September 1, 2009
I'd like to be flying, but it's just time doing that these days. I'd like to hop a plane or even a boat -- even though I always get sick on the latter -- and just take off somewhere. Just sunlight in my hair and dreams weaving through my brain. No cares. Heck, I'd even consider hopping a freight, dressed like a hobo, eating toss outs from restaurants, just to realize once again what it means to be free. Or a certain kinda free. This is how reading Bourdain makes me feel, like life's a sin, and you've gotta grab a hunk of it and eat well and get happy real quick.
It's a swell, but dangerous recipe that begs a big question -- What does it mean to be free? For one, it would mean not having credit card bills to worry about, or any bills for that matter. Or having someone take care of them altogether. Gosh, if that worry were to be relieved, what else would there be?
I'm sure life would come up with something.
Now I'm enjoying The Nasty Bits, curled up, barefoot on my couch, reading about how The Big B loves to eat barefoot, his toes snuggling in sand -- just like I do -- and how he cooked and gorged while traveling first class on a cruise ship for the very rich. Nobody eats like he seems to -- all the time. How does he do it? And stay thin? Pleasure monger. Boozer. But the fact is, cut the alcohol, cut the beef, and I'm all that too.
Plus, the dude can write. Any time I pick up his books, I get mesmerized. What with the food and alcohol descriptions, what is there not to like ? Although, the way Bourdain paints it, all life is one big party. Last time I thought like that, I was still in high school. Still, he can carry a sentence and hook even a bad reader with his earthy "I'm just an every day kinda Joe" prose.
Of course, Bourdain is an every day kinda Joe who makes millions and is therefore no every day Joe -- much as he would like to think he is. He's not still in the kitchen, and he's not chef-ing anymore.
Apparently, Jackie O used to have the same fantasy -- that she was just ordinary and could blend in with the masses. Near the end of her days, she used to visit Canyon Ranch, a posh rehab in Lenox, Mass., where I lived. She used to like hanging out at a coffee shop, around people who didn't have a clue about who she was. It made her happy to hear people chatting about everyday things, and most especially to imagine they didn't know a thing about her.
It makes perfect sense to me that the very famous, the over-exposed, would like nothing more than to live with a cloak of invisibility, to do ordinary things, play ball, travel, shop, eat out -- unnoticed and unseen. I'll bet that's how Leonardo Di Caprio feels, how Michael Jackson often felt, how even Brad and Angelina feel -- sometimes. Heck, Michael Jackson distorted his face, wore gloves and practically slept with sunglasses on in order to hide who he was and, perhaps, just hide. Jackie O would stroll in Lenox, wearing a gabardine, her head covered -- probably to hide the effects of chemo-- and always her sunglasses.
Riches are in the mind, and heart. I'd hang my beret on that, even if I were ever to win millions! And the rich, dear Fitzgerald -- except for this greed thing, this compulsion to be seen and heard that boomerangs in the end -- are not so different from you and I.
When I lived in Lenox, Mass., I used to cater for a blonde divorcee with eight kids who ran a catering business with the help of her brood. She was ambitious, tough and hard-working, and we used to serve up meals for parties at Tanglewood and Jacob's Pillow, for weddings and in luxury homes that were usually the second homes of the fortunate few, most of whom were New Yorkers. Sue called me often to go out on gigs because I was reliable, and, as she put it, "you never say 'no.'"
I needed the money, as I was neck deep in bills, living in a studio apartment I had no business renting, as it was too expensive -- just so I could feel inspired within its four walls. One of Chet Baker's exes, the one who was a jazz singer, had lived there, and I was in a jazzy kinda phase. When I wasn't working hard waitressing at the Town House across the street, or catering for Sue, or teaching at a local college, I was reading and writing poetry, typing it on a portable typewriter as I listened to Miles and Coltrane. Those were my existentialist days.
I liked working for Sue, seeing how much I could handle all on my own. Setting up for parties, passing around hors d'oeuvres trays, smiling and returning witty banalities to the (often mysteriously deep) questions people tossed at me, and even cleaning up. I liked the challenges, and I liked making people happy. Lenox is beautiful in the summer, and the places and events I worked were gorgeous, which meant I made decent tips too. Once, while hunkering over a sink, washing a pile of dishes after a brief, but intense gig, I felt the drunk host of a party slip a bill into my pocket. After it was all over, when I had a minute to breathe, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a crisp $100 bill.
My favorite gigs were those that of course involved minimal service and maximum cheese (PR or professional charm), which I liked to think I was chock full of. Voila, a rich chocolatey dessert and a demitasse of espresso. What is there to say but oo la la to that.
I like to dream big, but it's the little things that please me. I still dream of owning a special dive that serves up divine treats-- jazz on a live stage and small but unforgettable gems to take home on your palate.