Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Birthday Party

A neighboring table was set for a party of ten with an enormous Victorian epergne almost hidden under tropical flowers and orchids in an arrangement of red, yellow and black while one of the eternally cheerful cherubs of the epergne held a small dowel with a banner attached reading ‘Happy Birthday Wolfgang’ in English and German jammed into its tiny bronze hand. A sad looking woman of about thirty, over-dressed in a white evening gown, was sitting alone at the table with her back to a spectacular equatorial sunset.

As I had approached our table in the early evening light of the rapidly sinking sun, I thought the dress might have been cream colored but Elena informed me it was from last season and pointed out faintly marked sweat stains under the woman’s arms.

“How do you know the sweat stains aren’t this season’s; or maybe they are just some sort of fashion detailing? And how could you possibly know what the current fashion was here last season?”

Elena never misses a chance to point out my ignorance of such things in the kindest possible way, “If you ever paid attention to what I wear, you would know that I have a gown exactly like that minus the sweat stains. I wore it to the Black and White last year.”

“You did? Hmm … the only thing I remember from that event was that you wore Kelly green shoes, for which by the way, I would like to thank you. Those shoes helped me find you in the crowd all evening.”

“I thought you said you liked them because they matched my eyes?”

“That too.” I paused and looked back at the woman at the next table, “I sure hope Wolfgang brings a crowd with him. I am not sure I can bear to watch a scene like that all through dinner.”

“Just watch the sunset and think about that trickle of sweat running down your jaw.”

“That isn’t sweat. It’s water. I used a little too much combing my hair a moment ago. You know what? The men’s room here has wallpaper!”

“You combed your hair?”

A waiter came to take our drink order and Elena asked for an extra dry white wine from California. I ordered something I invented in the moment, confusing the waiter briefly, but he recovered his poise and simply wrote down the combination.

The woman at the next table was leaning on one hand and studying a couple of pages in a small booklet, turning the page and then flipping back to the previous page. Her head came up quickly at one moment to watch a waiter walk by asking if madam wanted anything. She said something I couldn’t hear after looking at her wristwatch and the waiter departed, returning a few minutes later with a large glass filled with something alcoholic looking and littered with tropical fruit, two straws and an oversized pink drink umbrella.

Elena brought my attention to a motor-sailboat heading in toward one of the piers from the direction of the sunset. I hadn’t even noticed the sails until the moment the waiter set the drink down. But there it was, large and impressive, a motor-sailer with blue sails, now being furled, and a white hull. The waiter said something to the woman in white and pointed in the direction of the boat.

The woman’s careful blond highlights flipped over her shoulder as she turned her head quickly to see. Standing, she placed the booklet in her handbag, rearranged her table setting, carefully making it match the others, then saying something in a low voice to the waiter, to which he inclined his head, she took a breath and grew a very broad smile. Pushing her hair behind an ear with one hand she walked quickly out a seaside entry of the restaurant and almost skipped down to the pier where the boat was being moored.

While the crew was busy with mooring lines a crowd of men and women were rising from the boat’s interior cabins and carefully making their way along the main deck toward the gangway. The men were wearing white tuxedo jackets and black pants, while the women seemed to be clothed in the tropic light itself, jewels and sequins flashing and glittering in the red and gold light of the sunset.

“Looks like an animated jewel box,” I murmured louder than I intended.

“It is an animated jewel box,” Elena’s hand touched my arm, “I wonder which one is Wolfgang?”

The waiter had just then appeared with our drinks and heard her question, “Mr. Wolfgang is a guest here in the bungalows, madam. Your drinks; a very dry white wine for the lady and for the gentleman … the gentleman’s … cocktail.” He looked doubtfully at the drink as though it might not be the right thing, and then asked, “Please sir, would you try the cocktail and tell me if it is correct?”

I took a slug and making a face said, “Yep. That’s the ticket!”

Looking relieved, he nodded his head smiling and said he would be returning momentarily for our dinner order. I looked at him with a deadpan face and said, “Oh, we won’t be having anything to eat, we’re just going to get drunk and spill our drinks on the other guests.” His startled face actually brought an uncharacteristically sympathetic response from Elena who quickly interjected, “Don’t listen to him. We are having dinner and he’s just joking.” Relief again flooded the waiter’s face and he laughed saying, “Ha ha ha … The gentleman is being funny ... ha ha ha! I will be right back.” Then he scurried away, almost running.

