Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I have a dream of living in a shire in Middle Earth. Living in one of those cozy, warm, built-into-the earth hobbitt houses with a warm fire. In lieu of that I live not in Middle Earth, but in Midtown Manhattan.

Across the street from my building is the BASAL DELI. Its one of tens of thousands of bodegas/delis all over New York City. What a noodle shop is to Beijing or a pub is to London, the bodega is to New York.

On the whole they are owned an run by Pakistanis/Various Arabs/Koreans. BASAL is one of the lower-end bodegas. Dusty shelves of canned and packaged food. A deli counter where the meats are of dubious origin and the tuna is a ticket to tapewormville, moldy cheeses.

But for a coffee, paper, soda or pack of vanilla incense you can't beat BASAL.

One morning I wandered bleary-eyed into BASAL for said morning coffee and a paper. I patiently stood online. As I did, I spotted a strange looking creature.

Dirty sweatpants, dirty hooded sweatshirt, a slightly bent over back, shuffling back and forth.

Some wisps of dirty blonde hair peeking out from the sides of the hood. The creature stepped up to the counter and then it came.

"Four, five, six, boxed and squared" it said in a high pitched, raspy, Dante's 5th level of hell demon voice. I must have made a noise because it turned around an glared at me with dead, cold, watery, gray eyes. Inside the frame of the hood was a face so worn with age, so crazy eyed and with a mouth almost foaming, I shuddered. It was a she of some sort.

She turned back to the counter, and collected her 4,5,6 boxed and squared lottery tickets.

I could almost hear her mumbling "my precious, my precious" as she fondled the tickets and walked out the door.

The Gollum of BASAL left, staggering down the street, "my precious, my precious."

I was overcome with a strange feeling, of, ownership.

I dropped my coffee and paper and flew from the place of rancid bologna and COLT 44s. I quickly caught up with her. I grabbed her lottery tickets and shoved them down my pants. "MY PRECIOUS" I screamed as I danced a jig of triumph.

My victory was short lived. In a whirl of dirty gray pants and public housing fury, she lunged at me. Hood opening wide as if she were some primeval lizard. We were on the ground, tumbling, rolling, kicking, biting. Finally I rolled her off the curb as the M16 bus pulled over to stop. With a sickening crunch and a long squirt, she was no more.

I pulled myself up, limped back to my apartment and caressed "my precious" until 8:00 p.m. When I turned on the TV.

"I'm Yolanda Vega, and here are tonight's NY Lottery numbers"

"DAMN YOU, YOLANDA VEGA!!!!" 3, 9, 0 is NOT MY PRECIOUS. I wailed and cried and writhed long into the night over the loss of my precious.

The next morning, waiting online at BASAL, coffee and paper in hand, I was overwhelmed with yet another urge. "Can I get a tuna-melt with my coffee and paper?"

Oh how I long for Middle Earth.