I'm sitting at Tir Na Nog in ground zero for tourism in Baltimore. I realize this is a dumb place to eat lunch, with regards to one's finances, but it is on the way from one train station to the other station that'll bring me to Silver Spring tonight, and I have been dead set on having a crabcake since I booked my flight.
I made the right choice. This crab cake is a triple-thick mound of heaven, perched on a pile of sauteed spinach and delicately roasted miniature potatoes, surrounded by a moat of lemon butter, and peppered with pignoli, scallions and chives. I would like to give thanks to the squadron of crabs that gave their lives for this meal. They also have Hoegarten on tap. I'm in love. So much so that I have actually leaned over to the adjacent table of old ladies and recommended it.
I have been thinking a lot about heroin on this trip and the people I've known intimately who were owned by it. It seems fitting since as I understand it, Baltimore is a close cousin of Philadelphia drug-wise.
I've been reading Blue Blood, the memoir of NYC Cop Edward Conlon who dealt with a lot of junkie informants. There's one in particular who sticks in my mind; a high school golden boy who fell into drugs and has been living under a bridge for years. He had a nine-year stretch of sobriety, which makes him luckier than most, but was back on the streets within two weeks of using again. The author can hardly make mention of him without talking about his pungent odor - an odor that would linger for days in the squad car, one that would literally speed up warrant proceedings.
I remember saying when I was with Toly and thought he wasn't using, and later after things unravelled, that the more I learned about heroin, the less I understood it. If that's less true now, it's only because there are no junkies in my life to humanize that condition, and like the homeless, I find myself disregarding them and walking quickly through my life. Once in awhile I'll lose an old friend - as recently as a couple of months ago - and as I mourn them, I run down the roster of users I've known and haven't heard from in ages, wondering if they're still alive. I've come to isolate myself from junkies as much as I have Republicans - it makes life easier, but limited and a little less humane.
Reading this book by a Harvard grad who made his way circuitously to the Police Academy, about people who have fallen so far astray, I keep thinking that no one's trajectory is a sure thing. You can make calculated assumptions about people's futures, but you never know what will happen to them or what they'll do to themselves.
A man close to my dad's age just walked up to me and said, "You look nice. And Hoegarten is an excellent choice!" and walked away cheerily, expecting nothing. It's such a small, insignificant thing, but it makes me think about luck, and how good fortune tends to attract good fortune, just like money tends to attract more money, and likewise, when you're poor all of your friends are broke, too. In this case, if I had been unapproachably pretty, if I had a nasty drug habit and poor hygiene, if I didn't have the guts to travel alone, if I had had an unpleasant expression instead of the rapturous "I'm sipping Hoegarten with an unobstructed view of the Harbor and anticipating the greatest crabcakes ever constructed by man" look on my face, that never would have happened.
So even though it's a small thing, a pleasantry, I'm feeling humbled by cosmic gratitude today. Despite the heartache and annoyances and frustrations I've had to deal with, I feel so fortunate for the life I've built, for the people who flit sweetly in and out of it, and especially for the people who stay. And for crabcakes. And balmy weather. And approachability. And sweet baby Jesus, for vacation.