Saturday, February 5, 2011

keeping time

Gary used to sing. He had worked at a popular musical supper club in Florida, so maybe he had started up the practice there. If no one was really around, like when we were polishing silver, he would really belt it out. But most times it was just sort of under his breathe. If you were standing pretty close next to him you could hear it. You would be waiting to order in an ice tea at the micros and there would be Bonnie Raitt or Diana Ross there with you. "Upside down" and then over by Pedro in the bread station "Boy, you turn me," while grabbing some sugar caddies "Inside out," and the two lattes for back out on the floor "and round and round." Diana was on a happy day. Bonnie would do shows when Gary couldn't find the manager to give him a void. That's when he couldn't make her love him if she wouldn't.

Most lunches were pretty busy, and it was usually a flat sat in the station. Like 20 or 30 people would sit basically at the same time and you just had to deal with it. I would have dreams at night like I was waiting tables on Storrow Drive with roller skates on, and that it was my job to get more sodas for picnic table sized groups of diners while dodging the oncoming traffic. It could be tense. I once asked Gary why he sang and he had said "it helps me deal" and I think I know what he meant by that. Because Gary could handle it. One time the room had filled up in about 10 or 12 minutes flat, maybe there were 45 people at the tables and I was losing it. If you have been there you know how it is like having a sunstroke: you can't think, you can't prioritize, you're overwhelmed. Gary would just sing through it. He had come over to me that day, said "don't worry, Gary's here" and then just gone back out on the floor with a big smile and more than one song and we had both gotten through it. Or maybe he had gotten through it and I, like a tune, had been carried.

I figure the songs helped Gary keep his rhythm. That's why he didn't get paralyzed with the waiter sunstroke. He would sing a song he knew well, he would sing it just about the same way each time, and that would help keep his timing in order. His sense of progression. That's how he could juggle all of those tables. That is why Gary was a great waiter, one of the greatest I have ever encountered.

Recently, I drank a bottle of Lassaigne "Le Cotet" Champagne and I thought I recognized something in the texture of those bubbles. There was a tension there, a real tactile sense of anxiety. The flavors were roiling in the glass. But there was was also a whispered cadence to the wine that I appreciated. A persistance. The notes came out of the bottle in a flurry, but none were muddled. They were quite distinct. Ordered, but quiet. You had to carefully listen to make them out as they led from one to another, in time, until the moment, much later, when the chorus sang out.

The Jacques Lassaigne website describes "Le Cotet" as "a mineral wine, very fresh, that exhibits lemony notes on the finish," but that doesn't tell you about the song that holds those pieces together. So I thought I would. That was one of the greatest Champagnes that I have ever encountered.

this picture was borrowed from Brook, with whom I shared the bottle

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