Then she added to me, “Please pick on someone who can’t put ipecac in our food. If my dinner comes out strange because of you, you can dance by yourself.”

“You couldn’t let me dance by myself. What would people think?”

“They’d think you were dancing with an invisible partner. They’d also think you are a little touched, and they would be correct. How’s that drink?”

“I think I’m getting a little touched.”

“It serves you right for teasing the waiter and ordering … well, whatever that drink is.”

“Do you think I could get a copyright on this recipe?”

“Tell me again what’s in it?”

“I can’t remember.”

“Then, no.”

“Sadly, he said, I should have written it down.”

“Pity, she said, he never learned to write.”

One by one the party from the boat was finally making its way down the gangway and toward the woman in white waiting on the pier. Many of the men waved to her as they walked down the brow and took her hand as they stepped onto the pier, occasionally kissing her on the cheek while the women gave her slight embraces and a cursory air-kiss on one cheek. When the last man stepped onto the pier a brief conversation took place and the woman indicated the restaurant with a wave of her hand and the party began to move up the pier toward the seaside entrance.

Elena made the observation that from where ever they had sailed, all the guests must have dressed on the boat because their freshly groomed appearance couldn’t have been achieved otherwise. “Can you imagine me sailing in a dress like one of those for an entire afternoon in this humidity?”

“I can’t imagine you sailing at all. The thought of a mast protruding from your oh so lovely cleavage, with or without a dress, is too much of a stretch for even my twisted imagination. And where would the passengers sleep?”

“Have you thought of going into advertising?” she asked sweetly.

“We should advertise for Wolfgang. I think this shebang is for him, and that banner says “Happy Birthday Wolfgang” and it says it in two languages and that big fancy chair is just sitting there empty. I don’t know, but it just seems to me that when you throw a birthday party for someone with all this hoorah, they ought to be there to make fun of it!”

“Maybe Wolfgang doesn’t like hoorah.”

Elena is mostly, but not always, right.

All the guests had arrived. The seating seemed to be quite a problem because someone wanted to sit somewhere other than next to Wolfgang’s chair and a quiet girl of about 14 must have been an unannounced arrival and a place setting had to be added even though there were more than enough chairs which threw the woman in the white dress into a small panic. A moment or two of eavesdropping convinced me no one at all wanted to sit next to Wolfgang and that caused me to wonder aloud to Elena if perhaps he was flatulent.

“Well, it has me wondering too. But I was wondering if the fellow throws food?”

Elena wasn’t far wrong.

Our waiter returned and asking what we would like for dinner smiled when we ordered an entire kitchen full of food. Elena has a good appetite and my eating habits frequently are compared to that of large omnivorous beasts.

“Would the lady and the gentleman care for our special appetizer this evening?”

“And what would that special appetizer be this evening?” Why is it that when Elena asks those questions she makes it sound like she’s talking about herself?

The waiter stuttered a little under her green gaze, recovered and responded with, “Madam would truly enjoy our appetizer this evening. We are offering a thinly sliced crostini with bitter endive and …”, he lowered his voice, “Beluga caviar.”

Elena’s perfectly straight white teeth flashed a devastating grin and absolutely awash with enthusiasm she took the waiter’s hand saying in an alto voice, “Madam would be delighted if you, yourself served it up.”

The waiter blushed and his slightly tanned Asiatic coloring turned vaguely purple. “It is my pleasure!”

“How do you do that? I am sure you were talking about food and I think you gave him an erection.”

“Did I? I hope so. It builds my self-confidence.”

“I wasn’t aware that you lacked self-confidence. Are you sure you aren’t building self-aggrandizement? You are the only woman I know who can make trained monkeys forget their acts.”

“You are the only trained monkey I’ve ever spoken to … perhaps in my entire life,” she said in an aggrieved tone.

The birthday table had settled into a series of conversations mostly relating to the circumstances of the boat trip. The young girl who showed up unexpectedly, simply sat and occasionally laughed at other guest’s comments. Elena told me quietly she was literally dying to find out who the young lady might be and was absolutely certain her presence was going to cause some drama. Elena is always correct about such things, well, almost always, and that perception was pitch perfect in this situation.

