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'?

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