REINCARNATION

Somehow I left the house without a scarf on Tuesday. After work I went to Trader Joe's, which is a bit of a walk from the station. I bought a new scarf for $5. What's odd is that when I got home my old scarf was nowhere to be found. My scarf had not been missing and when I bought the new one I did not consider it a 'replacement.' Bob Dylan talks about Robert Johnson in his Chronicles vol. 1, he describes a farm boy who is "mysteriously" undocumented historically, Ike Zinnerman, who taught Johnson how to play the blues. Whenever I read that passage I can't help thinking that Dylan is implying that he is the reincarnation of Ike Zinnerman. As far as my scarf is concerned, I'm now faced with the tough question: did it simply transform into another pattern and color?

Hottie and Mean-Face are nicknames my former roommate and I gave the baristas at our former local coffee shop. I realize these crude labels probably say more about us than they do about them but that's beside the point. Hottie, so named because my roommate had a crush on her, had been reading Plato's Republic for over two years. Mean-Face, (who was actually friendlier than Hottie, but more severe looking) was constantly talking about man problems. Neither of them ever gave us the time of day. Sometimes I would order a cup of coffee, pay for it, put a dollar in the tip jar, say thank-you, and leave, all without the slightest gesture from either of them. One day which stands out, they had an unbroken conversation about their periods over my transaction.

Months later a new coffee shop opened in a property that had previously been a soup kitchen. It was slightly closer to our apartment, significantly larger, and the baristas were friendly, (both dudes). The coffee was even better in the new place. We started going there and the Park Slope lifestyle was in full swing. The guys at the new place knew my name and were interested in who I was - they even sold my band's CD's behind the counter... so it was a shock to go in there one day and discover Hottie and Mean-Face had been hired. My first impulse was to apologize for abandoning the old cafe, which would obviously have been absurd. I also wanted to tell them that that it was my band whose album they were selling... but none of this ever happened. They intimidated me and the new cafe essentially became the old cafe.

I was back down there for the first time since August a couple weeks ago, just to reminisce. I didn't recognize the barista. The coffee really is exceptional, good coffee is a perfectly valid reason to move to Park Slope. I tried to read my book but wound up repeating the same few paragraphs, totally absorbed in the banal conversation the barista was having with an older guy who apparently went there on a daily basis but never stuck around. Today he decided to stay. He talked with the barista about the Oscar nominees, about how high school seems to perpetuate itself in adult life, about 'difficult but gratifying' novels... he was a big Jeff Bridges fan. The barista, who I didn't recognize, was convincingly interested in the dialogue and I resented their mutual dullness. The resentment I felt, I then realized, is a perfectly valid reason for getting out of Park Slope and into the anonymous polish diners of Ridgewood, Queens. Which is where my scarves should be.