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A Fifth for 59

photo, dennis, 54 ford

Dennis with his real California wheels.

A 3–Spoon Affair

Paris:– Sunday, 23. January:– I was about to put this in the 'Au Bistro' column when it struck me that while having five consecutive 59th birthdays might be 'news,' actually celebrating them in public isn't. No, no, but it seemed like a good idea at the time, four years ago.

Of course it started in another century. At the time we had high hopes for this new era but so far it seems like wephoto, laurel on stairs are going backwards in time. There we were on the edge of the 21st century, our faces all shiny and our eyes bright, looking eagerly forward to enlightenment and civilization. Hah! What foolishness. What a deception.

Laurel carefully takes a turn on the polish.

This is hindsight. When Uncle Den–Den called me on the phone last week to say that it was his 59th birthday again my mind played a trick by reeling back to the pleasant memories of the original 59th birthday and re–running the preview. Food, buffalo–grass vodka, poetry, singing, a fireplace, and a gang of fine folks, all in the mood.

Then he called me on the phone again and asked me to bring three forks, three knives and three spoons. I thought, 'this is wonderful. My forks, my knives and my spoons are invited too. It'll be their first time.' Even better, he called a third time to tell me he already had a can of fake beer, and I only need bring two more.

I was so excited I couldn't do anything except read Google news all day. If you could see the work I have here on my plate you would say it was pretty silly to goof off like this. I think so too. But it had me in its grip. Even Google paled and I went and got out my cutlery. Some of it was a bit fuzzy so I washed it. I even used hot water, dried it all off and polished them a bit. The pieces are not in bad shape for being about 30 years old.

At the right time to be neither early nor late I found a fruit stand plastic bag and put in the shiny cutlery and the two cold cans of fake beer and a poor book about Montparnasse I borrowed. I packed the camera too, with a bit of onion paper for its flash. Experiment number 23.

In the dark night at the top of the Rue Daguerre I spied Barry holding down the corner with Laurel. Although across the avenue from the police station, I couldn't figure out what they were doing there, so I asked them what they were doing there.

"Waiting for Dimitri," Laurel said. "He's gone to the grocery for a bottle of wine," she added,photo, vinyl record so I wouldn't think she and Barry were up to anything. Like maybe going to the Café Baghdad, right there.

Old timey, good sounding, funk.

With a little wave to signal my intention to not hang around on street corners across from the police station, I turned down the avenue and at the next street turned left. Going down the narrow sidewalk I could see a little old lady coming towards me and I got ready to step in the gutter, but she stopped in front of Uncle Den–Den's building.

"Young man," she said, "Are you going to Uncle Den–Den's too?" I had a feeling she was going to ask me this, under the streetlight, in the shadow of the door. I fumbled in my coat pocket for the note with the door code.

The old lady said, "Vingt" and I pushed two and remembered three and she supplied the letter and the next number while I pressed in the last one. After a slight pause the door clicked open, and I pushed the heavy iron and glass thing in. Going in she pushed the exit–door button and I hit the light switch.

After the interior door we were in the hall at the bottom of the stairs. At the bottom of five flights of highly polishedphoto, dennis, 59 wooden stairs. She suggested I go first, but I proposed to follow her. "If you slip I'll catch you," I said. I said it twice more before she caught the idea and up we went. We didn't get far before the lights in the stairwell went out.

After that I went ahead and pushed the light switch on every landing before waiting for her to catch up. After more than a few minutes we reached the heights and I buzzed Uncle Den–Den's door six times. Alvin, with a voice like a hoarse tractor, invited us in.

The five–time birthday kid.

The guests came from San Francisco, from the 7th arrondissement, from the 13th and from nearby in the 14th, and some didn't come at all. Music came from America, mostly from the '50s and '60s and none came from more recent. The olives were from the olive guy and the pork was from the pork guy, and Uncle Den–Den had made the popo things in the pan.

Lots of other, out of breath, guests arrived. With a shot glass in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other, Uncle Den–Den surveyed his outlook at 59, while keeping an eye on the pork in the pot. Some 45s made it to the turntable and we got to hear 1954 again. Too bad there were no stereos back then. When it was time Uncle Den–Den disappeared the olives and got us to sit down, some on his new chairs, and we polished off the red cabbage or whatever it was.

Wine flowed like – like wine flows like. Vodka did too, mostly into Uncle Den–Den. We ate and drank for a long time. And then we ate and drank some more. It wasn't hard. The music got older. The room got smokier. Bottles got emptier but not fewer. Cheese became less. Nobody remembered to sing 'happy birthday.'

Uncle Den–Den did not bring up the subjects of Gore Vidal, Buffalo–grass vodka, the American Dictionary of Slang – two volumes out of three – or Alan Ginzberg's collected lifetime of poetry. Some stalwarts weren't there and some who were, weren't as stalwart as usual. But he did show us the old color photo of his '54 Ford convertible, taken a century ago in California. It was yellow, even in the faded photo, and Uncle Den–Den was carefree.

When it was five minutes past my bedtime I snuck into the kitchen and looked for my three forks, three knivesphoto, mess of table and three spoons. I needed a couple for breakfast. The ones I could find were in the sink under all the scraps of roast pork. I dumped them into a plastic bag and Uncle Den–Den threw in a big scrap of roast pork to tide me over and get the garlic reek out of his house.

Trashed bottles, food, cheese, dessert, table.

I swear I could smell it out on the avenue where it was raining hard enough to drown pigs. Odd that inside up at Uncle Den–Den's, there was no hint that it was raining like pigs out in the world. The sidewalks glistened and the cars glided past hardly making a sound and the traffic lights changed mindlessly from red to green and back to red again.

Two girls were standing out of the rain under the awning in front of the employment office. The police station across the way looked like it was asleep. Were they waiting for their Romeos? On the avenue, too far from downtown Montparnasse, with three spoons in a sack.

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