I'm in no mood to write today. I just feel like sitting here, at this coffee shop in the West Village, Café Minerva, and muse on what it is and what the hell it all means. There's a guy, just there, beyond the bar, who resembles Philip Seymour Hoffman, who used to live only blocks from this joint, but no longer. He had one hit too many on Saturday, or maybe early Sunday.
According to CNN, one of Hoffman's friends, some playwright, found the Oscar-winning actor dead on his bathroom floor with a needle protruding from his arm like a pole without a flag. That's a shit sight for anyone to happen upon. One minute, your chum with coffee comes rapping at your door at the behest of your ex-wife only to find you done in by your own hand, splayed out on tiles in shorts and T-shirt and reading glasses still on your head. When police searched Hoffman's rented apartment, they reportedly found a winter stash of more than 50 bags of heroin, which isn't particularly surprising. The rich are known for their culture of excess and buying in bulk, but when you turn up dead on a bathroom floor in your New York City apartment with a needle still in your arm and reading glasses on your head it means things went very bad, very quickly. Hoffman didn't have time to ditch the stash, write a letter or even put on some pants, let alone pull the fucking syringe out of his poisoned vein, before he realized this is it. I'm done. I took it too far. Goodbye.
Well, I just ordered another coffee. It's my third today and it's only 2 p.m. I pissed off a waiter earlier when I blew in by shutting the front door, which is apparently on the fritz. He eyed me like a beetle and stomped his way to the front of the place to pry the thing open as I sat down at the bar. He's probably had to do that repeatedly, like 10 times today, so I'm not really offended. But I am in a bad mood; I woke up this way. So, I glared at the bastard until he stopped staring at me and went back to whatever he was doing before I slammed the wood-glass door. I shut it with a bang, and quickly out of courtesy to the elderly man sitting nearest the front. Every time someone blunders in off the street he gets it in the face. So, at least I did him a solid. Yeah, to hell with the waiter! I'll order half the menu and leave the dick nothing but a glare. Well, I can't do that. No. He's not my waiter anyway. For all I know he's a struggling student, and I've been there—when you rely on committee meetings and club gatherings to fill your mini-fridge with crumbs. Oh, well. He appears to have gotten over it, and I should do the same.
Jesus, two massive paragraphs into this doleful screed and I still can't shake this shitty mood. The sun's out and a clear, blue sky hangs over Gotham right now, but it'll snow again later, they say, so I'll hunker down tonight in my apartment in Harlem with whiskey, Coke, coffee, pizza and a book. And at some point recently, as I pondered how to get through the night, that Philip Seymour Hoffman lookalike skipped out. Damnit. I wanted to get a good look at the guy. I don't know why. Just out of curiosity, I guess. Celebrities of all kinds prance down these streets. The West Village is sort of the Malibu of New York. It's a trendy pocket of the Big Apple where even dogs dress better than me, which isn't much of a stretch. I am a peripatetic journalist, after all. I prefer to be comfortable in my clothes rather than swank. I'm always ink-stained, so, yeah, fuck buying good pants. I worked the red carpet of the MTV Video Music Awards once, and I wore jeans then, too, and a wrinkled shirt. It was a busy morning that day, and I hadn't done laundry, so, later, when I was stationed at the head the carpet, the paparazzi and several staggering celebs in stilettos and their paunchy agents thought I was some sort of Colin Farrell type whose style is more I-Don't-Give-A-Shit. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Even then I was in a bad mood.
Maybe after I finish this cup I'll walk a block and a half south from here and witness the makeshift shrine Hoffman's fans have built for him outside of his apartment. I don't believe it'll help to improve my mood much. I'll probably go from pissed to pessimistic—melancholy even—but maybe it'll remind me that I'm alive and that life is fickle. You don't need a syringe and bad dose of powder for life to end in an instant. Three church-goers died Monday after a 79-year-old woman accidentally backed her SUV into a group of unsuspecting congregates who were probably just discussing where they should get brunch. Here one minute. Gone the next. And that's life, man. Revel in the now, they say, so maybe I'll take their advice. One of my favorite restaurants in all of New York City is just up the way, near Washington Square Park, but first: Hoffman's pad.
And I suppose the point of this piece is that a shit mood could change if you just do something to take your mind off it. Death is invariably at your door, and, well, so is life. So, I'm off to gawk at Hoffman's shrine now, then eat some damn fine ramen by the park before I top it off with a whiskey and Coke and a bit more writing about why screen addiction has gotten completely out of hand. If you just peel your eyes away from your smart phone and laptop and plasma TV long enough you'll notice a few things, jack, like the young love occurring in the corner over there. I can't tell whose tongue is whose. Yeah, man. Those were the good days. … But so are these. It all depends on you, right? To Hoffman, the poor dead bastard. Cheers.
Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, has a Master of Arts degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in New York City.