Thursday, May 25, 2006


Mamma’s last meal in New York City was take-out buffalo chicken wings (from “Down the Hatch,” nonetheless) and red wine. The play at the “Cherry Lane Theatre” that proceeded our bar food bacchanal was nice and light and filled with just enough sexual innuendo to entertain us for 3 hours. However, it had not been stimulating enough to keep us awake through another prix-fixe menu. Dinner at home would be nice change of pace, I thought. Really, though, “dinner” and “home” are very loose descriptors for where my poor mother was forced to rest her head, what processed chicken parts I made her eat.

The aluminum container arrived, steam seeping out of the side and top creases. I ceremoniously doled out our dinner, and with a certain flourish, poured each of us a glass of Rioja to accompany our “entrees.” Such a good sport, Mamma. She perched atop the leather ottoman while I sat on the only kitchen chair, the seat’s rattan digging into my thighs, leaving its mark on my white, city flesh. We hunched over our dinner plates—perilously balanced on tops of knees, piled high with wings, little thighs, plastic containers of blue cheese dressing—looking up now and again to talk about town gossip and my then-precarious job situation. Our faces were unapologetically marred with vinegar-hard hot sauce and creamy dip.

What did my mother really think about my trials and failures in New York? What advice did she withhold out of good breeding and spirit? How silly and insignificant did my life and city loves look to her then?

I consider the advice and the encouragement that I will give my daughter when she decides to make the bold flight North, away from me and her father, the culture she instinctively trusts. I know that she will move because she’ll have my strong, stubborn spirit and her father’s charming (and bumbling) naivete. Anywhere my daughter goes, in her eyes, will be home.

I’m going to tell her that the free drinks aren’t worth it. In fact, you know what? I’m going to give her a Cocktail Stipend. Just as Granddaddy and Grandmother sent me money for taxis, I’m sending her a check for martinis and nice glasses of wine. “They’ll get to be asses as the night wears on. That’s when you say goodbye and use the money that Mamma sent you.” I just can’t BELIEVE the ridiculousness I put up with for a damned $10 dirty martini. The hubris, the posing, the invasive questions—my daughter will NOT have to endure that.

I will advise her to go buy a “toy” on Christopher Street. Forget the potential one-night stands and inflated promises of dinner dates. Leave them at the door and, well, how shall I phrase this? Go back to yourself. A stranger in a bar is much more likely to disappoint than a “AA” battery or two.

Take yourself out to dinner. Observe the people around you—the ones that you aspire to become, the others that you pity. Jot down notes on your cocktail napkin. Keep a folder of these and refer to it every so often when you feel that the city is changing you.

Skip the club opening/loft party, catch a foreign film. What is an investment banker in a loft on Chambers Street going to tell you about yourself that you don’t already know? “Has anyone told you that your eyes are as blue as the water that laps the shores of Round Hill, Jamaica?” Bertolluci, Mastroianni and Truffaut—THEY can illuminate a thing or two.

Call home. Don’t forget where you’re from. That’s how you got to the Big Apple in the first place.

I’ll give my daughter her wings--just like Mamma gave me mine--and hope that she’ll fly. If not, well, I suppose we can dunk ‘em in a bowl of blue cheese dressing and call it a day.

No comments:

Post a Comment