Skip to content

In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed

Ashton Kutcher’s Ghandi

January 27, 2004

Maybe it is time to bail on Brooklyn. My Fall Cafe buddy Kelly has apparently and inexplicably up and moved to Iowa. I piece this together upon receiving a string of emails after the first of the year, with references both to caucuses and methamphetamine. When I reference my own less than stimulated state, he suggests a William Styron book and adds “If you feel like freaking-out, go ahead and freak out. Then crack open a beer, listen to ‘Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East,’ and remember you’re a mammal.” Some might question the elusive few with whom I choose to bond, but I have my reasons. Still, this shift from infrequent personal interaction to regular electronic communication might have problems. The guy’s got something to offer beneath his erratic exterior, but also has issues with the “Reply to Sender” tab and “Caps Lock” key. All of his emphatic statements are typed in small case, offering dramatic contrast to the rest of his prose, which resembles an ongoing NO PARKING sign.

Philosophy Works, according to an ad on the train, and further reading reveals that the “School of Practical Philosophy” is offering a ten-week course, covering questions like “who am I?” and “why do I exist?” These dilemmas will be considered, then applied to the task of breaking free from life’s suffocating rhythms. I’m about to jot down the number when I notice that the course started three weeks ago. I put my pen away, figuring that all the stuff about the Allmans, mammals and beer has already been covered. Maybe I’m thinking too small-picture, and should consider starting my own school of advanced thought. I’d investigate the frustrating inadequacies of language, and whether Ashton Kutcher and Ben Kinglsey can both reside comfortably under the heading of “actor.”

This is really just a cheap lead-in to “House of Sand and Fog”, a Kingsley film I saw this weekend at the Cobble Hill Cinema. I’m trying to make the most of these five-dollar matinees during my final days in Brooklyn. But I fear I may be shaping into an unpaid Roger Ebert, indulging a dangerous form of delusional introversion while staring longingly into Jennifer Connelly’s eyes. Popcorn butter obesity can’t be too far behind. The movie is OK, particularly Kingsley’s performance, but it isn’t exactly a picker-upper. Reading the New Yorker review after, I am struck by David Denby’s criticism of Vadim Perelman, the film’s Russian director. “He produces scenes of great intensity,” Denby notes, “but he doesn’t capture the colloquial ease and humor of American life.” Perelman shouldn’t feel too badly- neither have I.

***

I hit the Fall Cafe yesterday, after a rather inconspicuous absence. I’m making these Brooklyn rounds as one with a terminal prognosis might check in with old pals during the home stretch. (Well, perhaps not so forebodingly as that.) The Fall staff is oblivious to the fact that I’ve been writing about them for some months now. Such are the advantages of being an uncelebrated author. Yesterday I ran into one of the wise-guy counter kids, a lad I objected to strongly at first, but grew to dislike less as the weeks went by. He’s a dead-ringer for any of the three Hansen Brothers from Paul Newman’s 70s hockey flick “Slapshot,” and sports thick-framed glasses with unruly, curled hair.“You’re not making a mess again, are you?” he chided, sweeping someone else’s crumbs from my table. I played along, asking “Are you going to lower the boom on me?” The kid then beamed, completely enthralled with this expression, which he insisted he’d never heard before. He told me that it sounded exactly like something his dad would say. I resisted the urge to knock him on his ass, and chose instead to be satisfied with my newfound colloquial ease. This is progress. I’ll leave this borough knowing that I’ve grown.

***

My super has the boiler working again. So proud was he of this accomplishment, he phoned San Francisco to get my cell number, not wanting to delay the good news for one minute. This is the sort of thing I’m guessing the School of Practical Philosophy doesn’t cover – the pure satisfaction a man receives restoring heat to a building in the middle of an historically cold winter. I was troubled, however, to see the note he’d left on the front door, emphasizing the boiler room’s new state of the art equipment and offering free tours. Even more distressing was that I then ran into him, exiting the tiny passenger elevator. “Richard!” he exclaimed, obviously pleased to see me and pulling on his suspender straps, “Would you like to see the new boiler?”

What could I do? We crammed into the elevator and proceeded to the basement where he showed me the hole in the old boilerplate and encouraged me to admire the stainless shine of his new machine. “If properly maintained,” he told me, “this baby could last a hundred years.” The boiler’s blue flame kicked on and his satisfied face was bathed in an eerie glow. Some people just have it licked.

2004 Rick Monaco All Rights

Print Friendly