this is the perfect place to get jumped

Month: August, 2015

makes sense

i eat food that i find on the street. certainly not everyday, and definitely not when anyone besides a good friend or a complete stranger catches me. (if you never knew i did this you can now consider us good friends.)

i lift lids of discarded pizza boxes, and dramatically tear asunder trademarked bags of franchise food while placidly strolling the vacant streets alone, the drunken nights a cue for my improvised sonnets. styrofoam take out containers are the treasure chests of the street, and i know a dirty diaper when i see one. this is one of my sixth senses, and a prodigal skill that my mother tried her best to suppress.

the fleeting memories i have IMG_1467of my mother punishing my earliest attempts of shoplifting candy and eating found food are no more than foggy vibes, and yet an image of the red lollipop covered in wood chips still stands out. holding my hand as we crossed the street she pointed out that red lollipop and said, “look at that lollipop jonathan. when you were five i could not have stopped you from grabbing it.” although i was repulsed by that red lollipop covered in wood chips, my mother’s belief that her behavioral conditioning was a success had backfired;  that red lollipop covered in wood chips sat in my mind as a looming symbol of rebellion.

even away from the street my miserly qualities surfaced, as i often waited patiently for my lunch friends to offer their refuse. one day, before first period, tom booth volunteered the bacon that fell from his bacon sandwich, (a roll containing nothing but dry bacon; the cafeteria probably just ran out of eggs on the days these were served) the rarest of the middle school breakfast sandwich lineup. that scrap of fallen bacon contained more flavor than all of the bacon on all of the bacon sandwiches because it caught me by surprise. i wanted daily bacon, but i understood that eating it everyday would dilute its significance. instead, if i waited long enough i would receive a tasty surprise which was always more flavorful than a daily routine. i watched tom booth become bored (and fat) by the breakfast sandwiches he consumed daily and lived in wait for that next bacon moment to strike.

home was where food was expected, and bound to the snacks and the meals that my mother fed me i became bored by the plentiful freshness that greeted me there. the need for a delicious surprise gripped me; i wanted the greedy and unrealistic prospect of unexpected treats all of the time. i would find this paradise, but first i needed to survive the tedious gauntlet of a four year degree.

college was endless free food, and not a morsel was flavored with wonder. to entice attendance in students there was free pizza at nearly every club meeting. twice daily visits to that dining hall actually made buffets feel like a tired chore. trash cans were far from the receptacles of inspiration they became in new york.

a year after graduating i landed a job selling subscriptions to the ny times at summer street fairs. i stalked the food booths when the fairs closed at the end of my first day in new york, and bartered my ny times brand tchotchkes for display food, which i narrowly rescued from the trash. i was homeless in training, and recalled the flavor of excitement as i crouched beside the fence guarding gramercy park from the public. new york was the place where i could eat without spending, and without anyone to stop me i was going to pig out the way my heavenly maker intended. i had rediscovered myself, just like when charlie babbitt rediscovered his rain man after years of separation.

in these early days i recall investigating an eerie box of snacks that were covered in flies and worms on a mid afternoon stroll to my new apartment’s nearest graveyard. hopeful and persistent, i dug through the box and overturned all of the suspiciously punctured bags before snapping out of this tunnel vision and observing my surroundings in a busy industrial park. not all found food in new york was going to be edible.

but opportunities for edible free food were hidden all around me.

IMG_1405before boarding the staten island ferry i was on the receiving end of a full trash bag of pre-packaged starbucks lunches. the employees were eager to give away the food that tasted like fiberglass the longer i let it sit in my fridge. after i got neil a job selling subscriptions to the ny times, we shamelessly dug through the garbage outside of pomme frites (rip), eating the discarded fries and sauces that tourists and affluent new yorkers took for granted. neil and i cherished our vagrant’s curiosity. investigating a strong garbage lead is chiefly about the surprise, good or bad. the kindly deep fryer of pomme frites noticed our shameless diving and took pity on us with some free fries and sauces. parading our desperation had its benefits.

