27 April 2006


Now comes the hard part: readjusting to the New York City intensity that is simply absent in Paradise.

We went out to dinner last night with two wonderful friends. The four of us were eager to catch up, and we went to an old standby high end restaurant on the East Side. I could barely hear the table conversation—at our table, I mean. The noise in the restaurant was overwhelming—it was like having dinner on the subway. Not six inches from us was a table with four women who seemed to be competing with each other for the loud-talker prize. My vote went to the blond-haired X-ray of a certain age. Yeah, right. That description matches about half the women in the restaurant. I especially liked the part when her cell rang, and she got up from the table to have her conversation. But she didn’t go outside—she just stood next to us with her back to her companions (and facing us, head bowed, finger in one ear, phone to the other) and conducted her phone conversation in a voice calculated to be heard over the ambient din. Headache city.

While I did not recognize this woman, it is my hypothesis that she is the owner of the cell phone that rang and rang during the rabbi’s sermon at the funeral we attended this morning. I deduce that cell must have belonged to a woman, because it rang six or seven times, consistent only with a frantic search in the jumbo suitcase New York City women call purses. And that is probably why she didn’t turn it off when the rabbi, at the begining of the service, specifically asked people to turn off their phones—she didn’t turn hers off because she couldn’t find it in her luggage.

One of our companions asked if the noise issue wasn’t the same at the restaurants in Paradise. No even close. Almost all of the restaurants we go to have no walls, high ceilings, and a person-per-square-foot ratio about one-fifth as dense. And most have plants, pots, trees, in and around the dining room. I’m not saying the restaurants in Paradise are dead quiet…I mean we do get a lot of Americans down there.

Upon leaving the classy east-side restaurant, I stopped in a chain drugstore to buy a small bottle of Advil. The line at each of the two cashers was long. Why? The store was not so crowded. Ah, the cashiers were the problem. One of them had fingernails so long they rendered her hands virtually useless. The other behaved in a manner calculated to make it plain to all observers that this job was obviously beneath his capacity for contributing to society’s weal, and the presence of the customers lined up before him was somehow an obstacle to his deserved ascension to a post considerably north of this miserable station.

Certainly these cashiers were not being compensated for efficiency. Or even monitored for that quality, is my bet. What’s more, they neither smiled nor spoke with a charming French accent. I would have settled for either one of the two. There’s the difference: attitude. Generally speaking, people on the island are happy to be in Paradise, and it shows in everything they do. There is a softness about the edges that is absent here. These drugstore cashiers were sourpusses, and they brought all their customers down. Not fatal. None of the customers commited sepuku after paying for their Mylanta, but the negativity was certainly noticeable to someone not inured to New York City ennui. It’s clear that if I am successfully to re-enter, I must start snarling at children and kicking puppy dogs. Or vice versa.

But that was yesterday. Today is a new day. Sun is out, and the air is warming. I walked down to 1st Avenue to catch a bus up to Sloane Kettering to give some blood. The First Ave bus—one of the those monsters consisting of two busses joined by a rubber boot, was just at the bus stop, which is in the middle of the block between 49 and 50th streets. In fact, the driver had just started to pull away from the curb--I would say his front wheels were maybe three feet from the curb, and he was stopped because the light had just turned red. I walked up to the door, and gently knocked. He looked at me the way I look at sbh centipedes, then looked away and sat there for 60-90 seconds before driving away leaving me standing there. I guess he is pissed because his union is about to be bankrupted by fines for their illegal strike last Fall. Y'know, he deserves his misery. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

See, I am adjusting already.

A bientot.

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