Men Who Lunch

I was eating lunch at my favorite urban park yesterday. Four sets of stairs to the top, but it’s worth it for the view. When you’re lucky, you find a place in the sun. Those seats usually go first. I sat in the shade. Two men sat on the same metal mesh bench as me–one in his 40s, I think, and the other in his 20s. Both wore boat shoes, khakis and button down pastel shirts – casual Friday wear on a Wednesday.

I couldn’t help but eavesdrop: it’s a necessity for a writer, I believe. The day before two 20-something girls sat next to me. Here was part of their conversation in Valley Girl uptalk:

Girl #1:  I pet this stray cat in an alley today–like, he came right up to me.

Girl #2:  Yaah.

Girl #1: Then, he like, scratched me. You know, cats are bipolar.

Girl #2: Yaah, they’re mean.

The 20-something guy also had the Valley-speak. Like, whatever.

Older guy: So what kind of music do you do?

Young dude: It’s like soul, but kind of poppy and a bit R&B.

Older dude: (couldn’t make out his response — kind of a low talker).

Older dude: Any plans for the summer?

Young dude: Well, my folks have a house on Block Island, so we’ll be hanging out there.

Older dude: (mumble mumble)

Young dude:  So what’s happening with your boat?

Older dude: (mumble mumble) What about yours?

Young dude: We’re working on the sails right now, should be ready to go soon.

The young dude kind of reminded me of the Owen Wilson character in Meet the Parents. Ah, the good life, summering on Block Island and yachting. Sounds like a blast, dude.

Here’s to bipolar cats, yachting and the ladies and men who lunch!

The Weight of Lunch

His and Her's

(photo credit: Jen Gallardo / flickr)

By L.E. Swenson

We started carrying lunch to work consistently about a year ago. Prior to that, I would grouse and complain that I didn’t want to carry lunch. It was too heavy! I had childhood socioeconomic creeps from growing up in the privileged section of the North Shore of Long Island. 

“Only the poor kids had their brown bags at lunch, and dammit, we are not that poor.”

We are that poor. Only poor people resort to the financial self help gurus like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman.

We did the math and that tore it. We were spending upwards of $300 to $400 a month on lunch and Starbucks and snacks. I was doing the lion’s share of the spending. Some days, I would buy breakfast too. None of this conspicuous consumption helped us get out of debt, nor did it do my waistline any good. In fact it helped my waistline turn into a wasteland. Rich Manhattan lunches for 10 to 20 bucks a pop were killing us financially and physically.

For those of you who live in sprawling commuter cities, let me take a moment to describe the plight of the NYC commuter.

My mother and brother were visiting me from Savannah, Georgia.

My brother who was 9 at the time asked our mother, “Why does he (me) carry a backpack?”

To which Mom replied, “This isn’t like home where if you forget something you can just drive home and get it. You have to bring everything with you when you leave the house in the morning.” 

My mom left the New York area for Savannah some 20 years ago and when asked, she always has the same response, “too many people,” followed by, “I don’t want to have to have a battle plan every time I leave the house.”

I have since moved to the suburbs and find that not only have our battle plans grown sparser, but the amount of stuff we have to leave the house with has increased in proportion. The suburban commute is not so much a battle plan as a war of attrition. You bear it as long as you can, and the battle plan is simply stated: “Get to work on time” and “Get home as quickly as possible,” and hope you didn’t forget anything.

To the urbanite/commuter here in NYC the weight of lunch can greatly increase the “schlep” factor. With the exceptions of the 1% who travel around the city in the relative comforts of cabs and flunky-driven cars, we urban backpackers have to be aware of our carry capacity, and lunch just adds to the weight. 

The New Normal demands that we grow a little stronger, carry a little more, indulge a little less and find more enjoyment in the little things. Like a homemade lunch. 

L.E. Swenson received his bachelor’s degree in English from S.U.N.Y. Buffalo. He went on to study Theater at the New School for Social Research and received his Masters of Fine Arts in 1999. He has performed in regional theater at Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theater and Shakespeare in Delaware Park. He has written, acted, coached and stage managed in the New York area and continues to write and work in New York.