Monday, February 16, 2015

Night and Day

Confession:  I'm fat again.  I've eaten and drunk most of my belly back.  I did it in a single weekend.  It doesn't seem possible, but it is.  It was unnecessary but inevitable.  It comes from deprivation, really, and then overcompensation.  On Valentine's Day, I barely ate a thing.  After a pot of coffee for breakfast, I thought about going to the gym, but it was cold and my old bones didn't want to do anything, so I sat around the house reading and working on photos and listening to music.  At noon, though, I cooked up three eggs and had two tangerines.  Then, I thought about my mother.  I told her in the morning that I was coming over with a Valentine, and now it was late, so I put on my gym clothes and hustled out the door.  After the gym, I bought my mother a dozen roses and took them to her house.  I am a perfect boy, eh?  Might have been better, I know, if I'd taken them first thing, but she and I are pretty inured to all of this, and I stayed for a while and watched two guys in the forest trying to get a fire started and kill a deer with a rifle and the single bullet that they had.  My mother is apparently studying up for the coming apocalypse.  For me, watching these shows is like watching people run a marathon.  It is difficult, no doubt, but nobody dies.  It is easier to try a thing like that when the most that will happen is that you are embarrassed by your lack of prowess.  However, when the boys had killed the deer and made it through the perilous days and nights successfully, I felt the afternoon with mother had reached its denouement, so I gave her a hug and said goodbye.  Trips to several grocers and a liquor store, and I was home and ready to shower.  There were eating plans for the night.  I poured a drink and got into the shower.  Then it hit me.  My blood sugar was falling.  Three eggs and two tangerines had been it.  The workout and the liquor were beginning to conspire.  I would need food very, very soon. 

You see, that is where things begin to go wrong.  Such eating does not help you lose weight.  No, no, it only helps you lose your mind.  But everyone was ready at the appointed time and we got a good table at the delicious Italian restaurant with the roaring ovens and terrific smells.  I needed food in a bad way.  But of course, there is first the bar, the drinking and the talking and the being suave and debonair.  Think of Cary Grant or one of the good versions of James Bond if they had shaggy hair and wore jeans.  O.K. O.K.  But it kind of works for me sometimes.  Perhaps one of the bad Kennedys.  Yes, that's more like it.  So we chatted up the barmaid and saw the model I had gotten a job there.  She came over and said hello and thanked me up and down.  This was great, she said.  She had lots more time to study.  That is what I was glad to hear.  She looked wonderful and my friend was instantly enamored. 

"I thought you didn't like young women," I said to him. 

"I'm changing my mind," he said. 

"Oh, you're a bad influence," one of the others chimed in.  "You only like young women."

"It is well known," I said, though it was not exactly true.  Of late, I had dated an actual woman. 

"What do you have against women your own age?"

"Nothing.  It's just that the older women get, the more they focus on what's wrong with you.  Younger women tend to see more of what's right.  Look at you.  You're already up my ass." 

"I'm not 'older,'" she said.  "What the fuck.  I'm in my twenties."

"Late twenties," I said. 

She looked put off.  "Early late twenties," she laughed. 

Just then a group of women walked in the door wearing subtle leopard print dresses and poofy scarves.  "Here they come, our friends from the northern counties."  A woman at the bar turned to us and began to chat.  She was from one of the cities to the north.  She and her husband had come in on the new commuter train.  She lived in a town that was trying to undergo some gentrification.  It actually had some nice new bars, but the streets were still full of rednecks and people doing the jitterbug crack walk.  She asked us some questions about town, and I told her that it had been overrun now. 

"The Boulevard tonight is full of out of towners.  This is the new Disney of Liquor and Food.  You can see them when they come, all full of nervous energy, eyes a-bugging, dressed like they are going to a prayer meeting or to prom.  You know what we call the commuter train, don't you?" 

She looked at me with nervous eyes.  "No. . . what?"

"The Carnivale Cruise Ship."  She and her husband laughed.  "There used to be a subtle vibe to this town," I said, "understated and calm.  Now it is like the Hootersville bus gone to Mardi Gras.  Everything good has moved off the Boulevard far enough away that the rubes can't comfortably walk." 

