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Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The city is suddenly antiseptic. Sure, I moved to the suburbs to escape the filth, but I'm a little nostalgic for the cocked shoulders of gutter punks, for the rhythmless hippies flogging djembe, for the minor river of paper and dust that teased ankles and eddied down alleys. Mayor Schwarz did a bang-up job, I've got to admit.

I had envisioned a parade of turning heads, old haunts glowing with they-knew-me-when. Instead, newspapers hang open off coffee shop tables, abandoned after the business-lunch rush, their me-centered headlines readerless, unappreciated. This was supposed to be my homecoming.

The cell phone whines in my pocket and I ignore it. No doubt it's Marie wanting an explanation for my lateness to the benefit. I've quit smoking, I decide, except for one more here and now, though I half expect some cop to politely ask me to crush it out. Perhaps it's good to have a disappointing return. Discontent is a great motivator, and if I intend to follow the limelight, I'd better work up a few more stones in my shoes, burrs in my gloves. Nicotine tars my lungs, then disperses tiny clouds of pollution and ego into the neighborhood.

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