Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Celebrity Hug

Perpetual search for clean, well-lighted, quiet and civil places to sit, write, edit/proofread undisturbed; lately these have been literally fading in the West Village (Café Henri dims the lights in the evening, Risotteria has got all snarky about people sitting alone at their cruddy tables, but I do love their food), but I think I shall start spending much time at the new Whole Foods on Bowery. However, they close at 11pm.

So, after an evening chez Chris, who lives over a hetero leather bar beside the Billyburg Bridge (what a weird neighborhood), listening to his matchless collection of obscure musicals (Foxy anyone? Drat! The Cat! or Juno or Nymph Errant or Hannah in 1939 or Her First Roman?), I biked about midnight up to the Odessa on Avenue A to edit a bit. In walks a familiar face – because I’ve been sending her youtube video of “Yolanda at the Bottom of the Stairs” to everyone I know and watching it every day for weeks. (And here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEK-c8A6KTQ )“Are you Lorinda Lisitza?” I said, for once not tongue-tied in the face of fame. (Well, it’s not like she’s an opera singer.) “I saw you sing ‘Yolanda’ at the Night Life Awards,” I babbled (she stole the evening). “So then I went to see you in Happy End.” “Well – hug me!” she cried. And then she took my email and introduced me to her dinner companion, Joe Iconis, composer of “Yolanda” and “Blue Hair” (q.v. on Youtube), who looked very Greek and spoke very dudely. “Besides,” I told her, “we have the same hairdresser.” “Giovanni! When will he be back in town? I need a cut!” (So do I.)

“Blue Hair” is a remarkable mating of words (what it’s like to be a teenage girl in the U.S. in the 21st century) and melody, because the latter recalls the sort of semi-tuneless taunting chant of kids on playgrounds everywhere: Niener, niener, nie-ner (as they voice it out West). That sing-song fits the lonely girl in the song to a T -- to an iron cross even.

Thirty years ago (can it have been?), writing book reviews for the NYTimes or whoever, I used to get a cup of tea from an all-night diner and go sit at one of the cement chess tables in the SW corner of Washington Square (park officially closed at midnight, but no one minded quiet me) and write at 4am or something by the light of streetlamps or gathering dawn. One such night, a shadow fell across my manuscript. I looked up to see the New Yorker’s nightmare: a great big black guy glaring down at me, and no witnesses on the lonely street. Me, heart in throat: “Yes?” And he: “You got any … pieces?” He wanted to play chess. (I never have a chess set on me when it would come in handy. Monopoly either.) (This is likelier to happen nowadays, with New York full of Russians.)

3 comments:

Chas S. Clifton said...

J--

I am delighted to learn that you are blogging and will become a Devoted Reader.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Wow--that was fast. You'd obviously saved up a number of pieces of writing. Nice! I've added you to my blogroll at Quaker Pagan Reflections.

HR Mitchell said...

Hey - welcome to the blogging world! How have you been?