or loft down in SoHo or Tribeca. I wondered if I would ever have more than two nickels to rub together or would this be me – always.

Someone once asked me where I went to school and by this they meant college. They asked me with a relevance of both social and educational snobbery.
I smiled and offered the notion that “I am self-taught,” to which, I heard, “Oh, so you’re not really trained.”

Why argue?
Why prove myself?
(My arsenal of credentials has since grown and so has my resume, so, why bother?)

I used to be intimidated by this. Sometimes, I find myself shrinking in my own insecurity. Sometimes, I find myself drowning in the pools of rejective thinking which coincides with the presence of its five friends – guilt, blame, shame, fault and regret.
Yet, here I am, a person, an identity, a speaker, a friend. I am someone with a heart and dreams which, finally, I decided to revive them.
I make the daily choice to nurture my future with hopes that for now, my twilight is far away. However, at this moment, I have evolved into a person who understands the perfection of self is simply this: I had everything I needed to be successful back then. The only problem is I lacked the ability to see it. 

This is why I have you, to show me.
This is why I come to this spot in my head where only you exist and where I can sit calmly and introspectively (like I did when I used to go to coffee on Broadway).

I come here to rid myself of the mild sarcasms and the internal narratives which somehow depict an inaccurate picture of the world. Ah, New York City. She is you and you are her.
And together, without either of you,
I have no idea where I would be today.

Coffee anyone?

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