I join the conversation around me after actually starting to read the book on-line. One woman is from Florida on vacation and her daughter is moving toward French cooking, an Indian girl who adores Tony, and a middle-aged woman who has a drawing her husband bought her on EBAY years before allegedly done by Tony that she wants to authenticate. I grow more excited as we get closer to his appearance, and then I hear people say “There he is!” and I look down into the ground floor to see Tony striding along in his dark jeans, graphic t-shirt and suit jacket carrying a Brooklyn Lager and wearing dark glasses. He looks just he does on TV loping along tall and relaxed, quintessential cool. In a few minutes he walks in and sits down at the desk and the signing begins, they speed the process by taking your book from you and your camera, you walk up to the table shake hands, talk a little while he signs the book he has been handed by the staff, and then you lean in and get your photo taken, he hands you the book and then you move on and let the next person go. It’s very efficient and rushed and by the time my turn comes I am a cross between a gushing schoolgirl and a stuttering awkward teenage boy. My turn comes and I walk up shake hands and place my folder on the table. Tony says “How you doin” and I stupidly say “Alright” without even asking him in return I blurt out “This is a gift” as I open my folder and say “It’s a little of my amateur writing” He says OK and takes it and puts it under the table then while he signs my book I say to him “Two questions…Is there any place in New York to get Singapore chicken rice?” and he says “No” Then I ask “How is the $26 Black Label Burger at the Minetta Tavern?” He smiles and says “It’s really good, I mean really good” So I say “Really!” (another great reply and as he hands me my book back after the picture) and I say “Uh cool uhh I’ll have to try it” and the conversation trailed off in nodding and smiling uhhs and yeahs and I don’t think I even thanked him for signing the books ( I also brought my copy of his excellent fictional novel “Bone In The Throat”) as I walked away feeling stupid and wishing I could have had a do-over and feeling like I need a social etiquette class.
I guess people will always wish they had done a little better in these situations, at least I do now in retrospect I could have talked more and been a little more engaging. I should have said something more meaningful, but I thought I’d let my writing speak for itself. The trouble is I don’t know if he even read my stuff, I put my address and phone numbers on the inside cover just in case he wanted to get in touch with me. I mean he probably gets this all the time and it might even piss him off so there’s a good chance he threw it away. It’s my nature to be self-critical and I know I’m not a great writer I just wanted to sound more intelligent than I did, but hopefully he will read my work and read abut the positive influence he has had in my life in the story “1st Anniversary on WordPress” How he has changed me in positive ways and made me a better cook and consumer. I leave with regret, the whole thing was over in less than two minutes. I go downstairs and outside to find my friends and we gather together to talk excitedly about our shared experience. The Indian girl says that he told her he is definitely having too much fun and the show will go on for a few more years! The woman who owned the drawing had it confirmed by Tony that he remembered doing it on a beach in Long Beach, Long Island, NY many years back and that a friend that was not doing well stole it and waited to sell it when Tony was at the height of his popularity. Tony being the good man that he is did not ask for it back and felt that it had a good home with the woman who was thrilled to pieces. We talk for a few minutes and then go our separate ways.
I walk back to the park feeling a little better about things and sit on the wall and call my mom and tell her my news, she is thrilled and suggests I find a nice place to eat. So I walk back to the subway and head uptown to more familiar surroundings. My mind is muddled with a hundred thoughts about my experience so my usual observations are lost in that sauce and I get out at Bleeker St and begin to search for a meal. I walk around checking menus and decide to settle down in Chez Jaqueline, a French place that has been in New York a while, I have walked by it many times. I sit down facing the street with the louver doos and curtains open and I order a glass of pastis and watch the kids in the playground across the street. They are actually playing kickball! I didn’t think anyone did that anymore. I order Bacalau brandade, a mix of salt cod and garlic mashed potatoes baked till golden, and for my main a pork chop Milanaise. I sit and watch the kids and adults enjoy the cool weather and listen to a mix of cool jazz and cafe Paris thrown in for good measure. This is a Cote d’Azur themed menu featuring southern French food with a few traditional dishes such a Daube de Boeuf, Duck Rilletes and the ubiquitous French onion soup w/Gruyère cheese on top. I have the place to myself as it’s actually quite late for lunch and not yet dinner. The Brandade comes and is good but a little dry and over browned making me wish I had ordered a celery remoulade instead. The pork chop comes and has been butterflied and coated with seasoned bread crumbs and pan-fried, it is served with field greens vinaigrette and a lemon wedge. It is tasty and healthish and I enjoy a glass of wine with it while the afternoons grows late. I decline dessert and pay the check and head for the subway, it is alternately warm and cool depending on the wind and shade. Soon I see some familiar sights and as I make my way to Bleeker St station I find the Monk Thrift Shop where a new comer to New York City (me) came years before and bought the old army travel bag that has been all over the city as well as Paris and London. I look around at all the stuff, clothes, shoes, handbags, books, records, nick naks, lamps, glassware, all kinds of stuff. I show the guy at the counter the bag I bought here years ago with its hand drawn destinations and he is impressed and says that its history now-my history, and he is right.
The trip home was uneventful and I walked to an area easy for my mom to get to and called her to pick me up as I will be without my car for two days. I tell her all about my adventure and my hopes and feelings of dis-appointment about the experience and as always mom tries to get me to be more positive about things. Now what I didn’t know until about six weeks later is that Tony is holding a contest, for one of the fans of the show who are registered on the No Reservations website to write a 500 word essay on Why is it important to cook well? The contest will go on till November when Tony (who will be checking in and reading people’s work and commenting ) will pick the winner who will win $10,000 and get their essay put in as the new forward to the paperback version of his new book Medium Raw. you can enter as many times as you want to try to win and I have already entered once a piece called “I Cook Well” and am working on a second at this time. I can’t help thinking that it was me and anyone else who gave him their writing that brought this contest about so now I feel a whole lot better about the book signing debacle and how I came off.
I hope I win but my story at last count was like 914 out of 1047 entries so it’s a long shot, but at least I met Tony and the next time I meet him I’ll be a lot more confident and self-assured and maybe it’ll be because he’s delivering my prize in which case after a sit down with the family I will take him to Cassis, my local piece of France with food that I am certain will pass his muster and over a good meal and many drinks I will ask him all the questions I thought of later and pitch some ideas to him for a book I’d like to write but need help with and some ideas for his show that I think he would like very much, nothing big just goofy themes like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” that he used for his Nevada trip, along those lines. But of course “The Sit Down” with Tony is a dream that all his fans have and I’m sure very few will ever get that but it’s good to want and it’s nice to dream.