Spend ten minutes around me, and you will learn that I am not a man who wants any part of rural life. I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and I’ve pretty much had my fill of car culture and hanging out at the mall on weekends. I conform to, have even cultivated, the worst Woody Allenish clichés about New York City existence. I have to be coaxed into leaving the island of Manhattan, and get fidgety when I do. When confronted with greenery, I start to sneeze. I was once caused to go camping, by a long-ago girlfriend, and spent the entire four days sitting around glumly waiting for it to end. (Mostly because it rained the entire time. I took that as a hint from Mother Nature.) Unlike Nate, who is pleasingly and sanely conflicted on these matters, I am a provincial, parochial, ridiculous chauvinist. I will do everything I can to live the rest of my life on this particular hunk of schist. Frank O’Hara put it nicely: “I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life.” Solidarity, daddy-o. I’m even lucky enough to have married a city girl who more or less agrees with me.
And yet, as I trudged twenty blocks downtown to daycare in the rain this morning, for the second day in a row… pushing a baby in a stroller covered with one of those horrible oxygen-tent rain guards … holding a cheapo umbrella that blew out several times and lost most of its structural integrity halfway through the trip … I had a moment. It involved, just for a second, a big minivan with a sliding door and a carseat, and a commute that involved nothing wet except a travel mug of coffee. Just for a moment, I had a vision of my alternate life, and it seemed ever so much easier.
Fortunately, I have recourse at moments like this. It involves a stop at a place called the Donut Pub–a local institution that’s been on 14th Street since 1964. It has a spotless marble countertop, swiveling diner-style stools, and old Greek guys dispensing crullers. The donuts are several orders of magnitude better than Dunkin’; the coffee is as hot as fresh lava; and they’ll let you read the paper at the counter for as long as you want while your soaking-wet pants drip dry. On a morning when you’re feeling a little fragile, it takes the sting right out of everyday life.