Sweet Heat at Enrico's on Sunday. We are under attack. The Blue Angels scream overhead. No bombs fall but we know how it feels. On the street an old Chinese woman stops, looks up, shielding her eyes from the sun with a hand. She looks scared.
What is angelic about this show of power? Do what I tell you or I'll make an earthquake of your brain. Is not one small bird more holy than these factory beasts? I will drain your blood into the street where the dogs do it. I will pursue you to a cave where I will seal your fate with bombs.
Bombs, business, butts, buildings, battering, battering of you, of yours. Who's a yours, whose a whores? Hoos of hows against walls worn of wars. Blood. Get me some help, he's dying, can't you see?
Sweet Heat. It makes you crazy. It's a drink. What did you think it was? It was authored by Dave Nepove, bartender at Enrico's Sidewalk Cafe. Some people publish books, Dave publishes cocktails. It's a story he tells in your stomach, a poem he recites near your navel. You can search the world for romance but sip Sweet Heat and the romance of the world resides in you. "Sweet Heat starts with a workout ..."
Now there are other ways to liven
up your life. If you like to eat, you might check out Penang
Garden on Washington Street in Chinatown.
Sometimes the Chinese get sick of eating their own food and they want something
different. Now this is not very often, I think, because Chinese food is pretty
tasty. But every now and then they feel like venturing out. Penang Garden
offers the chance to venture out without leaving Chinatown. The food is a combination
of Thai, Singapore, and Malaysian cuisines. Now don't ask me how they came
up with that combination but it does seem to work. While the restaurant seems
designed to sucker in tourists, it is located on a side street off Grant and
mostly suckers in Chinese people. Or let us say attracts. It has a festive,
island feel to it that will make almost anyone loosen up. Take that old uncle
who has not smiled in years. You may just detect a slight upward curve to
the corners of his mouth sometime during the meal. And do try the dips. You'll
be asking, "Where's
the dip?" at the next joint you try. Dip deeply, dip frequently and just
say no to bombs.
Bombs, booze, & now a restaurant recommendation? You have lost it, man!
What we need sometimes is a little song to loosen us up. And maybe a few dance steps to go with it.
But wait. I now know words no one else does. I have a big vocabulary. That is because I'm make them up. In this city you can do that. Folks just think it is one more foreign tongue waiting for the cable car on Powell. Give it a try; it's a lot of fun. It's even a lot of frum. Brum frum? Nishk! If you can't remember the word you're looking for, just look thoughtful and say it's screeloudjz or even dijzoff. There's no end of words you can come up with when you can't remember the one you're after. Frobst? Thursht!
Lully lala lolo. Frully frally ...
Some people work more from the imagination than others. French painter Anne Bachelier is one who works from the imagination. In fact, so much so that she doesn't know where things come from. She was at the Weinstein Gallery on Geary Street the other day for a show of her latest work. I have been dropping by Weinstein for some time now to see her work. It is riveting and seems to stream out of the deepest imagination. It is of another world, hard to describe in terms of this one, but often involving the color red, flowing white gowns, creatures with beaks ... (Below, left: L'oiseau la suit comme son ombre—The Bird Follows like her Shadow by Anne Bachelier. ) The first thing that struck me about Bachelier is that she did not look like the women in her pieces. Now why I thought she would look like the women in her pieces I don't know. My own imagination at work, I suppose. In fact she reminded me more of Our Late Great Lady of Food, Julia Childs. She was taller than I pictured, a little stiffer, perhaps, and had short curly hair, not long flowing hair. She was not the sexy temptress I had pictured. Foolish me. What I did get from actually meeting her was that she was the character in back of it all, the wizard, the whijouze, if you will. She assured me of two things: She did not live in Paris and she did not wait for inspiration to hit. In fact, she works everyday at her painting pretty much as if it were an ordinary job. She is also a family person, a falujzhier.
Neil Zuckerman, her New York agent, was at the show and he filled me in on Bachelier: "Anne is very family-oriented. She works every day, for the most part, but she can't exist without her family. She's never shortchanged her family with her work." Somehow I had thought that was what artists were supposed to do, but I have a warped view on almost everything. In fact, Anne has two sons, one daughter, and three granddaughters." One of her sons is a well-known illustrator of children's books, the other a tattoo artist, said Zuckerman. Now when I heard the latter, I pictured the likes of Anne's painting rendered on human skin and I kind of went wow! like some silly teenager. The idea, however, of being a walking, talking Bachelier work of art intrigues me. In fact, I didn't quite have the words to express it, so I made a few up: balarquie zhmorque zha zha pushamartie. You make up some words of your own. But don't you dig that pretty cool, Lester? Precolie?
Now here was the interesting thing to me. Said Zuckerman, "The work comes through her; she doesn't know where it comes from." She stretches her canvases loosely, leaving lines and ridges, puts on a pair of headphones, listens to music, and paints. Says Zuckerman, "She sometimes is as surprised at what is on that canvas as we are when we finally see it." He says she is a person of intense curiosity and everything finds its way into her work.
