Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Brunch Bunch

Some days just don't come together right. I know it sounds strange to say "I woke up early at ten a.m." but ten is early for me these days, especially on a Sunday. But this is when birthday brunch for Ben Harvey was declared. I tried to have dinner with him on my free Friday night but he was experiencing an alliterative birthday burn out and who can blame him? It has been a non-stop week of bi-coastal adventure, though he looked fresh as a daisy at Commerce while I looked like I had been up all night. I couldn't do anything with my hair so I threw it all under a baseball cap, and as bad as my hair was, I am not a hat person either. Then I had trouble shaving! Like I haven't been doing that for years and years without major incident. By the time I arrived at Commerce through the chilly rain, I had only one thing on my mind: bloody mary.

I sat alone at the beautiful deco bar inside Commerce, my fingers lingering on the edge of the glass. Commerce is a really beautiful place and in a moment like this, I always wish I was more suitable to the occasion. Being the first to arrive gave me time to delight in the whimsy of my drink. I love the green olive and pimento speared on a toothpick floating on top and the jauntiness of the celery stalk erupting from the rouge murkiness of the glass. Matty arrived moments later and we had some time to catch up before the others started to stream in one by one.

Years ago in reading the sensational biography of Louise Brooks, I learned that unlike the fictional depiction in Citizen Kane, Hearst and Davies liked to sit at the center of their long dining table facing each other, with the rest of the guests radiating out from them on either side. Newest arrivals started right next to them and as house guests stayed longer and longer, they moved further and further away. The thinking was that by the time you got to the end of the table, you would know you had overstayed your welcome and would start packing after dinner. This is both a wise dining strategy and a polite way to dispatch with perpetual house guests. Thus the center of the table is the preferred location to always be to see and hear everything. So I immediately rushed to that spot, which was directly across from Ben Harvey, the guest of honor. I probably should have let Ben decide who sat there since it is his birthday, but as usual I stuck to my guns no matter what the social cost.

Charlie Herschel picked the restaurant and it was an inspired choice. The wall murals looked down on us respectfully and amid the amber lighting and witty banter, I felt like I was in a scene from a gay Woody Allen movie. If he ever made such a thing. Dave Rubin arrived to sit in the empty seat next to me that Ben had staked out for him. We pored over the menu together, me hoping for a classy eggs benedict to balance my unkempt appearance and Rubin wanting something akin to a Denny's Grand Slam. "I just want some eggs and bacon." Simplicity is something he does very well, and I have yet to learn.

The rest of the table was filled with Ben's friends that I had never met before. There were two guys named Chris, but it was gay brunch. I think that's the law. Chirag and Al sat across from me on Ben's left and they were very nice. Charlie sat next to me with one of the Chris's on the right of him. That Chris I hardly spoke to even though (or more likely because) he was very cute. I spent more time talking to the other cute Chris who was there with Cub. I had never met Cub, but I had always liked his picture on Friendster and like Shawn Hollenback, he was one of those people that I was connected to through dozens of people but heretofore had never met.

We all ordered and the food was sensational. I felt like a monster compared to the rest of the thin people at the table so decided to order the yogurt and granola, which got shrieks of delight from the table when it arrived. Charlie was particularly enamored and endeavored to chip away at it whenever I let my spoon rest for a moment. "It's delicious! And you obviously don't like it!" he declared scooping up another bit. Charlie also ordered a round of donuts for the table which were a big hit as well, prompting an immediate second round of them along with more mimosas. All of the food was delicious and I ended up stuffed beyond believe even though I had only planned to have little.

It is easy for a grown up birthday to devolve into something wistful, a longing for the past, a fear of the future. But Ben's birthday left me feeling optimistic. "Be honest with me, Matty. Will we all be wearing suspenders this fall?" I had just seen the pictures from fashion week on Andy's blog and it looked like depression era fashion was going to be all the rage: cardigan sweaters, button down shirts with the sleeves rolled up in can-do fashion, baggy trousers with suspenders to hold them up. Matty declared a thumbs up for the 1920s football player look as well, with the padded knit pullovers filling out firm torsos.

The depression era look is something I think I could get away with, so much more than an old baseball cap. For a moment, I imagined us all transported back in time. Pooling our resources for one last great meal before we headed back to the bread lines. Homo night hawks out in the muddy light of day. I wanted a cigarette, not to smoke, but to complete the scene. Instead of leaving me depressed, I find this coming depression strangely exhilarating. We don't know what the new year will bring and isn't that the exciting part? And just because my hair didn't work today that doesn't mean it won't work tomorrow, that America won't work tomorrow. Time marches on, but to me the old fixtures at Commerce shimmer like new. And so do we.


David said...

What a depressing night....

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Your writing in this post is superb. I love the extended analogy of the bad hair day, how you turned it around to say something about the economy through Fashion Week. Well done!

And the brunch sounds like it was a blast!