Walking by Crown Fried Chicken and realizing that's the most convenient takeout place in my neighborhood can be a little depressing sometimes. (Although their new "ad," posted directly on the glass entrance, is awesome. It's for their fried chicken, and features a gigantic bucket of it, in poorly color corrected splendor, with a crazy collage of people from all different ethnicities and demographics beneath the bucket, clamoring for it. Actually, some of the people look like they're no so much clamoring as standing still, oblivious to the fried chicken mothership hovering above them/crushing their families. I guess the graphic designer's stock photography search for "people + excitement + chicken + international" did not yield enough results to fill the poster, so they had to do a back-up search for "people + waiting for a bus + existentially dead.") That's why I was very excited to discover a small oasis of fancypants food in my neighborhood, called Choice. (subtext: "White People's Choice")
Although I felt a bit guilty being drawn into Choice—I was on my way to a very solid neighborhood café, minus the French-accented "e", that lacks any of the pretension Choice could be accused of possessing—I couldn't help but be sort of intoxicated by all the delicious ingredients at play. Muffins with candied ginger. Herb roasted everything. Cookies in pretty glass jars that make you feel like it's your birthday as the café employee pulls one out for you. And, of course, Aranciata. (I can't prove this, but I'm pretty certain walking around with a can of Aranciata and drinking from it with one of those right-angle bendy straws is in violation of some states' anti-sodomy laws.)
I have a love-hate relationship with places like Choice. I really do want to like it, as it's filled with lots things I would gladly stuff into my cookie-hole (ass), but I don't like being part of the whole gourmet tableau it creates. Getting my victuals at Choice means associating with certain undesirable aspects of my demographic. It's kind of like holding a mirror up to myself, except in the mirror's reflection I'm wearing white iPod ear buds, a Jack Spade messenger bag slung around my shoulder, adult sneakers from Camper, and I'm checking my RSS feed from a Blackberry. I would hate this imagined reflection, if he didn't have such excellent taste in snacks.
The café was fairly packed with the type of people who could have just as easily been crowding against me at a Broken Social Scene concert, or the noodle bar at Momofuku. We were all waiting for our pressed sandwiches and frothed milk with various degrees of self-awareness and self-hatred. I tried to drown out my inner-conflict by focusing my attention on some crazy-looking chicken paillard but I was snapped back to reality by this exchange between the counter person and a customer:
COUNTER PERSON IN EXPENSIVE EYEWEAR: (holding croissant in waxed paper) I'm really sorry, but we only have one croissant left. Can you do a roll?
MALE CUSTOMER IN CASHMERE SCARF AND UNDER-EYE MOISTURIZER: (dying inside, a little bit) ...I think I can do a roll.
The male customer then turned to his friend, who was across the café, securing a table and the dogeared Arts & Leisure section of the Sunday Times. He raised his eyebrows while scrunching up his mouth and nose to pre-empt the delivery of sour news, and said, "They only have one croissant." (I was already certain at this point which of them was going to get the croissant.)
I would like to say his friend's expression was indifference, or even disappointment, but no. He was completely grief-stricken. Completely disproportionate. In fact, it was the kind of expression you'd make after being told, "Yo dawg, I got the Bug" or "I just found out the National Anthem has been changed to the American Idol opening credits theme song" or "They only have one croissant, and it has the Bug." It made me want to wait for my roasted chicken with avocado, rucola, bacon and vinaigrette panini AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE!
I look forward to the day when I find happiness without the guilty need to apologize for myself, or stop being drawn to the kinds of pleasures that require apology. Either would be fine.