One of the worst things about where I live is also one of the best things about where I live. My apartment happens to be in the heart of my town's "downtown" district, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. It's just that I also happen to live on the street corner of the main drag, so traffic and it's accompanying noise is a constant. (This is where my compulsive need to listen to music all the time comes in handy.) However, the flip side to that is that I'm within walking distance of the library, a big movie theater, and local restaurants.
I've had a serious case of what I call "Bachelor Fridge" for the last couple of days. That's when you have nothing to eat but a few random things, and this morning it's at its worst: 6 bottles of beer I inherited from a party and will probably never finish, a lemon, some phyllo dough, condiments, my Brita pitcher, and a bowl of oatmeal soaking in water. I've been staring at that bowl of oatmeal, which has been my go-to breakfast during the week for a couple of weeks now, but this morning I couldn't do it. I've been living off scraps all week, as I'm trying to get rid of food before I go back out of town. I'll do a small grocery run later today, but I felt like a sad bowl of oatmeal wasn't going to properly fortify me for the job of getting a few items to get me through the week.
Nah, it's cold and rainy and I've earned a big breakfast. I threw on my trench coat, grabbed the umbrella, and walked a block away to Allen's Alley. This, again, is where the living downtown part pays off. And apparently Allen's Alley is the town's oldest continuously-open restaurant. It's one of those "blink and you miss it" kind of places. A best-kept secret to boot, because locals love it. The first and only other time I'd been there was over two years ago, which is a shame, really. Luckily I found room at the counter right away. A small part of me dislikes having to do the lonely trucker thing and sitting alone at a counter to eat, but the bigger part said, "I need me some coffee and hotcakes." I sat and took notes in my MBA Gameplan book, people watched, and had the best stack of old fashioned pancakes in existence. Most of the people there were clearly regulars, getting called by name and a few of them even receiving a Christmas card from the staff. Why don't I come here more often? I can literally see it from my front stoop.
I try to appreciate those things more as I grow older. You know, the unique gems and places you can't find on every other street corner. Don't get me wrong--I'm a fan of Starbucks coffee and Target superstores too. I don't think one necessarily precludes liking the other. One of the things I'm most looking forward to about moving to Europe, however, is the more commonplace nature of small local businesses. Places where I can go to people watch and potentially socialize, get an up front view of the local flavor. In the meantime, I'll try to enjoy what's already in my own backyard.