torsdag, februari 16, 2006

"My 8th Avenue Kings" Part 1

Spring 1998. On the same day as the peace treaty is signed in Northern Ireland I return to New York and the corner of 8th avenue and 29th street. My former boss George Melis is on duty. He owns the Estoril Sol, the Penn Bar and the newly opened deli "Alexander the Great". George is in his early sixties, with a characteristic Greek nose and a big belly, wearing a white shirt, a dark suit and a tie. I see him through the open door. The corners of his mouth are firmly lowered. It is the afternoon break. George is sitting by the window, reading the New York Times by the meager daylight shining in. He hasn’t seen me yet. I love this guy, don’t ask me why. I am back in the realm of Once. It is as if time stopped here in 1974. That’s when the restaurant opened, and the furnishings are intact. Maybe that is why I like it so much. The walls inside the Estoril are painted dark brown, little wooden Portuguese roosters perch on glass shelves, colorful paintings show matadors and seductive Spanish ladies, like the ones on the postcards my grandparents used to send me from Mallorca in the sixties. The chairs are upholstered in beige worn fabric, two cloths on every table, the bottom one the color of toothpaste, then a beige one on top. George is on the phone when he sees me coming. "Jenny’s back and she’s gonna write about us" he tells the receiver. He greets me with deep affection, then asks if I’m hungry. Yes I am, and I have missed Josés cooking, so I order Linguini Calamari. Pasta with squid. A nameless waiter in a dark suit serves me water in a large glass. Everything’s just the same. George Melis opened the Estoril in 1974. Portuguese cooking was popular back then. In the 1950s this neighborhood had started to turn Greek, many Greeks worked in the fur business and some are still around. In the 1960s a whole bunch of them arrived on special work permits. But now, in the late nineties, the business has shrunk. The Greek furriers still come to the Estoril to meet their friends after work. They sometimes bring their own Greek food and sit around in the bar, cozily. Today Peter and Anastasios are here. "The 80s were great", says Anastasios. "The 80s paid for my house, my car and my kids’ education". "You mean the Reagan years?" "Yeah, God bless him!" "So, what’s business like these days?" "I get by, that’s all, people haven’t got the money any more." "Who buys furs?" "There aren’t enough rich Americans, many of the people who could afford furs don’t like them anymore. Wearing furs has become politically incorrect. Don’t ask me why. We mostly export our stuff to Russia now, that’s where the fur buyers are in the 90s." Glenn, the waiter, arrives with salad plates filled with feta cheese, sliced onions, anchovies and tomatoes. The heavyset Greeks munch away and have drinks. Peter and Anastasiois have been coming here for twenty years, but I’ve never seen their wives. Where are they? "Our wives? At home, of course!", says Anastasios. "What are they up to?" "Well, what do I know? They shop in the daytime. They clean the house, talk on the phone." "They never go out with you?" "No, never. They stay at home and we go out after work, that’s how it’s been and that’s how it’s always gonna be. We make the money and they spend it, ha ha." The three Greeks laugh and take a sip from their drinks. That’s really how things are and it’s a good setup. "Anyway, they don’t want us to come home too early. My wife gives me a hard time if I’m back before eight or nine in the evenings." Peter says. "You know, the best way to make a marriage work is for each one to keep to themselves. I’ve been married for 37 years, and we’re really happy. We never meet." to be continued... Andra bloggar om: ,


Blogger Morelli said...

ja, det här är alltså min biljett in i amerikanska litterära tidningsvärlden...jag har precis mailat den 11 sidor långa texten till min favvotidning i USA. Tanken är att jag gör en uppdatering och kollar var gubbarna är nu....

2/16/2006 03:34:00 em  

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