over the past few years i have eaten more pizza from the street than from the pizzeria. i found a full carrot cake that i shared with my roommates which inspired a short story, a box of crab flavored kettle chips on my annual birthday trek to the graveyard, and three bags of carmine’s spaghetti; leftover catering of steak and salmon from the sweet sixteens that were so common during my david stark days; two chicken sandwiches and a quarter pounder with cheese that were hidden beneath the surface of a trash can that i shared with john and daniel at the greenpoint mcdonald’s; half a chicken parm and prosciutto sandwich that was still wrapped in foil and warmed by the sun on the way to a dinner date…i’ve found and eaten sushi in front of a 24-hour organic deli before, but sampling the hot sushi from that summer puddle last year was a misfire that i cannot regret because i spit it out and didn’t get diarrhea. walking hopelessly on an la highway at midnight, i pursued an enigmatic box on the sidewalk that contained half a sandwich, giving me the strength to continue my quest to an unknown destination.

the mermaid parade has been a yearly source of unpredictable treasure food as its crowds ensure mountains of garbage to shamelessly sift through. this event has brought me to the brink of obsession, as i always become full on trash, and obsessively monitor every trash can i pass. greg’s usually carefree gaze became marred by condemnation as he observed me moving along the trash cans lining the pier, staying one step ahead of the sanitation team who worked to empty them. i watched his doubt turn to respect when he asked me for a bite from the platter of fried seafood i procured from a can.

my mermaids offered no questions when i emerged from the crowds with half a sicilian pie after disappearing for only two minutes. they were delighted to see me, and i was more than delighted to share my bounty with them.

these days i slink in the background when set catering wraps, falsifying a coincidence to eschew any suggestion i was scheming for their edible refuse. i am always grateful when i am given too much food to carry home, so i can share my spoils with my coworkers (ex-doubters that have been silenced by my extraordinary trash prowess; show me someone that doesn’t like unexpected gifts and i will show you a fucking liar.) these are the perks of working at a production studio, and these are the circumstances that can turn an opportunist into an obsessive.

these habits have never impaired my physical health, but at times i question their affect on my mental health. i scrutinize every trash can that i pass, and physically investigate many more trash cans than the choice bounty i’ve listed above suggests. keep in mind that these are treasures, and they are found only by the most determined explorers. i never become upset when an investigation returns empty handed because i never expect to find anything. it’s free to look, so i keep looking, and the possibility is what really keeps me interested. new york city garbage is an open secret that everybody avoids because they are too prim to plunge and too worried about “germs.” i choose to see streets that are literally filled with opportunity.

eating “garbage” has given me the tools to succeed by teaching me the value of perseverance. there is nothing wrong with obsession if  applied to a productive pursuit, and if i can apply the same unflinching attitude that accompanies trash exploration to all of my endeavors i believe i can find success. exposing my secret behavior has forced me to think about my actions, as attempts to change have historically faded; even when i was making good money i was scoping the trash cans for treasure. i think that i will always be excited by the prospect of finding and eating food, no matter how successful i become.

pulling the trigger

this fantasy is justified as an appeal to my roommates, who use emotion instead of reason to guide their decisions:

in march lil greasy was feeling neglected due to our household’s collective absence, and expressed his dissatisfaction by leaving a turd in the crease of our brown futon. our neglect was neither intentional nor personal, but try reasoning with a feline and you’ve definitely breached insanity.

i discovered lg’s turd days after it was laid and mistook it for a pragmatic response to a full litter box. (cats are not noble protesters though; they do not believe in anything.) i cleaned up the brown futon and when i went to clean out the litter box i found it empty; despite our busy schedules one of my roommates was responsible enough to clean it.

i kept the brown futon propped up straight so lg couldn’t hide another turd in its crease, but when i arrived home from work one week later i was greeted by the tangy aroma of urine, which i traced back to the circular stains on the brown futon. i pulled off the brown cover of the futon to discover terrible stains of deep brown urine faded in rings against its white cushion. much to my roommate’s glee i was forced to trash it.

thinking that he simply had inexplicable ill will towards that brown futon i forgave lg like a good christian. we needed a new futon anyway, i thought.

the following week i had friends over. they sat on the couch on the wall opposite the brown futon and complained of a sour air lingering above the cushions. i turned red with embarrassment as my friend’s formerly cute faces contorted into wretched masks of displeasure. lg had turned our other couch into a spiteful sponge of urine. before i was perplexed; now i was furious.

one saturday in mid april i found lg lying in pain in the bathtub. bowls of food were placed around him, but he wouldn’t eat and he couldn’t move. his eyes were dark and his fur was matted and if nicole didn’t rush him to the hospital in the morning he would have died.

