Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesdays II

back to Au Chien Qui Fume this week...

... expecting to be disappointed, especially because I wasn't really all that hungry for fish soup. Of course they have lots of other yummies on the menu, but they do soupe de poisson so well... so I went and I ordered it, all in the name of routine.

The waiter who served me last week didn't take my order, but he did end up bringing my bowl from the kitchen and greeted me with a friendly reconnaissance that surprised us both. I mentioned that the joint was jumpin' and he said the evenings especially have been very busy lately. I suspect the change of pace that I noticed was due mostly to the fact that I had arrived earlier than last week. I had to sit at a floating table for two in the middle of the restaurant. The bar man was lining up saucers with doilies and meringues for after lunch coffees and the fish monger was serving himself a pastis. I couldn't make out any of the conversations around me as they bounced around the room in buoyant warble.

But there was one table that caught my attention... two older gentlemen shared a rather large fish and a half bottle of wine before ordering desert. The one with the short, clean cut hair had a fruit bowl and the other, who was facing me, ordered a slab of cream and custard... maybe lemon. The latter must have mentioned me to the former because he turned to look at me. He tried to see what I was reading--California Quarterly's latest volume--before turning back to his brother, twin brother--I knew it as soon as he turned around. Then he got up and took his coat and hat from the maitre'd and waited by the door. Meanwhile, the less pressed and polished brother caught my eye and took it as an invitation to start up a conversation with me.

The first question is always "What country are you from?" and usually, anyone friendly enough to ask it is happy to meet an American. He seemed a little tipsy, said that "love is life," and then he invited me to dinner. By now it was maybe 3:30 and his brother was standing by the door, all but tapping his foot, but the friendly one kept chatting me up. He would be back with an artist friend for dinner--someone well known, he said--and if I was there, he would be happy to invite me to join them. The idea was enchanting and, truth be told, it hung in the back of my mind as I passed the rest of the day at that small table in the middle of the room drinking Grand Marnier, reading poetry, and writing...

"These crumpled wads of wasted words won't stick. They drip between the walls and the Maitre'd with the thick moustache, and the more I waste, the smaller the words, the vaster the small, blank page... Drinking in the afternoon--la classe Americaine, he says as he works to pay my way. I want to come back again and again. Have dinner with the drunken twin and his artist friend. But can I ask that freedom of my Love, my jealous, zealous Love?"

Ok, not always something worth reading! But there it is anyway. After that, I spent almost an hour on the phone with family and friends back home. Honestly, I don't see how this can last for too many Tuesdays, but yesterday was no disappointment. Thinking I might go to the movies after lunch, I didn't take the Filou; and though I never made it to the movies, it's a good thing I left him home. He would have been clawing at the window after the first hour and a half. Maybe next week, Filou!

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