We watched for the cab in Murray’s front room, peering from behind his drapes until it pulled up to the corner, then scurrying down his dark stairs, across the sidewalk and into the back seat before the driver could guess where we came from. On the drive over Murray was like a kid on his first plane ride, gawking out the window at the world around him as if he were gazing at corn fields 30,000 feet below him. He did a quiet monologue about the changes he saw. “They closed the hardware store…ah, no wonder a Home Depot, how’d they fit that there, weren’t there buldings there…where’s the coffee shop, I loved those guys, queer as three dollar bills, but they made a mean espresso…Death by Starbucks…this city man, it used to be real…what’s the point…I told you, what’s the point? I can see all this on TV. It’s the same everywhere. They’re even doing it here. Gap, Old Navy…they’re commercializing individualism, just pick what kind of unique person you want to be or you can afford to be…”
We were dropped off and walked into the Boar’s Head, which must have seemed a welcome antidote to Murray’s epidemic of uniformity. Quiet, dark, small, and surviving still, an anachronism amidst all the chain stores surrounding it. The hostess showed us to a booth in the back and we ordered cocktails.
“No Bud Light,” I told Murray. “Tonight try something different. Get a martini.”
“Why not?” he laughed, clearly enjoying his little adventure now that he felt he was in a safe place.