Saturday, June 11 2005
This morning Gretchen and I drove down into our old neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, to attend party being held in honor of the release of a book called The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity Toward Social Liberation by our friend Betty, who is the mother of David the Rabbi. Betty had been working on this tome for something like 20 years and to have all that gestation finally resulting in a birth seemed objectively to require 26.6666666667 times the celebration that normally accompanies the birth of a human child. The book being celebrated today is actually only half of what is being published; in August a more scrupulously medical volume is being published by a different press.
Gretchen's involvement in the publication of these books has been integral; she'd been responsible for editing down the bulk copy by something like 50% before it ever made it to the publishers.
Since the book is a definitive treatise on dwarf socio-history, there were quite a few dwarfs in attendance at today's party. Many had been featured in the book or had helped with its publication. Then too there was Anna, Betty's daughter and initial inspiration behind it all. I'm not usually sappy about a mother's love for her children, but I find something deeply touching and inspiring about how creative and driven a mother can be by the desire to understand her own children.
In their wisdom the gods chose to smile on this occasion, producing a hot, sticky day that avoided thunderstorms until hours after the party was over. Most of the festivities took place out in the scrupulously cultivated backyard garden, which struggles for light in the deep shade of a beech and a slowly dying weeping cherry.
I had a few random conversations mostly with strangers, mostly about the extrapolated future of videogames, while Gretchen did what she could to catch up with David the Rabbi, an infrequent figure in her life these days.
The featured alcoholic beverage at today's party was a pitcher of bellinis, a concoction containing peach juice and champagne. These made me sleepy enough to require a nap on a couch some hour or so after the party had wound down and thunderstorms began to rumble, when Gretchen was helping David and his wife Lynne clean up the kitchen.
Later Gretchen and I went on a big walk through Prospect Park, checking out various parts of the forest that had been closed to the public three years ago when we'd been living in Brooklyn. A thunderstorm eventually sent us fleeing out of the winding nature trails, down into the sloping grid of streets and avenues. We eventually sought shelter in a Rite Aid
where Gretchen shoplifted four tampons and managed to conceal them between her breasts. When a cloudburst comes to a city, it's like when the music stops during the game of musical chairs: you find yourself running into whatever store is closest, no matter your interest in their wares. You find yourself looking at vintage Marvel comic books, Xbox game controllers, spraycheese-flavored car fresheners, and crotchless leather overalls, wondering vaguely what possible use you would make of them if someone were to hold a gun to your head and force you to buy them.
For dinner we went to the Chip Shop, a new restaurant on rapidly-gentrifying 5th Avenue, which, ten years ago, was a sketchy Puerto Rican neighborhood. The Chip Shop is an unapologetically British restaurant with genuine British waitresses. That was all fine with me so long as they served a good order of fish and chips. With British cuisine I'm hardly adventurous and will probably never order up a side of spotted dick.
Perhaps as a hedge against the possibly-unfair reputation of its main culinary emphasis, the Chip Shop also features a menu of various Indian foods, the adopted cuisine of the United Kingdom. I get a kick out of the fact that the three big results of British involvement in India are that the council flats of the East End are full of Indian immigrants, most white Brits younger than 40 prefer vindaloo to liver pie, and the only kind of tech support an American can expect is both infuriating and unintelligible.
Gretchen ordered the spinach shag along with two decidedly English dishes. I minimized my risk by ordering a 20 oz. English pint of Speckled Hen Ale and haddock and chips, which can really only be ruined by breading the fish inside a dirty vacuum cleaner bag (that actually happened to me in London).
Everything we ordered turned out excellent and, by Park Slope standards, bewilderingly inexpensive. I ended up eating most of the spinach shag, which seemed to perfectly complement my forearm-length golden brown swath of haddock.
As we ate, we had a great time watching the foot traffic up and down 5th Avenue. While the dykes of 7th Avenue were long ago replaced by stroller-pushing hetero couples, it was great to see 5th Avenue still was rich in carpet muncher diversity. This was a sociological strata overlaying a bedrock of Puerto Rican culture, on frequent display in the form of vehicles prominently flying lone star flags. Every now and then someone would linger on the corner in front of us and we'd have fun at his or her expense. There was, for example, the slimey-gay-hipster guy wearing the teeshirt bearing the following moronic 80s-era expression, "I don't look for trouble, it finds me." Then there were all the women wearing that new kind of skort that reaches just beneath the knees and looks to be made out of the same material as sweat pants. One hopes that these people will live long enough to see pictures of themselves wearing such attire and find themselves asking, "What was I thinking?" Such is the state of fashion in New York City in 2005.
Some time later, while Gretchen and I were up in Ray and Nancy's 7th Avenue apartment watching 16 Candles (a movie I'm old enough to have seen on the big screen), we heard the Brooklyn Gay Pride parade coming down the avenue. So we ran out to have a look.
It was all over in about fifteen minutes. There might have been about a dozen floats or "demonstrations" - though one of these was by a group of Starbucks employees. Most of the marchers and floats were manned by lesbians, which was in keeping with the Park Slope jurisdiction. But the inevitable group of bears (some clad in leather) did make an appearance, as did at least one group of drag queens and a float featuring veterans of the Stonewall Riots. Instead of being the size of a football field, the "massive" rainbow flag was smaller than the floor of my laboratory. As they passed, the marchers had to avoid (but often marched through) a pile of fresh and fragrant horseshit left in the middle of the avenue by the group of mounted police who led the procession. Gretchen said it was the lamest pride parade she had ever seen.
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