I start out on the East Village and begin walking west to my destination, the streets are crowded with people despite the cold weather, I see many cute girls with red noses walk by (I always thought girls looked very cute with red noses) and it’s windy, a bone chilling cold. So of course everyone has the same look on their face and the silent glances with passersby say it all…what the heck is all this cold?
I finally arrive at my place dujuor. AOC is on Bleeker St just off Grove St the letters stand for “Appellation d’origine controle’e”, which is the French for “controlled term of origin” a certification for certain geographical indications for wine, cheese, dairy, etc. I go in and am seated quickly, this is a typical old village eatery, creaking old wood floors, wainscot walls, overly decorated with framed posters and small paintings of French country homes a such. I find myself soon refreshed by Jasmine tea, I order Mussel Saffron soup to start, a delicious puree of squash, mussels and spices, it is creamy good, the mussel tastes like the sea and warms my frozen body from the inside out!
While I enjoy my soup I scan the room, a table of six guys is wrapping up their meals, haggling over the check and who got what, so who owes more…ad nausea. Who cares!… each pay your share and leave happy. Well after a while I see that the fuss is because they were three couples on dates, that’s why the split on the check was important, this is the Village-you aren’t in Kansas anymore when you come here Toto.
But hey I don’t mind same sex couples, as I get older the only thing that I see that matters is finding and keeping love, and both of those things are very hard to do.
My main dish arrives… a Cassoulet Toulousain, a casserole of white beans, tomatoes, duck leg, garlic lamb sausage, summer sausage, and pork all topped with bread crumbs and baked. It is delicious but a little dry, I would have liked it less oven cooked but the lamb sausage is extraordinary as is the duck, which is rich without being gamy and the pork is slightly pink and juicy, I enjoy a glass of house red while I eat and listen to the table of people by the window.
They seem to be a group of British students, they sound like acting students except for one girl who seems to be a writer, she rips into a guy that just left the table from A to Z, he did this and he bailed out on so and so, on and on she went…I was amazed at how my story on WordPress”To Be A Wannabee – That Is The ?” where I mention how people always tear down the absent friend came to life right before my eyes, minutes earlier he was sitting talking and laughing with them and nobody treated him like they were mad, human behavior…bad as usual, but I guess that’s why they call it acting.
When my check comes (brought to me by the manager) I am dismayed to find out they only take Amex, which I don’t have, he walks away not wanting to deal with me so I spend a couple of anxious minutes wondering what to do. My waiter comes, tells me to go down the street to get cash and come back. So I do just that, pay my check and go off to my theater district destination feeling a little stupid and naive, I guess I should have read the whole page of their website on Menupages.com so that I would have seen (which I did later at home) that they only take Amex… I could have gone someplace else.
But I try to forget it and find a subway uptown to locate a Starbucks where I can charge my phone and grab a quick cup of coffee which I find after walking around 42nd St, the area is alive with folks going to shows and restaurants. I take a photo of Smith’s Bar and some shops lit up nicely for Xmas so eventually I find a Starbucks about a half block from the theater where I sit, charge my phone and write while a procession of cold people come and go, families and couples, harassed from shopping drag in with packages for some hot refreshment.
I’m sitting at a table with one of the workers for the Times Square Alliance, the people that try to keep the place clean for us to enjoy, he is a big black guy with the TSA logo on his orange polar suit he talks to various people on his cell phone. He’s cool, I like the way he talks to people on his cell, he probably could do voice over work on radio or TV or even be in movies…I wonder if he ever thought about it? He sips his Tazo mint tea and says “Riiight” drawing it out as he listens to the person on the other end of the phone tell a story. My mood is lifting a little now as I warm up and relax, I’m a little worn out from the oral surgery I had this week on two teeth and I didn’t take any time off afterwards-tomorrow I have to rest. When my table mate starts to leave, I stop him and tell him that I am writing about him and I read what you just read about him, he seems not to believe me at first but after I read it to him he is pleased, I hope he takes my advice and try to get some work in commercials.
Before I know it another man comes in and asks me if he can sit down, I agree, he’s walking with a cane and is not well dressed for the weather, he asks me where I’m from and starts telling me his life story. He is Spanish, Hungarian, French Canadian and was adopted, he grew up well to do upstate New York but soon had to go live with an aunt in Maspeth, he didn’t say why. The aunt was very religious, he went to college for human services and has worked as a prep chef, line cook, landscaper, ships machinist, etc. We talk about life and love and the economy, he tells me that all you need is a little faith and things will get better, we agree that maybe Obama might turn things around, then as we both prepare to leave…he asks me for a dollar. He’s either homeless (although he doesn’t smell bad at all) or he’s a veteran outpatient from the hospital nearby. It’s at times like this that I wonder, am I being tested by God or being played by a con/homeless guy. I give him the dollar- just in case, and he goes to the counter to get a snack and I leave and begin walking to the theater.