On one of those steel-skied Manhattan winter mornings, when it seems like the city is encased by a slow-moving ironclad, I was sitting in the back seat of a Mercedes-Benz, eating a hot dog with two new friends. Exactly 44 $100 bills lay folded up in my wallet. I’d just met these two friends, both of whom had seen me pocket the cash, but I wasn’t much nervous. If they robbed me, I would see them again soon enough. As it happened, both were nice kids from Westchester County. I knew nothing about Westchester County except for the stigma that kids from Westchester act tougher than they are. My friends acknowledged the stigma and spent half an hour arguing over which was the more important debut, Eminem’s The Slim Shady EP or Biggie Smalls’s Ready to Die. I really listened, made a case for Nas’s Illmatic, and felt happy for the first time in months. After we finished the hot dogs, the kids drove me 20 blocks uptown and dropped me off in front of my apartment. I thanked them, walked up to my studio, and fell asleep.