Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Friday, June 24, 2005

I Coulda Been a Coupla Chaptas

I’ve mentioned before that a few years back I was working on a humorous novel about a writer. It was called Quagmire, and some of the surreal situations were sparked by real events or real sights I’d encountered in the city. Recently I’ve had two such events, and if I was still working on Quagmire I would certainly adapt both of them for use in the book. Instead I offer them here as amusing anecdotes—and perhaps, if I ever get back to that novel, I’ll pull them from my archive here and use them after all.
The first was two weeks ago. Alex and Amy were visiting, it was Saturday morning and Alex and I were walking around in Queens, hearkening back to our old Saturdays of running silly errands together. We happened across a photo not two blocks from my house, and Alex stopped to pick it up. It was a guy in his twenties, and judging from the Flock-of-Seagulls hair and the artfully torn white shirt the photo was from the eighties.
A block later, on the other side of the underpass (I don’t know why I always wind up living near underpasses in New York. Must be a thing.), we found more photos. A whole passel of them. All clearly from the same set—some had the same guy in them, sometimes with other people, and those other people were in the rest of the photos.
We found more photos on the next block. And more a block later, on the other side of Queens Boulevard.
Now, this struck both of us as very weird. It’s easy enough for a photo to fall out of a book or bag or something. Or for a packet of photos to slip loose, though you think you might notice that. But this was at least thirty photos, possibly more, and they were spread out over at least four blocks and across both an underpass and a major street. Unless someone had been carrying all of them loose in a bag and the bag had a hole in it and was slowly leaking them all that way, we couldn’t see how they could slip out like that. Particularly without being noticed.
My thought was that it was actually a reunion of friends from the eighties. One of them had these photos, and had left them as pictorial breadcrumbs toward the gathering. That would explain the spacing between photos, and the fact that most of them were face-up. As a “follow these to the gathering” idea it was actually clever. But how could someone follow them across Queens Boulevard?
The second event was last night. My friend Peter and I went to see Batman Begins—we were supposed to go with a bunch of other friends but everyone bailed (except Mook who had train issues of the conflagratory sort). We’d decided to try a new place for dinner, a little Middle Eastern place called Bread & Olive (tasty food, btw, and very quick and fairly cheap. Not fancy at all, but a nice quick bite). We got our food and wandered into the tiny seating area in back (entertaining for its submarine-metal floor and its bright green corrugated ceiling, plus the Middle Eastern techno music playing over the speakers). Four people were already back there, three of them sitting together while one was standing up with his arms crossed: an older man and woman and then two young guys. The young guys were probably a couple, and it was one of them standing up—at first I thought he might be the other one’s bodyguard, the way he was standing. The woman was grilling the seated young guy about his dietary habits. And I do mean grilling him. She wanted to know what he had eaten that day for breakfast and lunch, what he had most mornings, what he usually had for dinner, how much he smoked, etc. It was like an interrogation. The older guy sat there and watched and didn’t say anything. Eventually the other young guy sat down again, and contributed a little by sharing what the first young guy had eaten recently. Peter and I agreed it was a very weird scene. Was it a nutritionalist with a new client? A protective mother checking on her son’s eating habits—or those of his boyfriend? A woman trying to make polite conversation and carrying one topic way too far?
Anyway, there you go. The surreal life of a New Yorker, where sights and sounds make little sense but often provide entertainment.
Oh, and I liked the movie. Best Batman film so far, definitely. Shame Katie Holmes was so cold throughout.


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