according to the vet, when some male cats reach a certain age their kidney’s cannot properly process their urine, and their urethra becomes clogged with urine crystals. the vet recommended surgery to “make him a girl” by shortening his urethra and rerouting it to a tiny hole bored above his butthole. it was a very expensive surgery, and an unwelcome contributor to my financial plight. although my roommates saw a correlation between lg’s evil pissing habits and his obstructed urethra the vet did not have a medical answer to explain this correlation.

i did not miss lg for the time he was at the cat hospital, and it wasn’t because i knew i would see him again (though i secretly hoped i wouldn’t); it was because i wasn’t returning home to find my couch in stinky, shredded ruins, my kitchen floor littered with broken mugs of spilled coffee.

when lg finally returned home he was accompanied by a lopsided gait, a cute cone on his head and a bill for $3000. he was coddled during his first days back, but then we returned to our busy lives. lg’s cone came off. i had a party. my homeless friend left my apartment smelling worse than he did when he arrived after spending a night on lg’s couch. i touched the couch and my hand became wet. fury was a new emotion for me. i didn’t know how to deal with it so i bottled it up.

i spent an afternoon dragging that piss soaked couch onto the curb, and due to my hustle and grit i managed to locate two more free couches to replace the ones destroyed by lg-but i was still on edge. replacing the couches did not necessarily mean that lg wouldn’t piss on them again. as i sat on my new tan leather couch i observed lg squat and piss on the new pink victorian style couch across from me. lg had effectively knocked over the metaphorical bottle of fury i kept deep within myself, and i blacked out.

i now return to my house and feel sticky with urine on the walk to my kitchen. lg screams at me for food and then shits on the floor. the litter box is empty on a daily basis. i have reached a boiling point i never knew i had.

the vet’s have cured lg’s physical ailment, which prevented him from pissing, yet my roommates believe that his bratty pissing habits one month prior to his urinary obstruction serves as an explanation for the cause of his obstruction. a cat’s handsomeness does not excuse his behavior.

when i offer a compromise like, let’s keep him in the basement to see if the smell dissipates in his absence i am met with no, he wouldn’t like that.

i do not care what lil greasy would like because he is a cat that does not pay rent. he does not understand punishment, only pain. keeping him in the basement may make our house smell better temporarily, but he will find his way back upstairs and continue to piss because he cannot learn. when he returns from the basement he will cry at my door and i will kick him. my fury will take the form of physical violence. if i scream at him and punch him after i find another turd on the countertop i become the crazy one for trying to intimidate a cat.

i pop xanax bars and drink vodka from the bottle and call nam because if i can’t remember i won’t have to lie when questioned. nam tells me what i already know, to get rid of the cat. “put it in a box, take it to the woods on the outskirts of town and leave it there.” i can’t do this because my roommates will know i am responsible. they know i am a niggardly scoundrel, and that the value of discarding the cat so soon after splitting his surgery cost is antithetical to my principles. but because i make my hatred of the cat public they know that i think the benefit of his elimination is worth eating the cost of his surgery.

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i tell nam to make the cat disappear in any way he chooses, just do it slow. my voice is slurred and i don’t sound like myself but nam knows who i am, even though we have not met. he is patient on the phone as i make suggestions for lg’s disappearence, though he already has a plan: allow the cat free entry into the backyard; in our busy lives we will become accustomed to his free roaming privileges and we will not notice when he doesn’t come in at night. we will travel, we will all stay at our respective bf/gf houses, we will work, we will go out and we will not notice the last time we saw the cat because we have been too busy enjoying the sunshine and the fresh smell of our apartment. we will not think about the cat. we will trust him to come back to us through the hole he burrowed next to the air conditioner in the room that leads to the backyard. and he will. sometimes. sometimes he will stay out all night. we trust him though. nam sneaks into my room and borrows my extra set of keys. i am so busy and carefree that i do not notice him working behind the scenes. i forget about the cat. we all do. no one is ever home. i don’t see my roommates for months. nobody notices where anybody else is. we all disappear. i don’t notice. i forget about nam. how do i know him? where have we met before? i wander the streets alone at night. where is my mother? i don’t have anywhere to be but i don’t go home. the streets have become my home and i don’t understand why. i sit silently in a park and listen to the breeze and stare at trees. nam approaches me off the record after nobody notices that the cat has gone missing. i haven’t been home in months. i take more xanax. was there ever a cat? i have never seen nam before. he sits on the bench next to me and receives a kiss on the cheek that he has always desired and somewhere somebody is something i think.