Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Catching Dragonflies - The Poster Child

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star - Joni Mitchell, Circle Game
Poster Child, Manhattan
From a Poster Advertising "The Little Mermaid"
"That's me!" exclaimed Alice.

She was pointing to a poster above the entrance to the subway station on the corner of Third and Sixtieth. The poster was advertising Disney's "Little Mermaid" now showing on Broadway.

I stared. First at the poster of a child looking up in wonder, and then at my friend Alice. Then back at the poster. The child in the poster annoyed me. Innocent or gormless? I decided on the latter.

"You think you look like that?" I snapped. "I FEEL like that", said Alice. "It is how I look at the world. I am innocent and look at New York in wonder." "ASIF!" I gruffed back, perfecting, or so I thought, my best Jack Benny - Jon Stewart stare of incomprehension. It'd been a long day.

Friday had started well enough. The last day of the working week. The weather had been picking up. Even the stock market was showing minor signs of life.

And so when Alice had called that morning, suggesting dinner I was all for it. "I don't want Indian", she said. Fine by me. What did she want. "Not Chinese". "Me neither?" "I feel like steak", I told her. Peals of laughter. "What's wrong with steak?" I asked.

"It is steak", she explained.

After this explanation I was in for anything. But Alice obliged and suggested a French bistro, midtown.

We weren't sure if we'd need to book. Normally on a Friday night, a reservation would be in order in a decent restaurant. But then, there's the recession. Supposedly many New Yorkers are subsisting on Rama Noodles and glasses of tap water. Alice said she'd book and called me back. "6:30," she said, and hung up abruptly, New York style.

I arrived at the French Bistro at 6:32. "I have a reservation", I explained to the greeter. "Name of Chan." "Nothing by that name," he told me, but suggested I take a seat "anywhere" as there was plenty of room. So I took a seat at a booth table, facing the entrance. Opened my Kindle (Alice is always late) and started reading.

7:12. Still no Alice. I'd been glancing up from my reading every now and then, and she hadn't fronted. I remembered she'd told me that she'd left her cell phone at home, so I was stuck.

7:15. I was getting hungry. And then - my cell phone rang. It was a number I did not recognise. I picked up. "Where are you?" It was Alice. "At the restaurant," I answered. "Where are YOU??" "I am at the restaurant", she answered. "WHICH restaurant?" She told me. "I'm there too" I said, looking around. Plenty of empty tables. No Alice.

I beckoned to a waiter who was standing staring and grinning. "Can you see another woman here talking on a cell phone?" I asked. "Yes yes. Ha Ha." He pointed past me. I turned.

On the back of my booth was another booth. And there was Alice. Giggling hysterically into (I found out later) a cell phone she'd borrowed from a waiter. Facing the BACK of the restaurant. "Oh I feel so good," she screamed. "I was stressed and now all stress has gone. So funny." "Yeah", I thought, "a real scream".

I asked the waiter why I'd been told there was no reservation. "Oh, we wipe the booking off the computer once the first person arrives," he explained.


The steak was gristly. The medium-rare was medium well-cooked. Alice thought the few other patrons were too old and that the female ones wore too much makeup. The wine was passable. But we'd managed to make it through another night in New York.

We left and walked to Sixtieth Street for Alice's subway, my bus. And that's when we saw the poster child.

I'm still trying to reconcile the image of the child with the Alice I know. There's a disconnect that my mind cannot bridge. What's the term? Cognitive dissonance? Am I a cynic or does Alice live in fairyland?

I suspect it's a bit of both, and that there is an inner fairyland in every cynic. Now I just have to figure how to discover mine.

Could it be that I'm a 'Look Up In Wonder WANNABE'?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fred and Jane, Sam and Fanny

Sally has been successful in her choice of college and is very happy.
Freddie has heard about Sally's success and is very worried as he knows she has no college fund.
Freddy writes a note to Sally about college fees
Sally places a chat call with her uncle to see what help she can get in paying her college fees.
Sam is not sympathetic as he's just paid out a lot of money to Freddie.
Sally and Fanny are now friends.
Fanny is worried that Sally will ask her for a loan
Sally makes a comment about having no money.
Sally joins the group The Three Monkeys and pretends she can neither hear or see.
Sally plays loud music for Fanny.
Sally and Jane are now friends.
Sally and Jane discuss economics and sex.
Sally asks Freddy for a date.
Freddy writes to Sally that he is busy for the next few years.
Sally has joined The Greta Garbo society
Freddy regrets having given all his money to Mr. S. U. B. Prime
Sally became a fan of Jon Stewart.
Sam regrets giving so much money to Freddy
Fanny leaves a note for John asking if he has any dough.
Jane and John are now friends.
John invites Fanny to the Spelling Championships.
John invites Jane to the Spelling Championships.
Jane misspells 'Doe'.
Sam is avoiding his nephews and nieces.
Sam is invited to the EU economic summit.
Jane is taking music lessons.
Jane and Bambi are now friends.
Sally thinks Fanny has stolen her money
Fanny thinks Freddy has stolen her money
Freddy thinks Sam has stolen his money
Fanny gets a note saying her college course has been discontinued.
Fanny is selling her text books on EBay.
Jane is thinking of buying "Spelling 101" on Ebay.
Sally has gone to to find out the cost of hotels in Nigeria
John is emigrating to Azerbaijan.
Jane wished she could spell Azerbaijan.
Sam is singing the Star Spangle banner and wishing he was The Fat Lady.
Jane wonders how to spell "Congress".
Fanny wonders where Congress is located
John hopes Congress is not in Azerbaijan.
Jane has decided to go back to the Boston Tea Party