Our caviar-laden crostini laying on its mattress of bitter endive made its entrance and bowed its final exit with not a crumb left behind to the extreme delight of our waiter. Before the caviar’s appearance he had asked if we wanted a different wine with our appetizer, and when Elena had quickly told him we each wanted a shot of vodka instead, his smile stretched halfway to his ears and when she named an obscure but extremely expensive brand, his molars were finally seeing his own earlobes. “Yes, madam. We keep that brand for special occasions, but confidentially, the chef sometimes uses it for a better flambé effect on some dishes.” He looked doubtful when he asked if we wanted it on ice, but Elena’s horrified look told him everything he wanted to know and this time, the smile’s stretch had almost pulled his nasal lobes into his sideburns. “Very good, madam, very good. I will be back in a moment.”

“Yew shore know how ta git ‘em movin’ señorita!”

“Why, darlin’ it’s mah specialty!” Elena has a way with anything with external sex organs. Truthfully, she also has a way of engaging her own sex without intimidating them with her startling film star looks. Our neighboring table kept sending surreptitious looks in our direction, well, truthfully in Elena’s direction, and I knew she was enjoying the attention, so when I mentioned to her that they were probably just wondering if they could get the special appetizer, she snorted an unladylike sound resembling a leaking balloon and almost guffawed. I enjoy making Elena laugh because I know it’s sincere. When she is truly amused she has a loud bray like Tallulah Bankhead.

The neighboring table had relaxed into a gentle buzz of conversation although no food had arrived for them and Elena and I were halfway through a salad of lettuce young enough that eating it might be considered infanticide and it was garnished in julienne vegetables and a lemon vinaigrette so sparse it almost forgot to show up, rather like Wolfgang. But Elena’s enthusiasm for the food had prompted an invitation into the kitchen to advise the chef, then asked to give service instruction to the wait staff and even requested to be the godmother of all the first-born children in the district. After all that, Wolfgang still hadn’t arrived.

The fancy chair for the birthday boy, resembling a baroque throne, sat empty, expectant, with the chairs on either side empty as well. It seems no one wanted to sit next to Wolfgang, and that worked out very well as Wolfgang wasn’t there to sit next to. The woman in white presided pleasantly, if a little formally. She didn’t seem to be experiencing any extraordinary anxiety. The centerpiece with its inapt presence and flag-bearing cherub kept cross-table guests busy stretching their necks to address someone opposite. The birthday banner fluttered in the light breeze from the sea assuring the guests that it was indeed still Wolfgang’s birthday whether they spoke German or English and whether or not he ever showed up.

I suddenly realized that none of the guests had had even an appetizer, although many of them had had a cocktail or two. Elena brought it to my attention that there had been some small rows about whether ordering cocktails would be inappropriate.

“Really?” I asked.

“Oh yes. In fact, it was the lady in white who told them why not, she had one.”

“She certainly did! That pink umbrella thing. But I’ll bet it wasn’t as good as our vodka.”

“Probably not. Do you suppose there’s a vodka drink that comes with one of those umbrellas?”

“Certainly not! Vodka drinks come with fur hats!”

“And fur tongues if you drink enough of them!”

There was no way I could top that.

The sun had dropped well over the horizon and the deep black night of the tropics had enveloped the bright lights of the restaurant. Tinny German music from the Weimar Republic and 1930’s Berlin had been playing over the in-house music system thinly since our arrival, meanwhile blue lights for the purpose, occasionally snapped with the electrocution deaths of flying insects. The restaurant had filled and emptied and filled again and mostly emptied of its first and second seatings and still Wolfgang hadn’t made his appearance. Maybe he didn’t like birthdays but Wolfgang certainly wasn’t demonstrating Germanic timeliness.

Elena and I had stretched our stay across two seatings and grazed our way through a vast set of courses while our neighboring table watched the arrival of every one like starving pets. A different glass of wine accompanied each course and our waiter had the look of a man who had found the treasure of the Templars. The woman in white though, barely seemed to know we were there. Her initial poise was beginning to wear thin and every so often her eyes drifted toward the bungalows facing the beach, a strange look of fear invading them as they glanced in that direction, and seeing nothing, a flicker of relief like breath came back into her entire body.

