I lost track of how many times I said the word "fuck" that morning.
As soon as I woke up, I looked out my apartment window and saw a blanket of snow covering the ground and against that window; I heard freezing rain hitting the glass. This did not put me in a good mood.
I put on my clothes, shoes and coat and ventured out to Ludlow Avenue. The freezing rain had frozen the 10 inches of snow underneath and it was difficult to walk. But I had to make my way to the Proud Rooster, because I needed coffee badly and had none in the apartment.
When I reached the restaurant, it was closed.
I struggled down Ludlow some more, deciding to walk down the almost deserted street instead of the sidewalk.
I reached Sitwell's and they were open. Thank God, coffee at last.
Walking back to my place, I saw Bobby, the owner of the Proud Rooster, shoveling his sidewalk. When he saw me, he waved.
"You gonna be open today?" I asked.
"All my help called, said they won't be in today," he said. "If I'm open at all, it will be carry-out only."
I kept walking down Ludlow, thinking that Bobby probably wouldn't be opening at all. With no food in my kitchen, I didn't know what I was going to eat.
I reached my apartment, sat down in my chair, took off my wet shoes and socks and slowly drank my coffee. I thought about all those unwrapped Christmas gifts and how I was going to have to go back outside and head to CVS Pharmacy. I needed some wrapping paper and ribbon. I dreaded the thought of it.
After finishing my coffee, I put on some new socks and headed over to CVS. By that time, some of the sidewalks had been shoveled, but not in front of CVS. In fact, in the four winters I've lived in Clifton, this drug store has never made any attempt to clean their sidewalk.
When I got inside, after almost falling down twice, one of the cashiers had the nerve to say, "Good morning."
"How come you people never clean your sidewalk?" I asked.
"Well, I don't — "
"I mean, every winter it's the same thing. You never clean them off. See those things you're trying to sell over there?" I pointed to a display of shovels recently added to the décor of CVS. "Why don't you take one of those and shovel your own fucking sidewalk, do a service to your regular customers like me."
"I'll talk to the manager about it."
"See that you do. Now where the hell is your wrapping paper?"
"Aisle 3. Happy Holidays to you."
I got my Christmas wrapping paper and ribbon and headed back to my apartment building, again almost falling down on CVS's unshoveled sidewalk. I wrapped gifts for about an hour and did a little reading to get my mind off the fact that I was going to have to try and walk to Keller's IGA to get some food.
Around 1 o'clock, I couldn't put it off any longer, so I went out to Ludlow Avenue again to get some groceries.
When I walked by the Proud Rooster, there was a sign on the door saying, "Carry-out only." Bobby was standing in the kitchen area located right in front of the restaurant's large window and when he saw me, he waved for me to come in.
"I'm serving my regulars inside," he said. "Come in and sit down."
There were a couple other people there having lunch and I sat down and ordered a bacon cheeseburger with fries. As I ate, I thought how lucky I was to be a "regular" at the Proud Rooster. Not only did Bobby serve me a delicious lunch, he also had the decency to shovel the snow off his sidewalk. Suddenly, my mood started to improve.
After lunch, I decided to still head over to Keller's and stock up on some essential supplies — soup, cigarettes and vodka. At the checkout, I saw Jeanne, a person I know through my friend and co-worker Sara, who on that day was vacationing in Phoenix.
"Denis and I are heading over to Arlin's for some drinks," Jeanne said, "why don't you join us?"
"I'll go home and put this stuff away and I'll be over."
"Come over when you can. We'll be there for awhile."
I made my way back up Ludlow to my apartment building. CVS is only a few doors down from me. When I looked at their sidewalk, it had been cleared of all the snow.
About half an hour later, I made it over to Arlin's and Jeanne and her husband Denis were sitting at the bar. When I first joined them, my mind drifted back to all those Christmas presents I needed to wrap. I told them I could only stay for a little while.
An hour later, I was having too much fun to leave. With Denis drinking beer and shots and Jeanne and I enjoying Arlin's wonderful bloody Mary, we talked about New Orleans, good writing, trying to quit smoking and yeah, even Christmas.
When I eventually left, I know I had a smile on my face. It was a lot of fun getting to know Jeanne and Denis better. Sara's friends were also my friends, too.
I got back to the Christmas wrapping, and by early evening I was down to my last one. Just as I was about to get started on it, the phone rang.
"Larry, I'm on a mountain."
"I'm on a mountain."
She was calling me on her cell phone from Squaw Peak in Arizona, indeed on top of a mountain. The excitement in her voice was so contagious; I wished I were up there with her. Sara wished me a Merry Christmas and it made me feel good that she would think to call me from there.
I finished wrapping the last gift and then got out that bottle of vodka I bought.
As I sat down at my desk having a few drinks, I thought about how the day had started and how it ended. I think a day is what you make it and on Dec. 23, 2004, I set out to make it a difficult one. Other people, not me, made my day very good. I need to learn from that.
When I went to bed that night, thoughts of bacon cheeseburgers, clean sidewalks, bloody Mary and Squaw Peak Mountain filled my head. I actually had a good day, and would make the next one even better.