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The Quest

This macaroni & cheese adventure snuck up on me as I was puttering around my apartment putting plastic on the windows to keep out old man winter (that’s seriously the most old man sounding sentence I’ve ever constructed).  I got a cryptic text from Jewish Friend that simply read “Downtown?”  What this meant, I found out when I called her back and said, “I don’t get it,” is that Jewish Friend was downtown and wanted someone to eat with.

Jewish Friend wanted to try Downcity, and I had no idea where that was, which is what makes this an adventure, rather than just two hot bitches having lunch.  When we got there, it was just at the end of the lunch rush, so it was packed and very, very warm, but in the three minutes or so it took for our table to be cleared, I had time to appreciate a beautiful martini that some woman at the bar was drinking, and also the decor which I will describe and being classy with a hint of whimsy.  The walls are bright orange, but not so bright that you feel like they’re screaming at you, dark wood, adequate but low lighting (not enough to make you sleepy, but this was lunch, so…), modern but without feeling cold.  I dig it quite a bit.  Apparently, they host a monthly “drag brunch” as well, as featured in the New York Times 36 hours in Providence.

Our server wasn’t in drag, but since it was Halloween he was dressed up like– Gary Glitter? I’m not sure what he was supposed to be, and felt it was rude to ask.

The lunch special of the day was the macaroni and cheese meal, which comes with salad or soup and a delightful raspberry sorbet all for $12.50.  Jewish Friend and I eagerly agreed to split that along with the deviled egg appetizer.  Unfortunately, the deviled eggs were merely “ok” and Jewish Friend–who has perfected her own recipe for deviled eggs, and is a bit smug about it– remarked “Mine are better than these.”

The macaroni & cheese was decent, but not great.  It was certainly the oiliest mac and cheese I’ve had to date, and I think I’ve isolated the problem.  The menu describes it as: Baked Penne with 5-cheese Sauce and Panko Crust 9–Asiago, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and fontina, which is correct; the major problem is that all of the cheese seems to be on top, and there’s very little in the sauce.  When you eat through the crusty, baked top layer, your noodles are nearly naked.  It’s a very tricky dish to eat well because you stab the top layer and get a lot of just cheese no noodles, and then you have a lot of noodles with no cheese.  Cutting methods need to be employed to achieve balance.

Decor/Atmosphere:  9.5 I love the decor.  When we first got there, and it was really crowded, it was a little overwhelming, but I think that was because it was so hot.  I do not blame the restaurant for that because it was October 31 and the temperature inexplicably climbed to 62 degrees.  Once the crowds cleared out, it was lovely. Mostly I kept thinking about how uncomfortable our server must have been in his silver vinyl pants.

Service:  8  Very good, attentive, costumed.  Our server was quick with the refills, and gave us lots of plates for sharing. For some reason, it took forever to get our sorbet, and he kept touching Jewish Friend on the shoulder, which was upsetting to her.

Food: 7  The eggs were mediocre, the salad and sorbet were good, and the mac and cheese was simply ok. I’d go there again though because there are a lot of other things on the menu that I’d love to try, but I would not get the mac and cheese.

Total: 24.5

I was the last of my really close friends to finally leave Fargo.  My group of oldest friends left right after college, and I stuck around for grad school, and then the rest kind of them trickled slowly away.  I kept thinking that I would leave immediately after grad school, but I had neither a job nor a plan, and so I lingered for another year and a half saving money and making new friends.

It was an odd position to be in because I was ready to leave, but I had to bide my time since I still wasn’t sure exactly where I would wind up and what I would do when I got there.  I felt a little bit embarrassed because among the friends of mine who wanted to leave, I was the last, and that made me feel unambitious in a way.  People remarked over and over how they figured I would be the first one to bolt after college, and how weird it was that I stayed.  Was I all talk?  Would I never finally strike out on my own?  Were the visions I’d had in my head of me bouncing from city to city living life to the fullest not something I actually had the guts to do?

Also, there was recently an article in the New York Times entitled Towns They Don’t Want to Leave, which highlights the five college towns that have the highest percentage of graduates remaining there after finishing school, number two is Providence, number four is Fargo– seriously, what are the odds?  I’m not saying the New York Times will influence whether I stay in Providence or not, but it’s a bit spooky.

I’ve been in Providence a year now, and I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends, but most of us are students and will have to leave to get real jobs.  I actually really like it here and could see myself staying for a while longer, but again, what if I stay primarily because I like my friends, and then they all leave?  I really like Providence as a city, but just like I’d been wrestling with the entire time I was trying to decide where to move: do I really know any better?  I’ve lived a lot of places, probably more than most, but I’ve lived in very few cities, and the fact that I found one I like right away, makes me feel like I can really be happy anywhere.

When I was in sixth grade, I was pretty miserable.  My family had moved about five times at that point, but I had been with the same peer group since kindergarten.  I lived in a very small town, and my dad was the High School principal, which meant that people much older than me knew who I was, and I had no clue why they hated me.  I was tired of all of my friends and their interests that didn’t link up with mine; I was ready for a change.  When my mother told me that they were seriously considering moving, I actually cried because I was so relieved.  I had done all I could do in Hallock, MN and I was ready for a change.

I very much have a tendency to hang onto things until I’m ready to leave them, jobs, towns, etc. I didn’t feel very sad to leave Fargo because I wasn’t appreciating anything about it anymore, I just saw it as a place to get away from.  Leaving my job at Fargo Public Library was actually the hardest thing, because I didn’t hate it and I’ve never left a job without  hating it.

I also don’t hate Providence, but I may have to leave, and that might make it really hard.  I like the idea of being a nomad because one of my biggest fears is complacency, but I don’t quite know what to do with actual contentment.  What if you are somewhere, and you like it, and all of the professional opportunities you need are at your fingertips– that is what I can’t fathom.  What makes a life?  What makes a person say “I’m really happy with my life”? That statement always sounds like a death knell for me, but it seems like a very nice thing to say.

I was talking to a friend last weekend about these thoughts I’ve been having.

“So you’re done in May, and then you move– wherever?” he asked.

“Yeah, except back to the Midwest, but yeah.”

“That’s sucks, man, it would be weird not to have you around.” We sat for a beat, taking this all in.

“Well, when are you leaving?” I asked him.

“Two years.”