ArchivedLogs:Decent Human Beings
|Decent Human Beings|
27 March 2015
<NYC> Dogtown - Midtown East
A small nook of a joint in Midtown, Dogtown is decorated with little thought to class or style. Cheerful, with black and white tiled flooring, bright red tables, bright yellow walls, menus plastered on peeling sheets over the counter, the walls are papered in an assortment of photographs -- smiling patrons who hold records for successfully eating six or more hot dogs in one one-hour sitting. The menu here is simple and solid -- hot dogs both beef or vegan with a huge array of toppings, fries, slaw, chili. It's not haute cuisine but the dogs are good enough to draw large crowds, especially late at night.
It's a little late in the afternoon for lunch, but that at least thins the crowds in the restaurants out somewhat. Somewhat. There is still a decent bustle of folks filling the local-favourite hot dog shop. One new addition to the bustle is a slim redhead in a TARDIS blue polo shirt and khakis, messenger bag bopping along at his hip as he makes his way through the door and to the back of the line. It takes a few moments for Micah finally to relax from whatever rush and business had been going on prior to arrival, his weight rocking back and forth along his feet for some time before he settles into waiting and eyeing the menu boards.
Veronica shoulders the door open and deposits herself at the end of the line. She's wearing a brown corduroy jacket that doesn't quite fit her and boot-cut jeans that do, and a pair of well-worn Doc Martens. She looks at the menu and frowns. "Hey man," she says to the man in front of her in line. "I'm a couple of bucks short, can you help a girl out?" Her breath smells like cigarettes and booze.
To the credit of the folks behind the counter, the line is at least moving at a steady clip. Micah turns at the voice behind him, a smile spreading across his lips and a little nod given at the greeting. "Hi, hon. How're you?" The southern Virginia accent betrays his 'not from around here' if the words themselves don't do the trick on their own. He nods at the question, fishing a wallet constructed from shiny metallic-blue duct tape out of his pocket, opening it, and...making a face at it. "Sure...um. Actually, I don't really have cash on me right now. I could put your order on with mine, though? No good gettin' all ready for a meal just t'realise y'don't got quite enough in your pocket." His stomach seems to agree with the sentiment, grumbling a protest at the late lunch hour. His cheeks respond to the complaint by reddening faintly.
"Wow, thanks!" Veronica breaks into a big smile at the offer. "That's awful nice of you. I was thinking chili dog and fries, that's what they do best here." Her stomach also grumbles in sympathy, but she doesn't seem embarrassed by it. "I'm Veronica. You new to New York?"
“Sure, sure. S'a classic,” Micah agrees, a full-on lopsided grin appearing in answer to Veronica's smile. “I'm Micah. Nice t'meet you.” Her question sparks a little chuff of laughter. “Depends what y'mean by 'new'. I been livin' up here near on two years, now. Seems like it takes a good deal more'n that t'break the Virginia out of an accent, though. Could be it's hopeless. M'husband's been up here since high school an' there's still no doubts 'bout him bein' a Georgia boy once he opens 'is mouth.” The line keeps on rolling along, bringing Micah to the front to place his order with the sandy-haired teenage boy behind the counter. “Hi, sugar. Could I get a Burmese Mountain Dog with sweet potato fries an' a root beer? An' a Cincinnati Red Dog with fries an'...” His torso twists back to regard Veronica. “Did you want a drink, hon?”
"Coke, please," Veronica replies, smiling shyly at the kid taking their order. "It wasn't just your accent made me think that. A lot of people end up here from all kinds of places, some never really change how they talk." She has started speaking with a mild but definitely noticeable Chinese accent, where she sounded like a New Yorker born and bred only moments ago. "I've only lived here a few years myself."
“An' a Coke,” Micah completes his sentence with Veronica's addition. “Thanks much.” He swipes a credit card and taps a stylus at the little screen on the machine a few times before sliding over to the food-waiting side of the counter. “What else gave me away?” The question is asked with clear amusement in his tone, echoed warmth in his hazel eyes. “I can do accents, but only like in a...play-actin' kinda way. Don't think I could keep one up full-time if I tried. Where'd y'come in from?”
