The guy behind in line me is a somewhat unusual suspect at a vegetarian falafel joint: 50, buzzcut, nice-dad demeanour. He tells the cashier “I’m on a budget: $4.25”.
Turns out $4.25 doesn’t get you much falafel in NYC.
Immediately, even less likely suspect in a thick Jersey accent: “Have whatever you want man it’s all on me. We’re American. What are we here for? You gotta stick together. Sometimes bad things happen to good people.” Once were platitudes.
Our protagonist is a bloke from Jersey. He lives in Brooklyn now – about 2 blocks from me in Park Slope it turns out. Joe goes back to Jersey 2 days a week to remind himself where he’s from... just in case the baseball jersey, cap, and accent he carries with him ever failed? Joe has a Republican sticker on his phone case.
1 week after September 11 Joe joined the military and served for 3 years. He left his engineering firm. When he left the military he bought two Peruvian restaurants in Brooklyn which he owns and runs. Takings are down 30% this year.
The older man lost his money over-investing in his own invention: a reclining chair with a built in waterfall for deep relaxation (where does the waterfall go? yeah i'm not sure). It’s not clear whether the recession made this product unviable, or it was just unviable. Not clear to him at least.
“They’re not bums,” Joe says after the nice-dad-demeanour man leaves. “Just ordinaries like us. A few months ago you could’ve walked into their houses like, 'damn you’re living it up'”.
In America, there’s a special kind of empathy for the poor if once they were rich. I’m not sure how Joe feels about people who have always been poor. I liked him a lot. Peruvian for dinner tomorrow.