I don't know whether it's because new stores and restaurants don't open up as often in the winter, or whether it's because I don't go outside in the winter unless it's absolutely necessary, but every spring when I re-adopt my habit of wandering around aimlessly when I’m bored, I'm always amazed by how many new establishments have cropped up.
Obviously, I define "spring" loosely, since it's been in the mid-forties and raining for the last couple of weeks around here. But last night, as Frank and I were walking from a show to dinner all the way across town, I was stunned by how many places were new or different or gone. One neighborhood where I used to work a couple of years ago was completely transformed from an awkward in-between business/residential area to some kind of clubland for ibankers.
I do realize that in all likelihood this didn't happen quickly. Since I don't work over there any more, I rarely have occasion to walk through the neighborhood, especially on a weekend night at 10 pm. Probably those clubs had slowly been accumulating for years, and I just didn't notice them until right then.
But the whole thing got me thinking about the way we use and discard various establishments. We do it based on where our daily routines take us, but also on stranger, more occult things. For example, I think everyone has a running roster of their favorite restaurants: so-and-so has the best Brooklyn Thai, this is the best expensive Thai place, that is the best take-out Thai place near my office, etc. I know that for every general area that I spend a lot of time in, I have extensive lists of which places are best for what, in my opinion.
Obviously, when you move or change jobs, these all change around. You could have gone to the same deli every single day for two years to get coffee, then get a new job and never go in the place again. Or perhaps a new place opens up that's better, and you change favorites. But most interesting to me are the places you cut out for no real reason at all. Maybe you'd had one bad meal, or a rude waiter once or something--things that, if you loved a restaurant that much, should've be forgivable--but somehow are just the last straw.
Walking home from the gym today, I passed this restaurant called New Mexicali. It used to be my favorite Mexican place; my roommate and I would go there at least once a week. When I moved in with Frank, I abruptly switched to Lobo, this other place down the street. They're equally far from my new house. I don't know what made me change. I thought maybe it was because I associated New Mexicali with my roommate and we didn't have dinner together as often, but when I asked him if he'd been lately, he said that he hadn't been in years, either.
The place is still the same as it always was. For some reason, we both abandoned it at the same time. It's weird. I guess that's partially why seeing the new crop of places every spring freaks me out. Will one of them make me switch loyalties? Am I missing out on something better by sticking to my old favorites? It always makes me sad when I place I used to frequent but stopped going to goes out of business. Was it my fault? What if I want to switch back? Did I make the wrong choice?
Yes, I am a deeply indecisive human. I'm also at an age--27, if you must know--where I spend a lot of time thinking about routine. On the one hand, I'm in a routine that works for me for the first time in my life, financially, emotionally, all that stuff. On the other hand, it's depressing to think that I'll be in this, or any, routine for the rest of my life. The late twenties are about a fear of failure battling a fear of complacency, I guess. Anyway. It could just be that I care deeply about good Mexican food. It's hard to tell on an empty stomach.