Veronica follows Micah over leans against the counter, facing out. "Well, I asked for two dollars and you got me lunch," she says. "It's not very often that happens, and I guess I'm stereotyping a bit. I don't know too many southerners." She pauses a beat. "Virginia IS considered the south, right? Me, I'm from Taiwan. Weird little sorta-country near China. I lost the accent cuz I was tired of getting crap over it."
"S'a fair enough stereotype. A lotta us got a thing 'bout makin' sure folks is fed." Micah chuckles softly. "Ohgosh, yes. Ever question the southern-ness of the state while you're there an' most folks'll act like you insulted their mother. I ain't never been sold on that particular identity overmuch, m'self. Could explain why I'm not livin' there anymore." He nods along with Veronica's explanations. "The way y'explained that leads me t'b'lieve you've /had/ to often enough, an' that just makes me a little sad. Folks 'round here really don't know what Taiwan is when y'say it?" The nodding transitions smoothly into head-shaking. "People mess with you over the accent? I mean...people mess with me over mine but that's a pretty common North-South kinda thing. The little touch of Chinese just seems...cute, mostly. I like accents, though."
"I'm never really quite sure where things stop being north and start being south," Veronica admits with a grin. "Around Washington I guess? And once you get off the coast it seems like all bets are off. That makes it sound kinda like they ran you outta there for not being southern enough." She shrugs. "A lotta people think it's Thailand, but I mean, it's pretty tiny and pretty far away. Well, you know, kids will pick on other kids for just about anything." Something in her posture stiffens, a very slight hunching of her shoulders, but she still sounds casual enough. "But yeah, some people like it. Good thing I can summon it at will.”
"Pennsylvania's definitely North an' Virginia's definitely South. Things get kinda...ambivalent roundabout Maryland. But, yeah, it's less a big deal once y'get away t'states that weren't as involved in the Civil War business t'go makin' identities over it. Then it's more of a Heartland versus those Coastal Elitists narrative. T'keep goin' on stereotypes." Micah flashes another grin with this, which he also turns easily on the brunette who sets two trays full of food on the counter. "Ah, here we are! Y'wanna grab a table?" Reaching over, he slides his own tray into his hands. "Not so much that folks ran me out as maybe I ran m'self out? I wasn't exactly a good fit there, so I moved off into this god-forsaken country up here." His eyebrows bounce at the 'god-forsaken country' portion, clearly mocking something he'd heard before. "I guess the names sound kinda alike...? Hm. Y'find it helpful t'have the accent sometimes?"
Veronica grabs her tray, and hesitates only a beat before answering. "Sure," she says, nodding at a small empty table crammed into a back corner. "I've never really been out of the northeast, as far as the US goes, so I get to play dumb immigrant on the whole regional rivalry thing." She sets her tray down and starts in on her fries before even sitting down. "Yeah, some people think it's charming, or exotic, or something. And some people, not as many, have this Chinese Pride thing going on, though those mostly prefer if you actually SPEAK Chinese. Funny thing is most of those are American-born."
Micah follows along with Veronica's nodding to the indicated table, sliding his tray along the tabletop. Rather than proceeding to take the seat on the same side as his tray, he shifts to pull Veronica's chair out for her. “I've visited other places, but as far as livin', I've only been in Virginia an' New York, m'self. Didn't get 'round to a whole lotta travel. Furthest I ever made it was t'Germany with a school group. Language classes, y'know?” A little buzz of a 'hm' comes through closed lips. “Prob'ly kinda an over-compensation thing. Tryin' t'own distant roots, maybe.”
Veronica takes a very small step back when Micah comes around to her side, her posture guarded and uncertain. But when he pulls the chair out she seems to relax and little, and sits down. "Thanks." She dumps some salt on her fries before picking up another one. She kind of stares at it for a moment, then looks back at Micah. "Did you have trouble over being queer, though, in The South?"
