Just in time, I’ve found and rented my haven, a bungalow in a hamlet about 100 minutes’ drive north of New York City. This place is rural with two capital Rs. Not even a stoplight. It makes my hometown seem trés cosmo.
Mark has been uncommonly useful. He’s handled sales and fed Sneeky while I’m away. Sometimes he helps me pack the car so I don’t get ticketed for double parking. It’s good to get along. I admired him a lot when we were young and he had answers for everything. (He still thinks he does, but it’s easier to fact-check them.)
After each trip, I return to an apartment full of empty beer bottles, smoldering ashtrays, and an iMac loaded with strange software. I can’t tell what the programs do and Mark is lax at explaining. (MacWorld is lush with bootleg programs.) I’ll figure them out in the backwoods, where I’ve arranged satellite broadband service, the best I can get in my chosen cow town. I need sleep.
Instead I just went to that bar I like for a public drink. The place was more subdued than when the yuppies attacked me. I recognized the drummer from the LES DIY and we shared a few rounds.
‘Bruno’ has a haunted demeanor—sunken eyes, deep cheekbones, a haggard grin—but he turns out to be a pretty funny refugee from Buffalo. He’d rather croak than hide from Round Two upstate, but he said this without judgment.
I was horrified to learn that Ric’s business has been failing. My friend hasn’t mentioned problems when I call him. Bruno thinks diners don’t want to eat there because they associate it with “that depressing old disease.” Has helping people cost Ric his dream?