Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Use Your Nouns

Poetry about cleaning toilets was prelude to a marriage being parsed.

All I knew was that it had seemed like forever since I'd last been to a poetry reading, so walking into Chop Suey and seeing the metal folding chairs set up between the tables and shelves of books felt instantly familiar and comfortably reassuring.

We'd arrived early enough for me to pick up "Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011," a book I'd been coveting all summer, before snagging seats in my favorite row, which just happens to front the art book section.

This works out well because I can pull interesting titles and gawk ahead of the reading. Tonight's temptation was a book on Degas (how could I not be drawn to his New Orleans work and a scene of a cotton market with no less than 14 figures in it?) and another on photographer Walker Evans (especially images depicting the south in the '30s), which I couldn't resist sharing with the nerd who'd accompanied me.

Poet Ryan Kent was reading from his new book, "This is Why I am Insane" to a fairly full house of friends, family and random poetry reading-goers like us. He apologized more than once for the "cuss words," and while I'm no angel, I do get tired of "shit" being used as an all purpose noun to encompass anything everything.

Also, it may be me, but I never again need to hear about dick hairs on a toilet in a poem.

That said, his poetry read like songs and he wrote without pretense, using references to what he knew - older women, cars on lawns in Petersburg, drinking - almost always ending his poem at exactly the right place. For a change, a poet who made brevity work.

Some of his phrases were wonderfully evocative, from  "Watching her walk with all the right swing" to a reference to "A stalemate of cars in traffic on 95." Visuals sprung from his words.

He ended with the most recent poem he'd written, which he sarcastically called an upper. I've heard Sylvia Plath did something similar.

Leaving Chop Suey, we decided to walk to dinner, striking out first at the Stables at Belmont and second at Belmont Food Shop, so we decided to forsake Belmont entirely and make our way to Kuba, Kuba.

As you'd expect for any night of the week, Kuba, Kuba was close to capacity but we spotted two empty bar stools and promptly claimed them before anyone else could. Even though it's been eons since I'd been in, I knew without opening the menu what I was getting.

Not having to read gave me time to start eavesdropping on the two men next to us who were trying to decide if Guy #1 should jump ship on his marriage. Guy #2 wanted to know if after they'd gotten married there had been a honeymoon period where everything seemed idyllic and hopeful.


Guy #2 pressed on, curious about why #1 was ready to give up. Many reasons were listed, but #1 summed it up by saying, "She's a great woman but she's not the woman for me."

So he'd made up his mind.

Guy #2 immediately shifts into next stage mode, suggesting what #1 needed tonight was a hook-up and Tinder was just the place to find one.

That gave #1 some bluster. "I could get four girls in ten minutes," he bragged. Down, boy. It's a woman's prerogative to swipe.

They toasted his success with using a device to mend his broken heart by raising their glasses: #1's of Coke and #2's a Sierra Nevada. Now that I think about it, it was a pretty lame toast, probably fitting for a self-proclaimed pretty lame marriage (or, perhaps more accurately, marriage attempt).

Then they celebrated the manly way: by ordering three entrees to share between the two of them. My guess is that #1 is going to move on just fine without the missus. Besides, doesn't everyone get a starter marriage?

Distraction arrived when our waitress showed up with our order and it got within 6" of the counter before she swooped them up again and deposited them in front of the two guys on the other side of us.

"That was just a tease, a look-see," she joked to us as they ate the food.

Our own arrived shortly thereafter and I was pleased to taste that no matter how many years go by in between visits, I can always count on the shrimp and mussels in Tasso ham and garlic broth for plump seafood, tons of ham and killer broth for endless sopping.

It's a dish guaranteed to make me sweat garlic tomorrow...in a good way.

When our server brought the check, she did so with a look of contrition on her face. Seems she'd charged the duo next to us for our meal and now she felt obligated to charge us for theirs. Since theirs was cheaper and ours had been delicious, we couldn't complain.

But who's complaining? Poetry, dinner and music on my breezy balcony is enough to make  anyone wax poetic.

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