Reading that guardedness, Micah very quickly shifts back to his own side of the table and plunks himself in the chair there. “'Welcome. Apologies...it's a really ingrained habit. Most of the time confuses people up here more'n anythin'.” Another dusting of pink settles across his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose. “Yeah. I mean, it's not uniform by any means. An' all places got their mixes of people who hate you an' people who love you an' people who just don't give a fig based on somethin' like that. Things were a lot less bad when I went t'college up in northern Virginia. But back home-home weren't easy. There's...most of m'family really don't have nothin' t'do with me. Took more'n m'fair share of gettin' beat on in school. Prob'ly didn't help havin' a disability, though. Gives even the real cowards an easy target t'aim at.”
Veronica starts attacking her chili dog while Micah talks. "Being a dyke was actually cool, when I went to school here," she says after washing it down it with coke. "Think I only ever got picked on for being poor. What do you mean disability, though?"
"New York definitely embraces the whole...idea of queer a lot better than some other places. As do colleges, generally, if that's what y'meant by school." Micah nabs a bottle of ketchup from the table and coaxes enough of it onto his plate to eat with his fries. "Ohgosh. I forget, honestly, that not everybody can tell anymore. I used a wheelchair a lot when I was younger. An' walkin' aides sometimes. I still have crutches that I use when the weather's bad, an' a chair I keep for when somethin's goin' on health-wise that warrants it." It takes him a second to realise that his explanation is coming out a little backwards. "Prosthetic leg. S'the short answer." A shyer sort of half-smile tugs at his lips as he slides his left leg out from under the table, tugging up the cuff of his khakis enough to show the metal shaft where a calf would usually be.
"College? Nah, I dropped out junior year of high school." Veronica sprinkles some vinegar on her fries, apparently to get more salt to stick to them. "I don't know if I'd say kids embraced it exactly, but there was kinda like a rebel cachet to being the right kind of queer, anyway." She tilts her head and stares at the metal leg. "Oh...wow. Does that hurt? Is that a dumb question?"
“Yeah, that's sometimes a thing, too. Be enough of what's typically deemed undesirable an' suddenly you're cool t'certain folks. Come back 'round the bend on it, kinda.” Micah giggles, shaking his head until he can clear his mouth of french fry to speak. “No such thing as a dumb question comin' from a person who's seekin' t'understand somethin'. Sometimes it does. Asymmetry in posture an' gait can set off a lotta back pain issues an' such. An' no matter how good a prosthesis you have, sometimes the residual limb gets t'hurtin' an' y'gotta adjust somethin'. I don't have any of the 'phantom limb' sensations that some amputees hafta deal with, though. That can be a real bear.”
"That, and I guess a lot of straight boys thought it was hot," Veronica grins. "School was still hell, though, and I'm glad to be done with it. I mean, People beat you up over being in a chair?" Her expression doesn't look quite as surprised as she sounds. "That's fucked up, man."
"Right. Because lesbians just exist t'provide straight guys with threesomes an' porn with no penises in it," Micah says with a quick snap of his fingers, as if recalling something he'd almost forgotten. The roll of his eyes marks the statement as purely jest, if the wry tone weren't enough on its own. "I honestly couldn't say. I know folks with disabilities who sure get picked on an' hurt just for that. I...was small an' a geek an' a nerd an' queer an' Jewish /and/ disabled? So it's sometimes hard t'tell which thing or combination thereof people were showin' objection to. I used t'joke that I just got a real punchable face. Like bein' photogenic, only for hittin'." He splays his fingers to use his hands to frame his face, mock-posing. "Things ain't really been like that since I got outta school, though. Well, mostly... Kids're just screwed up, still figurin' themselves an' the world out. I'm sure most folks as were involved in that stuff then would be right ashamed of themselves thinkin' back on it now."
