Arby’s and the Harder Times
When I got to feeling like I’d never belong or thinking that my friends only tolerated me or whatever, I’d get into my car and go. The car was blue and had a scrape on the right-side back door from when I’d raked it against a column in a parking garage. I told my parents I’d found it that way — that some drunk must’ve hit it and run.
I’d get into the car and drive to the Arby’s on 21st Ave. I’d order a chicken cordon bleu, a Mountain Dew, and mozzarella sticks instead of fries. I’d listen to angry rap, or a podcast, or comedians I liked at the time.
Todd Barry, one of those comedians, had this bit on the Bon Jovi episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. The show kept saying that Jon “went back to his roots,” but Barry said, “I didn’t see one portion where he strayed from his roots. It’s not like they said, ‘In 1987, Jon Bon Jovi entered a New Jersey recording studio with just four sets of bagpipes and a woodblock.’” I loved that joke.
I’d drive and listen until the food was gone, then I’d pull over at a gas station and buy one pack of Marlboro 27s and one Diet Mountain Dew. I’d consume most of both and drive until I felt the anger — or whatever it was — loosen, as when the stuck lid of a jar finally gives and turns. I performed this ritual at least once a week for about a year. Then I moved away, and my parents traded in the car because they couldn’t get the cigarette smell out.
As I write this, there’s a tiny chicken on my kitchen counter, in a cardboard box. The book on chickens said this would happen: You get one or two that will get smothered under the rest — or pecked to death — unless you pull them out. You put them in a box of their own, you mix sugar into their water, and you get them just the right amount of warm. Sometimes, I pick the chick up and hold it close to my face, and I smile. That part isn’t in the chicken book. But I love that part.
-Dave (@leaf_house on twtr)