Crumbs and Dust

I submitted a proposal to ObjectLessons about Bread Crumbs/Bread Dust. It was passed upon, but then what good would a blog be if not a purgatory for passing over. I started becoming rather invested in my trailing of bread crumbs, so here are the piles I started building up.

Bread Crumbs
Bread Dust

In a vague sense, one may call them a microcosm of the macrocosm of the split between need and want.

Let’s put it more generally. Bread can be described as a stand-in for one of the most basic human needs. And when the need is dire, anything resembling bread to the slightest will do.

Then bread may be turned into a want, a supplement, an accessory; a fashionable baguette. But you still needthat bread; that rye, whole wheat, whatever you want to pick out from the stack behind the cashier with big, visible labels and yet you still have to ask what is available and what that one is and what that one is. It’s so important.

And yet when it comes to the remains, the crumbs, the dust, it’s brushed aside, swept into the dust pan because what use is something so fine?

Apparently in New York City the cops are allowed are ticket you for feeding bread crumbs to birds.
Simultaneously pounds and pounds are tossed and brushed aside.
None are even sprinkled upon salads or soups. And why not?

Present someone with three cookies, one of which is broken in two pieces but placed to seem together, more often than not they will pick a whole cookie. Pieces aren’t necessarily disparaged, but they aren’t particularly liked.

This looking over of pieces in favor of wholes.
Why the favor of wholes over pieces when holes are dug out in pieces?
Not to say that we should aim for wholes, but the pieces are vital.

There are many object that come with an implication of ‘dailyness’. Getting coffee, going to bed, reading the news; just to begin a short list. Now, this list may or may not have included bread, and maybe it’s the fact that now I work at an establishment called “The Daily Bread”, but there’s a significance to bread that’s suddenly become underlined to me.

Every morning on the way to work, I read from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago Volumee I. Bread comes up quite a bit, especially in the descriptions of its wet, dense existence.

Whenever I close the store, one of my duties is to brush clean the inside of the bread-cutting machine. The result each time is hillside of bread dust. And I wonder at what the prisoners in the Gulags would’ve done for this pile.

A common request that baffles me is for the baguette to be covered with two bags. Is it embarrassing for others to see your bread? Just one baguette, peeking out of a purse that probably cost about as much as the bakery.

The term “bread-winner”—the supporter, the money-maker. It’s in the form of our language.

Bread and salt are often offered in Eastern European countries as a welcome. And who can say no to that?

1917 Russia; the Bolsheviks promised “peace, land, and bread”. What more could one want? It’s been with us since we began to be creative towards our hunger. When we began to play.

Now bread crumbs are brushed aside, disposed off. Given to the birds, but even that’s frowned upon in some areas. Why not play with the leftover dust? Grind the garlic to the finest powder but when it’s collecting itself for you, it’s too much trouble.

Maybe the story of Hansel and Gretel followed its own bread crumbs to the back of our mind. How can you trust bread crumbs when any one could take them?

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It could’ve been funny.

I’m currently still in the process of formulating a routine for myself. Well, I suppose I already have a routine, but it seems necessary to reframe one in which I’m not dreading every waking and sleeping moment. There aren’t too many other moments, mind you. Working for 9.5 hours, returning home, sleeping, and then returning back to work all over again isn’t even something to give a vague name to.

Pushkin dreamed: “I want to live to think and suffer!”
To Live, To Think, And Suffer.
Living encompassed by a variety pack of suffering, leaving no opportunity for the mind to wander and think for just a moment, is not quite what I would call living. Not quite at all.

This spills over past working hours as well.
Last night after I stepped onto the F train at 63rd and Lexington, after it went approximately 400 feet, after I had been working for 9.5 hours, the train stopped. Not the most unusual experience, but it stayed stopped for an hour and forty minutes. The first hour wasn’t too bad, no one really seemed to notice how long it was taking until the conductor started mumbling on the intercom about “technical difficulties” with the train ahead of us.

During this time, a woman came up to me with the question “Do you speak Russian?”
At first glance, and even second, I wouldn’t have guessed that she was Russian. But upon third and forth considerations, it was possible that she came from the Eastern districts of Russia. But how she happened to be here now, in New York City, on the F train in Manhattan, speaking perhaps a graspful of words of English, trying to get to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, I have no idea.

I tried to explain to her that the train was stopped because of “technical difficulties” with the train ahead of us, but if I ever knew how to say train in Russian, that was not the moment in which I could have remembered. All my mind could focus on was getting off of my feet and getting home, after already spending an hour on a stopped train trying not to think about having to wake up in the morning, return to work, and make coffee all over again for people who clearly just want a cup of cream to sip on.

By the time the train started moving backwards, back to the station we were only four hundred feet away from the whole time, she had chosen me as the one who could help her. She only had five dollars so taking a cab to another train station wasn’t within the realms of possibility. Since the B wasn’t running, the Q was the only other train she could take. I tried to describe to her where the Q station was, but with every word I said she returned my eye contact only with the attempt (in vain) to understand the sounds coming out of my mouth.

Finally, I just said “I’ll walk you there. Don’t worry, I can show you where the train station is”. The train returned to 63rd and Lex after an hour and forty minutes of wasted life, and we emerged from the lower levels upon lower levels of escalators. I immediately lit a cigarette, pissed off at the time spent on the train, and vaguely frustrated that now I had this woman in tow. She borrowed my lighter to light her Marlboro Light. The Q station was only about six blocks away; we didn’t speak during our walk. Could we have? Even if there was the chance of being understood, what would either of us have said?

When we got to the station she hugged me tightly and repeated “spaseeba”. I wished and searched my memory but fell short at saying “you’re welcome” in anything but English.

It wasn’t until I was finally home, in bed minutes before I would fall asleep, that I realized that I didn’t even ask her name. That’s the kind of frustration and impatience and indifference that this job is awakening in me. In any other light, that entire situation would have been comic, playful, a colourful anecdote where I happened to have an interaction with someone who wasn’t an unwelcome male chatting me up in the street. But instead it was all refracted with the tragic light of what I was unable to do.