"Exactly!" Veronica lights up with sarcastic glee. "But if it saved me some extra pummeling, I don't mind. I was a scrawny kid." Not that she looks all that buff or un-kid-like now. She takes a big bite of her hot dog and looks either deep in thought or very serious about chewing for a moment. She finally sips at her coke again and shakes her head. "Man, I think you've got a lot more faith in humanity than I do. Adults only stop doing that shit if they think they can't get away with it. When there aren't consequences..." She shrugs.
"Take small favours where they come. Even when they're wrapped up in misogyny, I guess." Micah finally picks up his hot dog to take a bite, losing a few mushrooms off the back which he collects with his fingers to stuff back into the bun. "Prob'ly. Got more'n enough folks tell me I'm crazy for givin' people the benefit of the doubt most of the time. I don't know, though. I think it's a really screwed up, vocal minority that gives people a bad name on most things. An' then a scared, confused majority that...just goes with it. I do think most people grow some. An' there are those that don't! I'll acknowledge that. Got enough things shouted an' thrown at me an' even some real attempts on m'life as an adult, from other adults. An' watchin' what other folks close t'me have had t'go through... Even I won't deny there /are/ some horrible people out there. I just don't think it's /most/ people. Sad that that qualifies for hopeless optimist status, ain't it?"
"I dunno, I think it's kinda cute," Veronica says, one corner of her mouth pulling up in a smirk. "If that optimism gets you through, keeps you going? Why not? It just doesn't really work for me." She picks up a fry and rolls it in the salt collected at the bottom of its greasy paper tray, but doesn't actually eat it. "You gonna tell me I'm too young to be cynical?"
Micah blushes at the declaration of cuteness, an additional few shades of red rising at the smirk. “I dunno. Some folks seem t'take it as an almost personal affront when y'don't agree with 'em on just how screwed up people are, or in what ways.” He takes another large bite of hot dog, maybe in attempt to hide some of the blushing. “No, wouldn't never say that. Would be entirely presumptuous. I don't know your life experience an' I'm not about t'discount your feelin's just 'cause you're younger'n I am.”
Veronica finishes off the french fry and dumps the rest of the salt in the paper tray onto her chili dog. "Well, you're pretty cool. You know, on top of being an actually decent human being an all." She picks up the remainder of her loaded hot dog and sort of salutes Micah with it. "And I'm not just saying that cuz you got me lunch."
“I /do/ half wanna buy you one of those little salt licks they make for pet rodents 'bout now, though,” Micah teases, grinning over his remainder-hot dog at Veronica. “Thanks. Can't say I get accused of bein' cool too often. I'd return the compliment, but I can just hear m'kid in m'head talkin' on how I'm no kinda judge for what cool is.” That last draws another chuckle out of him. “I am, occasionally, good for more'n a meal.”
"Yeah I'm a big fan of salt, but not sure about just licking a whole block of it. I'm not in that deep yet." Veronica finishes off the rest of her lunch in two large bites. Too large, probably, as she ends up chewing with almost comical intensity before reaching out to her coke for assistance. "Wow, I was hungry, that really hit the spot. Thank you again." She gets up and takes another gulp of her soda. "Who knows, maybe I'll see you around, huh?"
“Prob'ly for the best,” Micah assures, a hint of laughter still in his tone. “You're more'n welcome, hon. Like I said. Us Southerners an' this thing for makin' sure folks is fed... Stereotypes do kinda grow from somewhere.” The redhead stands and fishes out his wallet again to withdraw a business card and pass it to the girl as she starts off. The card is TARDIS-blue and covered in white writing reporting the company name 'Gorilla AT' over his own, 'Micah Zedner, MSOP, CPO, ATP'. Beneath is the expected series of e-mails, phone numbers, and a P.O. Box address. “I'm kinda a networkin' nut. Just in case anybody needs t'get hold of me for whatever. Was nice meetin' you. Have a good one.”
Veronica's eyes go kind of wide as they skim over the card. "That's a lot of letters. It's like your card is in code." But she pockets it all the same and grins, dipping her head in a sort of a bow. "Nice to meet you, too. Bye!"
“That's the medical field for you. We /love/ our acronyms.” Micah gives one last wave before settling into his chair to finish off his lunch.