Saturday, March 11, 2006

Doing What I Ought Not Do

One of the passages in the Bible that resonates most truly with me is found in Romans 7: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." Kind of tongue-twistery, no?

Oh, don't worry, I"m not going to run off and flog myself with a cat o' nine tails, it's just that it applies to a few things that happened and that I was thinking about on this lovely blue-sky morning in New York.

First, I woke up with an intense hankering for doughnuts (which is unusual, since the aroma of my real, true love -- bacon -- was wafting in through my open window from my neighbors' house downstairs). Lacking a Krispy Kreme in the neighborhood, we've never really had doughnut options so normally I wouldn't have given it a thought. Except -- the evil pink-striped Dunkin' Donuts just set up its wretched, ugly shop a block away, closing down a lovely little local sit-down pizza place. Bastards.

This presented something of an ethical quandary. I really wanted the doughnuts, and I was feeling self-indulgent because, save for a nice but quick dinner out with my friend P., I worked like a 16-hour day yesterday thanks to the WSJ doubling the word count on the story they assigned me to four thousand. With two days' notice. (A note on dinner: If you ever think of going to Frank in the East Village, do not go if you're a person who cannot tolerate getting bumped. I LOATH feeling jostled and bumped during dinner and it's enough to send me over the edge and distract me completely from any kind of conversation I'm supposed to be having with my dining companion. Luckily, P. was sitting in the "bumping spot" and it didn't seem to bother him a bit; he's a better man than I. Oh, also, get the creamed spinach. It's heavenly, salty and not gooily viscous in the way that creamed spinach sometimes is.). I posited that the words "Viscous Vegetables" would make for an interesting band name, although P. disagreed. Then he thought a bit and said, "Then again, the Viscous Vegetables are probably playing, at this very moment, at Galapagos. Who knows!"

But back to the doughnuts. I quickly realized (and I don't know why it took a doughnut to realize this) that I am an ethically weak person. Not to mention a hypocrite. Part of the reason I love New York and Brooklyn is that it affords me so many great, independent, local choices that I never HAVE to eat at a DD or a BK or a McDonald's. I show my support for this culinary diversity by giving my hard earned dollars to the independent restaurants. And STILL, I knew RIGHT AWAY this morning that I was going to DD even though their doughnuts aren't any good. Upon exiting the store, Boston Creme and jelly in hand, I saw this chap sitting on Court Street smoking a cigarette. He works at a coffee shop on Court that, while I'm 98.7% convinced it's a mob front, still opens earlier than Bagels on the Park and therefore sometimes if I go to the gym REALLY early, I'll go there to get a coffee. I was so embarassed about my DD bag that I turned on my heel and walked the long way around the block to get to my house so I wouldn't have to weather his deserved glare. I knew I was wrong, because of the shame I felt. Damn you, Dunkin!

I was also thinking this morning about my propensity to flee in pursuit of adventure, versus comfort, and whether it's entirely self destructive or a good thing, or what. Whether this impulse (which did have a hand in my last, atomically damaging breakup) is one that will always stalk me. Like, when I woke up this morning, the birds were singing, a nice breeze was coming in my window, and I found it somehow reminiscent of the crisp, sunny mornings a few Decembers ago when I'd wake up inside my tent in Mexico, throw on a turtleneck and flip flops, and zip open the window to see two thousand foot cliffs towering over me. "Good morning, I'll be over to climb you shortly." That was probably one of the free-est and best times of my life, and I often find myself longing for it when my feet get itchy.

I keep having fantasies of buying a Westie, picking up a dog from a pound and being a nomad for awhile. And I'm realizing this is something I probably should have done in my early 20s when I first entertained the possibility of doing a summer on the road climbing with Noah. But, I was trying to establish my career, had no money, had just started a new job, barely knew how to climb, and we had only been dating a short while. So a summer-long adventure that most certainly would have altered the arc of my life was compacted into a couple of weeks. Of course, five years later, when I rashly quit my job at the WSJ, I was *also* trying to establish my career and had no money. I think my capacity for trusting myself has grown; I only wish I had taken that weird leap those years ago. It's one of those forks in the road that I will always wonder about -- what would have happened had I taken the other direction. I wish life were more like a choose your own adventure book so if I don't like the way things are going now, I could go back and take the other path for awhile and see what happens.

That these ideas are floating around in my head now, at a time when I'm probably happier and more settled in New York than I've ever been, is strange. Maybe I just haven't had a real (i.e., adventurous and longer than a week somewhere new) vacation in long enough, because I this morning I once again had that overwhelming urge to chuck it all, get in my car, and move out West.

I guess it's a good thing that that's a little harder to do than just ordering a doughnut. Because as I exhibit time and time again, I am a slave to my impulses.

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