I don't know why I have to be such a prick, but I always liked being the only hillbilly in a very nice town.  I don't mind hillbillies in their element, of course, but I've never liked the white collar working guy who makes enough money to badly emulate true wealth in a conformed and caustic way. 

But before I could tell my new friends more, just before I went into a diabetic coma, our table was ready.  I couldn't get food quick enough.  The restaurant is wonderful and doesn't scrimp on ingredients.  First cold press extra virgin olive oil with balsamic vinegar and slices of fresh bread--Jesus, I had never eaten anything so good.  I ate everything and asked for more.  A bottle of wine.  Caprese Salad.  And the special, a center cut Chateaubriand filet with potatoes and vegetables.  I felt like Falstaff.  At last, though, I'd quit talking, and the table conversation had gone normal-ish.  I looked around the restaurant.  Everyone was beautiful now.  It looked like L.A.  A women at the table next to me and slipped her foot out of her subtle Marie Claire and was rubbing the inside of her opposite ankle.  She had perfect feet, perfect toes.  I'd seen her come in wearing a camel's hair topcoat.  Her hair was of that same color.  The warmth of the restaurant, the smell of the food, the clinking of forks and glasses. . . .

"Let's go to that new place at the end of the Boulevard next to Paul McCartney's house for a drink."  We were just finishing up.  "Have you been?"

"No," I said.  I'd been by it.  It never looked like my kind of place, but the night was new and I didn't want to be a poop.  Everyone always seems more ready for things like this than I am.  So we piled into the car and drove toward the carnival.  I slipped the car into the parking lot of the Catholic church.  The gates were up. 

"You're a catholic, right?  You go here?" 

"Well, my family paid some money, so I guess technically. . . . " 

The night was beautiful, clear and cool enough for everyone to wear their winter clothes.  We walked by the McCartney mansion.  There wasn't a light we could see.  It is a mystery to everyone why he built the place at all.  We crossed the street, and I started to walk into the bar, but my buddy told me no, not that one.  We were going upstairs.  Oh, shit, I thought.  There must be some kind of disco.  As we walked the few steps down the sidewalk, a car full of young girls drove slowly by and rolled down the window. 

"It's Valentine's Day," said a beautiful teenager.  "Will you be my Valentine?"  She was smiling and the other girls in the car were laughing.  I put my hands into the air in surrender and said, "You know I'm a Ready Teddy."  Everybody laughed.  That is how life should be, I thought, just silly and fun. 

"She had the window down before she ever saw you," said one of the group caustically. 

"Sure she did.  Whatever." 

And just then, we were there.  A man who looked like his name might be Mustaf stood in front of the door with his hands crossed across his cods like he was ready to block a free goal kick in a soccer game. 

"I'm sorry sir, but we require that you have a collar to get into the club."  I had stood back while the others had approached the door.  I was glad.  My mind was clicking.  Mustaf was wearing a white shirt with what couldn't quite be called a suit.  I don't think the jacket and the pants quite matched.  I thought to tell him how nice he looked and ask him where he got the uniform or where he got his hair cut, but I didn't care.  This was not a place I would ever want to go to.  It was the inevitable fall of subtle things.  Dress codes to keep out the hoi-poloi.  Oh, their would be swarms from the counties to the north who knew how important a collar was when going out for a sophisticated time.  They would come in creased pants and shiny shoes in their late model Lexus's that they had on a forty-eight month lease.  They would stand around smugly at the bar, perhaps telling some women about the deals they were making, buying the water rights to a new development or how they were partnering for a new shopping plaza, the girl thinking she was hitting the big time, picturing Sunday afternoons by the pool or tooling around on a boat drinking champagne, not picturing the wife he had not mentioned at home, the one he would tell her later--if it came to that--that he was leaving because she did not understand him.  No, I would not be going to that show. 

Sunday broke incredibly beautiful, the skies a million miles away, the light coming from everywhere.  We sat outside at the same Italian restaurant.  The barmaid from the night before came out to say a sarcastic hello.  The sidewalks tables were filling up.  The men were subtle, the women beautiful.  It was not the Boulevard.  That was done.  Later, we would stroll there to take a look, but it smelled like Bourbon Street, the sidewalks now covered in dark gum spots and stains from spilt ice cream.  Yahoos crowded the cafes.  It was over and done.  We had gone elsewhere now.  There was no use in looking back.

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