To be continued ...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Too Kool for School

As Seinfeld would have put it, last century, "What's with 'cool?'"

And by 'cool' I don't mean that universal answer people under 35 give - no matter what you say, they inevitably answer, 'Cool'.

"It looks like rain."
"Pass the salt please."
"The curry is rather hot."

No, I mean the cool as in minimal. At least I think that's right. I had thought that minimal went out with pink pashmina scarves and Bill Clinton jokes. But apparently not. The new cool is the new minimal, sort of minimal in comfort rather than style. Or that's the impression I got after we left Subtle Tea.

I was with my brunch friend Alice. Alice is super cool but doesn't know it. I suspect the not knowing it is part of what it means to be cool. If something's cool, Alice will know. Now me, I might think it is just uncomfortable, impractical or ugly. But I wouldn't know. I am not 'cool'.

But back to the Subtle Tea. We were both tired and prickly, having endured a New York work week. Alice said hers was worse than mine as she works on Wall Street. We'd hoped to unwind but we had unwisely chosen for our 3:00pm brunch a British-Indian restaurant that was decidedly uncool. Even I could recognise its uncoolness.

Chez le Chef
We hadn't enjoyed our uncool curry, and so Alice thought we should try to recover what was left of the day and she suggested tea. Cool. We left Curry Hill and walked west down 30th. We passed a place called "Chez le Chef". It speaks for our New York work-week-exhaustion that we both stood gawking at the storefront, wondering what type of cuisine it served. Alice thought it might be German. Uncool ...

We walked a bit further until we reached Subtle Tea, and went in. I found it most odd. There was nowhere to move and on the central bar where everyone was seated, there were strange devices that looked like those dryers they have in nail salons. I looked around expecting smiling Korean ladies holding bottles of nail polish, but there were none. So it really was a tea room. The nail dryers must've been something else. Probably outlets for plugging in Apples. The place would obviously not tolerate a PC.

Alice had told me earlier, that the place was comfortable. "Look", she whispered (cool), "there's sofas".

Subtle Seating
I looked. There was about an inch of sofa to perch on, the rest of the 12 inch seat being taken up by fluffy cushions. No wonder no one was sitting on them. We sidled around past the non-Korean young people plugged into the dryer things. And perched. "Where do we put our cups of tea?" I prickled at Alice. She looked glum, and vaguely waved in the direction of a white plastic chair with a concave seat, six inches away. "I'm not balancing a cup of tea on that!" I snapped. "Let's go", she answered.

And we did. Once outside Alice explained the place to me. She sounded patient, sort of as if she felt sorry for me, or as if I were hard of hearing. "That place is too cool", she told me. "It's for young people, cool people. It's minimalist."

"I don't call dryer things crammed on narrow bars and nowhere to sit on empty sofas minimalist and anyway minimalist is so last century", I snapped back, failing abysmally in a pathetic attempt to be cool.

"Well it IS for young people", said Alice. "Well NEITHER of us is young. We are hardly co-eds", I retorted. Her face fell. "No we aren't". I felt mean.

Still the day ended well. We found a big airy Californian-looking place, aptly called Californian Pizza Kitchen. "Californian", I muttered. "I don't feel like soya beans and decaf". And to myself, "Lighten up, enough is enough!" And then, to Alice, "Yes OK, it looks OK."

We went in and sat down in real chairs. The staff were friendly and cheerfully served us "just coffee". We sat there for about an hour; the waitress topped up our coffees at regular intervals. Unwinding. Relaxing. When the check came it was $4.80. We left $10.

Now that's what I call really cool. A big airy place full of polite and friendly waiters. A cholesterol-filled menu with heaps of trans fats. Room to walk between tables. Lots of little lights and big carbon footprints.

So NOT Californian. And oh, so very cool.