SILENCE HAS A NAME - Poetry Chapbook and CD, with Music by Mark Hanley

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Six-Fingered Discounts

In the aftermath of the Final Assault at Borders, after the Last Mass pillaging of its items by customers jangling keys with Mercedes Benz emblems, wagging Coach purses, swearing, bullying, talking down and talking over overworked young employees while attempting to finagle cheap goods down to practically nothing -- I realized that we, or at least  Donna, came away a big winner. And that is no surprise.

While my cache was a single, modest memento, a paperback of essays, the pint-size Size Queen I live with made out “like bandits.” Donna is after all the one I had to talk down from buying a 64-inch HD screen (fearing it might rob me of my desire to even bother going to the movies), and for whom only Benzes and Audis suffice, as, she claims, other types of cars such as (the recently disposed of) Infinity 35X -- “a poor man’s rich car”--  are not “roomy” enough for all of her five foot two-inch needs. 

Certainly Donna had to be one of the most adventurous and successful of those vying for remains at the colossal Borders wake, for, in its aftermath, I found myself stepping into a living room I barely recognized. Five-foot shelves ( filled with bric-a-brac and fresh titles) perched like book ends at either side of the 58-inch HD masterpiece we did settle for. Even the basement changed, as now, before the washer and dryer sits a massive set of metal shelves accommodating not one but several tripods and several cases with video equipment.

Then there are the 20 walkie talkies sitting on the kitchen counter. And the books on film and fine Italian cuisine – each, five pounds or more – that are also now nesting here. 

My own particular addiction is – surprise, surprise -- books, especially paperbacks that stack easily or can be easily tucked into the wide pockets of purses or knapsacks. (My Kindle, a Christmas present, goes to work with me every day, as it’s the ultimate easy carry).  The night tables in my room are stacked with piles of books, all read, and whose titles I must see, and be free to peruse as easily as the mind of a close friend at a moment’s notice.

My final Borders purchase was a yellow paperback with a six-fingered hand on the cover, Augusten Burrough’s collection of essays, Possible Side Effects, which I tried to savor slowly, story by story, each night for a couple of weeks before going to sleep. Some essays stirred me; a few made me smile and chuckle; others pricked me with their sudden, surprising and unnecessary meanness, a characteristic I find particularly loathsome in literature. I read Burrough’s book with its bitter undercurrent, as if I’d picked out a lemon from a bowl of fruit – Even though I can appreciate the smarts that produced it.

When all was said and done, after Borders’ shelves and bookcases had been ransacked, its spoils taken – for better or worse, when only U-Hauls decorated the parking lot, and there was not a shard left, even of memories of the place, its functions or its people, after I had walked away with my own small treasure and explored it, I thought, what next?

What will replace Borders? -- A gym? Or an office for dentists? Or accountants? -- As if there are already not enough of these. 

I had better get into the habit of walking around with a book, finding my own place, wherever it be –a corner seat in a cafĂ©, a bench in a park, or even a cement stoop. My future will be filled with random acts of reading, snatches of consciousness stolen from the consuming melee.

Monday, April 4, 2011

France in Fort Lee

A sophisticated, hot spot with a Mediterranean swagger, a lot of cool and culture is just what Fort Lee needs and now has in the way of Khloe Bistrot, a French provincial restaurant newly opened on Main Street. It's in a hopeful location, across the street from where Borders -- the only other thinking person's hangout in the area I can think of -- was once situated, and is now closing. The owner of Khloe's and her co-workers smoke their cigarettes outside the Bistro, staring nervously across the street at the giant-sized posters announcing everything must go, "50-percent off," "75-percent off everything," dangling from the high windows of Borders. It may hardly seem the time to launch anything, but it's spring, and this is a daring and fresh idea, and it's high time French cuisine came to Fort Lee.

To step into Khloe's is to know immediately that you are in a stylish, affluent home, where you may hang out for a while if you are willing to spend some money. Just as you step in, you can see the busy kitchen beyond a counter to your left. A chandelier hangs opposite. The ceiling is high and the walls are painted black. You will not want to get up at all from the comfortable Louis XIV style chaises distributed around sturdy wooden square and round tables. The music, a blend of European rock and Sirius Chill, emanates from a line of giant speakers, and is cool and sexy.

The owner, Nina, who hails from some two locales, one of which is French, was elusive but excited about her new restaurant, which, in a couple of weeks, will stretch its hours until two a.m., and start including bite-size offerings on its menu.

"It's for people that don't want to go home early, that want to stay out and have fun," she said.

A long-time insomniac once addicted to all-night partying and dancing, I can relate.

The menu is delightful but uneven, with possibilities even for vegetarians. While the tri-colored salad was insignificant, although its price -- $11-$12 -- was not, the risotto, cooked al dente to perfection, and combined with shitake and portobello mushrooms and butternut squash, was savory and hot. A dessert shared by three, the Shue Hazelnut creme, an ample puff inside which was a creme to die for, was really superb. The espresso, another must for me, meaning Must-Be-Perfect, was not. Too intense and oily. The fuel oil variety, which I can live without, especially at the price of $4 per single shot. Our meal for three, sans alcoholic beverages, came to about $170, including the tip. You have to BYOB.

Khloe is chock full of possibilities and has the thrill of parties to come hanging in the air. The conversation, ambience and dessert really made it a worthwhile experience. I'm looking forward to checking out what's cooking there -- in the kitchen and elsewhere -- a couple of months from now. Its first weekends, I heard, were packed.