The best bagels in the world come from Long Island. I have said on wax that I will fight anyone who disagrees otherwise. I won’t throw hands, I’ll just be really annoying about it. I’ve had a bagel every other day for the past month. Either an onion or a garlic bagel, sometimes an egg bagel if I want something softer.

I’m a big scallion cream cheese guy. I’m a wuss when it comes to lox though. People want that shit piled on, but it’s just too salty for me. I need it like bacon in a breakfast sandwich, only 4-6 strips max. Sometimes, if I’m feeling fancy I'll get a chicken salad bagel. I haven’t always eaten bagels this frequently. I think I’m just getting preemptively homesick.

I’m moving in August, my first real relocation as an adult. Still in the same state but 5 hours & 10 counties away. I’m a just hick kid from Long Island. I’ve never lived west of Queens or east of Nassau.

My life has been shaped by bagels & racism, bad local post-hardcore shows & working at the mall, watching some friends kill themselves with their affluence, watching some friends die from poverty.

Long Island kinda sucks if you’re not rich & really sucks if you’re not white — & despite any misguided teenage attempts, I have been neither. If you don’t have money, your only two outlets as a young person are weird niche subcultures or drugs. I have since retired from both.

Despite being unmistakably from Long Island. I’ve worked in the city my whole adult life. There's just never a shortage of jobs there. My profession, in theory, exists to serve marginalized communities — which is to say, I get paid below the livable wage by the state as long as there is inequality & human suffering.

I don’t do what I do because I think it’s good. I think I made it clear in my last post that I’m deeply cynical of altruism. I do what I do because it doesn’t make peoples’ lives harder by default (though that has never stopped some of my colleagues).

When COVID hit, I became determined to stop working in the city. Not just to avoid highly crowded areas because I contracted COVID there (& then got super sick, & then infected my mom, & then watched my mom get super sick for a whole month & almost die, & then watch my grandfather slowly actually die on FaceTime) but because I wanted to find a way to connect people from own neighborhood to resources that could benefit them.

Central Nassau (officially called the Town of Hempstead) houses 7 of the 8 towns (technically referred to as census-designated hamlets) with the highest violent crime rate in the county. At my orientation for a graduate internship with a local human services agency, they listed the towns in alphabetical order — ending with my beloved hometown of Westbury.

In front of god & everyone, my mouth began moving on its own. “Shout out Westbury!” I shrieked. The presenter gave me a weird confused look. The people from the North Shore, South Shore, & Garden City gave me an equally weird, if not disapproving look. My fellow ToH locals laughed & clapped.

That’s the problem with this job. Cultural competency is a flawed idea that just forces you to look at people as numbers all equating to suffering. We need something deeper than the surface to be taught across the board. So many of my colleagues subscribe to the numbers that are forced down their throats, but I am as wary of their intentions as I am of their training.

But I’ll be leaving this life behind soon, at least for three years. I got accepted into a funded MFA program for Creative Writing in Poetry. Which means my rent & health insurance are taken care of just for writing & barely teaching. I’m pretty stoked, all things considered. I'll need a part-time job still, but nothing as intense or draining as my most recent roles.

But I’m not someone who can enjoy things easily. Everything needs to come with baggage. I don’t know where the funding for my living expenses comes from & that scares me. I want to find a way to live in a college town while not stealing from it. I’ve shit-talked academia my whole life despite having a graduate degree & about to start a path for another. I’m a contrary little fuck which makes me a real delight to celebrate things with, least of all my own victories.

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I have so many thoughts about Long Island, about leaving, about so these next 3 years of my life — & I do want to write about them, if only for my own catharsis. But right now, the ideas aren’t fleshed out enough because the feelings haven’t been processed. I’m working through a mixture of socioeconomic stockholm syndrome, a honeymoon phase, & wounds still being too fresh. So I don’t think I can yet write about these things fully or even responsibly.

Though, I also haven’t really tried if I’m being honest. In preparation & gratitude for this weird transitional period limbo of part-time employment, I’ve kinda just fucked off & played a lot of Final Fantasy XIV this year.

