I drank too much at the City Paper party last night, and I paid for it this morning, with the aching head and inability to think that come of getting too friendly with bad red wine. One of my first blurry thoughts—-besides “Oh shit, it’s 10” and “I need water”—-was “I wish I was in New York.” Let me explain: I was not missing skyscrapers, glamour, or heaps of garbage; I was longing for a cheap breakfast.
I don’t have much money, and I don’t know how to cook. But during the month that I slept on friends’ couches in Manhattan and Brooklyn, I managed to live mostly off food items that cost about $1 each: 50 cent rolls and bagels and coffee, $1 samosas and pastries, $1.50 egg sandwiches and slices of pizza. I tried to keep track of East Village locations that advertised a full breakfast for less than $3; I couldn’t keep up with them all. It seemed that in the city whose cost of living puts even ours to shame, I could eat my fill and still have half of a $5 left over. (Drinking was another story.)
I came to the District expecting that well-prepared ala carte items could still be had for cheap. How wrong I was. Take Woodley Park and Adams Morgan, where I work. An egg-on-bagel sandwich at So’s Your Mom or International Cafe costs more than $3 with tax; add coffee to that, and most of your $5 is gone. A bagel does not sell for less than 75 cents, and if you want a good one, say at Heller’s Bakery, that little circle of dough is a dollar all by itself. This is to say nothing of pizza slices, pastries, or samosas, all overpriced.
I finished my $2 cup of coffee and $1 bagel at Murky Coffee on Capitol Hill. If I were in New York, I would be full of life-sustaining grease. But here I was full only of what Cervantes called “duelos y quebrantos“—-gripes and grumblings.