For a long time, the only development project in my neighborhood belonged to a swarm of wasps building a papery hive in the corner of an abandoned storefront. They were the only things fighting entropy here. Around the little nest, the block crumbled, bloomed with smashed bottles and flourished with more painted white initials of idiot children every day. Wasn’t long before a pack of kids smashed the nest and scattered the muddy paper in hunks across the sidewalk.
One day the shop was opened. The sheets on the windows had been torn down. Inside, the little store was decorated in the fashion of a Viennese coffee shop.
“Baroque!” the man said. “I love the fancy curlicues of baroque.”
He operated a complicated coffee machine as if he was flying a DC-10. “This is special coffee,” he said. “From Turkey, like me. Try some.”
On a shelf behind the counter he had set a sleek television. We leaned on marble, sipped our mugs, and watched CNN. “News,” he said, tapping the paper by his elbow. “People want news and coffee.”
“People aren’t going to like that you opened this place,” I said.
“No?” he said, challenged.
I told him some people saw development of business in a neighborhood as bad. His place was decorated and fancy. Most people were used to the cracked orange tile and watery, gritty pigwash they called coffee at the donut shop across the street.
“Why wouldn’t people want nice shops?”
I told him about gentrification, higher rent, and property taxes, which his Turkish reasoning exhaustively refused, and he told me I was crazy.
On the news station we watched relief workers deliver humanitarian aid to refugees outside of Jerusalem. We chatted about the Ottoman Empire, which stretched from the Caspian Sea to Algiers and up almost into Poland and Austria. I told him about the wasps that built a nest that got knocked down.
One day the coffee shop was closed. All the windows but one were smashed and covered with plywood. I looked into the shop through the one good window and saw the empty shelf where the TV once sat, the space where the coffee machine was, and dirt clods on the counter where the man used to lean. I crossed the street, jogging through traffic toward the orange-and-brown donut shop.
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Today we’re going to examine how my life measures up against Boy Scout law. And there’s TV stuff. (Sometimes I don’t get it either; it’s weird.)
Thursday, March 27
Walker, Texas Ranger
USA 10:00 a.m.
“Trustworthy: a Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him.” Wow. Right out of the gate and I’m already suckin’ hind tit. I hoped the boys and I would have something in common, something more than a flair for brightly colored neckwear. Let’s hope and continue.
X2: X-Men United
FX! 8:00 p.m.
“Loyal: a Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.” I’m not so sure about the Scout-leader bit. Not that I’m incapable of loyalty toward one, but I don’t think I know any. Although, I’m not positive about it because you know they wear regular clothes by day, but I’m fairly certain Scout leaders and I don’t go to the same parties. I’ll look around for one. There might be one in the shrubs by the mailbox.
Friday, March 28
USA 9:00 p.m.
“Helpful: a Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.” Son of a bitch.
Saturday, March 29
PBS 10:30 a.m.
“Courteous: a Scout is polite to everyone, regardless of age or position. He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.” Aha! Score one for me. In fact, a friend and I developed the pamphlet “Drug Party Etiquette.” You know, marijuana goes to the left while powders are to be passed to the right. One cuts the lines, the other chooses. Oh, I hope there’s a merit badge for that.
CW 8:00 p.m.
“Friendly: a Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.” Sure, this all looks good on paper, but it couldn’t possibly be interpreted as literal. “Friend to all?” There’s a man who lives behind a Dumpster in the liquor-store parking lot who tries to douse me with his cup of pee if I get too close. So, let’s define “all.”
Sunday, March 30
Oprah’s Big Give
ABC 9:00 p.m.
“Kind: a Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason.” Does anyone else find it odd they mentioned specifically killing harmless things in the “kind” law? You’d think killing harmless things would be the tip of the pyramid. Well, this one’s a wash. While I haven’t butchered any penguins lately, I was curt with a barista yesterday. Maybe there’s an exception for immigrants and high school dropouts, of which she was both.
Monday, March 31
VS. 9:00 p.m.
“Obedient: a Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.” Right out. Obedient. I got your obedience.
Tuesday, April 1
Just for Laughs
ABC 8:00 p.m.
“Cheerful: a Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.” Hey! Finally, something. I really am a chipper fellow — described quite often as a “happy drunk.” I’m almost a Scout. I can feel the glory of the sash and the glow of sun on my knees.
Wednesday, April 2
Deal or No Deal
NBC 8:00 p.m.
“Thrifty: a Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.” I wonder if “poor and lazy” covers this.
Thursday, April 3
Survivor: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites
CBS 8:00 p.m.
“Clean: a Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.” Wouldn’t “scouting” necessarily require a relaxed shower schedule? A defining property of “one who scouts” would be (I believe) an earthy, undecorated scent. Well, then, my friend the Scout, let us stand arm-in-arm, brother!