Just over 5 months in I’ve just beat the base campaign of the fourth expansion Shadowbringers. It’s a gorgeous gorgeous game that makes me feel nostalgia & angst & comfort. It’s the watching-your-mom-make-meatloaf-while-she-smokes-a-menthol-cigarette-&-Evanescence-plays-on-the-radio of video games.

I have a fun character, a Hellsguard Red Mage (though I prefer the term “a fencer, who knows a spell or two”) named Dulcet Jaws. He’s neat. He’s a large man, & he has a pompadour.

Like many millennial RPG fans, I can’t help but aggressively self-project into my player character. Sure, he has way more muscles than me but he has dumb glasses like I do & dumb tattoos like I do & thanks to a sweet virtual gift from a person I’ve been dating (who is wonderful, who was also stuck on Long Island their whole life, who is also about to start a new life somewhere far to pursue the validation of their dreams — & no, I don’t know where this relationship is going after we both move very far away) also has a dumb tucked-in floral shirt like I do.

& while I’m not quite ready to reconcile with my own upbringing, I can write Dulcet’s.

He was born & raised in Giridina. His mother was displaced Doman, running as a pirate for the Confederacy, until she washed up in Limsa Lominsa. His father, a Hellsguard & once-proud Ala Mhigan citizen, only to become a refugee in Ul’dah. They became mercenaries, as there were few opportunities for people like them. Once, they no longer had to offer their swords up to the wealthy — they moved to strike out on their own as adventures. They were happy, they were young & free, & so full of love.

Upon learning they would have a child, they tried to build their nest in Gridania — where they believed they built enough goodwill as seasoned adventures doing right by the locals. Of the major Eorzean city-states, it seemed the safest at the time & of course — what more do earnest hard-working immigrants want for their children than safety?

Except it wasn’t safe. Gridania was only truly safe for Hyurs, Elezen, & Miqo'te (& even then, only the right color of Hyurs, Elezen, Miqo'te). Dulcet was always too large & too abrasive & too soaked in lava for this beautiful place & its foliage.

His parents never quite understood his struggles. When all you know is war, what’s a little childhood ostracization? Dulcet had a home that was never going to be blown up by an Imperial Legion. Wasn’t that enough?

He determined to make it so. He took up carpentry, botany, & even archery. He loved the woods of the Black Shroud, the only comfort when the most other youths would pay him no mind — & the ones that would, only had ill-intention. He wanted to live his life in service of the Shroud.

There’s more to Dulcet’s life, that is not quite fully fleshed out. But I do have the rough notes. He’d attempt to become a conjurer, to use his gentleness as a force for good — only to find out he lacked the athereal discipline. He would try to take his archery to its transcended form & become a bard, only to discover he did not have the heart to mix song with bloodshed.

He currently makes way for his mother’s adopted home of Limsa Lominsa, to study thievery & the culinary arts -- forms of expression that he hopes won’t betray his own physical or existential limits.

I keep wondering what Dulcet ate every day before he relocated to Limsa. What was his comfort food in a town that never offered him comfort? To my knowledge, there are no bagels in the Final Fantasy XIV universe (I have the official cookbook), though if there were, I would assume they’re only available in Norvrandt — a continent in a parallel dimension.

Perhaps he sought his morning solace in Walnut Bread. The harvesting of flour & nuts is rather abundant in the Shroud, & this is a favorite recipe of Gridania’s spiritual leader. On days he needs to be on-the-go for a hunt, he simply spreads maple cream on a slice. Maybe on the days he wants to treat himself, he fries up an egg.

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my official summer soda (best consumed after eating a bagel...or two)

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a playlist of some songs from Long Island people

Teenager ~ Jeff Rosenstock
Not a (Copsucker) ~ Copsucker
Better Days ~ I Am The Avalanche
Montauk ~ Bayside
Diamond One ~ Koyo (feat. Life's Question)
III ~ Stray From The Path
There's No "I" in Team ~ Taking Back Sunday
Who's Amazing ~ One True Thing
Deth Kult Social Club ~ From Autumn to Ashes
None Shall Pass ~ Aesop Rock
Rock Co.Kane Flow ~ De La Soul (feat. MF DOOM)
Nixon ~ Crime In Stereo