The show sold out almost instantly. Says Philip Allen, director at Weinstein Gallery, "We waited three and a half years for her exhibition. Between our last show and this show she'd had shows in France, New Orleans, and New York." What is nice about the show, says Allen, is that it comes from a specific time period and is therefore connected. "They (all the pieces) did seem connected because they were flowing from some unconscious place but they were over a specific time period. She couldn't help but think the way she was thinking." (Right: Hatter & Alice by Anne Bachelier. ) Allen finds this type of show to be the most interesting. "Museums can do retrospectives, and we do retrospectives as well, but my favorite show is of an artist who will work for a period of time for one gallery and then just pour it all out." It is a little like the difference between a live performance and a studio recording. The live performance, even with flaws, is more spontaneous and therefore more lively. Laflotie, zafluqui. The greatest hits may not be the greatest. Nagraquisette.
Completely off the subject I suppose, I stopped by Rex Hotel on Friday about 11 PM. There is a quaint little bar there at the rear with about four or five stools. The long bar-lounge is designed to look old fashioned with all the comforts of a gentlemen's club. In fact, it succeeds so well at this that it may actually be an old gentlemen's club. It has lots of dark-stained wood with all kinds of woodwork that you do not see anymore and that no one would know how to do. I don't even know the words for these cuts: chimoos? trelmoos? Probably not but see what I mean? Know anyone who knows how to carve a column with those little curvy lines? Nor do I. There days everything is functional, meaning useful, meaning you have a purpose, which all comes down to bombing the shit out of someone, right? Well damn purpose. I want to see something that just looks good, that, all on its own, is pleasing. (Left: The bar at Cafe Claude lit up by candles.) I have no goals and I hope you too have none. Let us go about our "business" without the notion of gaining an advantage. Then what is left? Aesthetics. Pure aesthetics. Sound frightening, doesn't it? Anxorothius anexorious. Get me a drink, get me a pill. Give me back my purpose. Put me to work in the factory. And do not show me the nice curve, the intriguing line ever again. I do not want to see it.
So as I was saying, I dropped by Rex on Friday. I ordered a Bourbon on the rocks with a splash, as it seemed to go with the room. A Martini or a Manhattan might have been okay too. Besides wood, the Rex features art work on every wall and shelves of books. It gives the impression of a place to relax, sit back, and contemplate the deeper things in life if they still exist or have not been masked by a heavy layer of purpose: pshhhuka. Although it was a bit noisy with a Friday night crowd, it is not like up the street at the Cellar, where youth is out to prove that it owns noise and can outshout anyone who would dispute that claim.
As the crowd began to thin out, I somehow "fell into conversation," as they say in the olde bookes, with the young man working the bar. His name was Nathan. He was a friendly young chap and, as I suspected, new to Rex. We talked a little about cocktails. He was also new to bartending but found it interesting. Sometimes he got orders for drinks he did not know how to make. He showed me the book he had just bought on mixing cocktails. He mostly gets orders for Manhattans, Martinis, Old Fashions, and Cosmos. I mentioned the Sidecar. He knew of it but did not have it down yet. We discussed the difference between Triple Sec and Cointreau. A Sidecar can use either. Finally I asked him if he liked art, which surrounds one at Rex.
"Actually, " said Nathan, "it was the books that attracted me here."
"Really," I said. "You like books?"
"Oh, yes," he said.
"Who is your favorite?" I asked.
He said he was very interested in Winston Churchill.
"Really," I said again. I am always surprised when I hear myself saying really. I have a friend with a big ranch in Mendocino who says "really" like no one else can say it—part surprise, part put-on, part the tell me more of the therapist. I have learned to imitate the way she says it. No conversation ever stops when she says "Really"? It is more like "Reeaaly." In some other language it might be barruuushkati? parmuuushfi? Though I do not know that other language, I'm sure the conversation does not stop in it either.
Now actually I myself had become just a little interested in Winston Churchill for some reason. Probably because of quotes I had read. Yes, the guy is very quotable. Burashaki, nish? Byburashaki! I guess it's like this: if someone says something smart, as opposed to something dumb or stupid or boring, I get interested. Think Bertrand Russell, then think George Bush. I begin to think maybe I would like to make this person's acquaintance. As I recollect, it was a quote about never "taking strong drink" before lunch. That was in his youth. Later on I believe he said he had changed that rule to before breakfast. I like a man of strong principle and drink.
Nathan mentioned that his "buddies" were also reading Churchill. Now I had not heard too many guys talk about their "buddies" in a long time. It was kind of refreshing. Nathan was on the bony side but muscular and with bright eyes. He said his buddies had mostly read only the first volume of Churchill's biography whereas he was plowing through the whole eight-volume thing. Admirable, I thought. Where does a young man get that kind of time? Well, sir, you make it. Yes, if something is important to you, then you just damn well make the time. I asked him for a suggested book on Churchill.
"Churchill: A Biography by Roy Jenkins," he said.
I jotted it down. I was interested in Churchill but not planning to become a devotee. But then who knows? I think I said the same thing once about Sherwood Anderson. Then spent the whole summer reading everything he wrote, good or bad.
A couple came up to the bar, looking a little hesitant. It was approaching midnight.
"Last call?" the guy asked hesitantly.
"Last call," said Nathan solemnly. "What would you like?"
I'm not sure what they ordered.
Churchill and Bachelier. Now how do you put those two together? I had some reading to do. Maybe you don't put them together. Then I thought about how Churchill liked to sleep till noon. He apparently found those morning hours precious. The good ideas, the wisdom comes then. All American presidents should be required to sleep till noon. Have a glass of wine, smoke some pot, loosen up. Maybe the rest of us could then live in peace. Preejz. Maybe we could walk down the street without fearing angels of death. Angeehadeejz.