It was Sunday, December 11, 1988.
I was working at the Mermaid. It was my 26th birthday. And my life was pretty much going nowhere. And I was feeling very, very sorry for myself.
I watched the small, desultory crowd in the bar – a few pool players, a few alcoholics, a few couples out on the town on a cold Sunday – and felt the warm wash of…fatigue? Disappointment? Frustration? Whatever it was, I marinaded in it.
“This is my f****ng life”, I thought, spinning one inane record after another, standing in the dusty, smoky booth in my ratty tweed jacket and khaki pants. Of the four jobs I’d interviewed for in New York not two months ago, two had tanked completely, one was giving me the impression that they’d be “waiting for funding” until long after all the principals were dead, and the final one, doing voice-overs at WOR for $225 a week, which didn’t even count as “starvation” money in New York, just wasn’t going to be worth moving for, all on its own.
So I was back to square one. Again. And I was seriously doubting I had what it took to get to square two, or that it’d matter if I did.
The evening was uneventful. I shut things down at the end of the night, and grabbed an after-work drink. And another. And another. I let it slip that it was my birthday, so the bar staff kept ’em coming. I was pretty lit up by the time the bartender decided to wrap things up, around 2AM.
I got in the car and drove across the parking lot to the Perkins; I needed coffee and lots of greasy food to be in drive-home worthy condition. I grabbed a booth and ordered the Potato Pancakes.
They came, I noticed – as I always did when I went to Perkins, since the potato pancakes were the most addictive thing on the menu – with syrup. Which made no sense, since potato pancakes were basically more-cohesive hash browns, and everyone knows that ketchup is the only condiment that mixes with hash browns, dammit.
I sat in the booth and slowly ate the pancakes and read the Twin Cities Reader until 4AM or so, and then drove home. I took the long way – down Highway 96 all the way over to Rice Street, and then all the way down Rice to Maryland, and then east across the freeway to the East Side.
I stopped at the top of one of the many choppy hills on the East Side, probably close to 5AM; it was dark, and very cold, and the lights of the city shown like a million crystal-clear little gems off into the distance. It was a vista that would have filled my soul with delight not so long before.
“Whoop di f****ng doo”, I thought.
I drove home to the rat-trap house full of drug dealers and my roommates girlfriends-du-jour, to hibernate for another cold winter day and get up to do it all again.