The quiet girl suddenly speaking loudly, announced that she was going to order and a silence fell over the table. She didn’t care, she was hungry and he was rude. He had kept everyone waiting for hours and those people, she indicated Elena and I, had finished their entire dinner (not quite true) while the birthday party was still waiting.

The Maitre’d hurried over and began speaking in a low voice in the young lady’s ear, but she pulled away saying she didn’t care; she wanted to order now. The Maitre’d shrugged his shoulders but something caught his attention and he looked toward the bungalows where his stare caught a movement and everyone at the table followed his glance.

Against a background of incandescent lights from one of the nearer bungalows and its reflection off the wings of hundreds of flying insects the silhouette of a large man could be seen walking through the tropic blackness toward the restaurant.

“Now we get to see who all the fuss is over,” Elena said matter-of-factly.

At another table one of the other guests overheard her and said, “he sure likes to be fashionably late. Very fashionably late!”

And fashionably inappropriate, I thought.

Wolfgang entered the restaurant with a deliberate slowness. There were two or three steps up from the grass leading to the bungalows and his steps seemed designed to bring more and more of his being into view. His entrance was cinematic.

The woman in white stood as he reached the top step and some of the others automatically responded by also rising, which brought the remainder to their feet except the young girl, who crossed her arms and refused to even look in his direction.

Oddly, a few other tables also rose and applauded his entrance. I am not sure whether they knew him or were applauding his incredible entrance or were relieved that the guests at his table could finally eat. I would have bet on the entrance.

Wolfgang stood about two meters tall from his strangely sandaled feet to the crown of his head covered with long, rather shaggy blond hair. It was clear from the carefully managed display of his muscular figure he worked obsessively on body-building and physical fitness. He was wearing a loose white shirt unbuttoned to his navel revealing a tautly muscled chest and abdomen with the barest hint of a tan. He had carefully rolled his sleeves up about halfway to show off his lower arm development. His shirt barely covered a pair of brief style bathing trunks revealing massive, carefully shaved leg muscles. Most disturbing was a set of deeply carved creases, like a sargent’s chevrons, running upward at an angle from the bridge of his nose parallel with his eyebrows, giving him a perpetually angry expression, like an unfortunate Klingon.

In his passage across the restaurant floor he was forced to pass on one side or the other of our table and it seemed to annoy him but he kept his focus. His path took him behind me forcing him to look at the people impeding his progress. I’m guessing it was Elena’s brilliant auburn hair that caught his eye because he stopped briefly and stared. It wasn’t a stare of recognition of beauty but seemed to be more a look of competition, as if something in the room was drawing attention away from him and he did not take it well. As he stopped behind me, a whiff of expensive cologne stopped with him.

The guests at his table were silent; in fact, the entire restaurant was silent except for the tinny sound of 1930’s Berlin cabaret music floating with insects in the air.

When he reached his chair, one of the restaurant staff pulled it away from the table for him. I thought everyone would wait to sit until he had seated himself but it wasn’t that formal. For nearly a full minute he ignored everything but the epergne and its decorations, finally nodding his head in satisfaction. Wolfgang didn’t seem to notice or care that the chairs on either side of him were empty and while he had a brief greeting for most he very pointedly ignored the girl with her arms crossed and asked if everyone was ready for dessert.

The girl blurted out that they hadn’t even had dinner and that he had kept everyone waiting for over an hour to which Wolfgang merely looked at her until she leaped out of her chair knocking it over backward and ran from the restaurant. Laughing heartily, Wolfgang said in his heavily accented English, “Who invited her anyway? Ha ha ha!”

The restaurant staff must have been forewarned because one of the staff merely righted the downed chair. Wolfgang announced that everyone would be having his birthday dessert and, nodding, the staff member retreated to the kitchen. A low murmur of conversation enveloped the table and I watched the woman in white shrink into herself. Words floated toward our table about business and the accommodations and the boat trip but it was clear, Wolfgang was rather like a lion that had arrived at a fiesta for gazelle and the gazelle were very nervous.

A noticeable tension descended and the air in the restaurant seemed to be thickening around that rather tinny music and Elena noticed it as well.

“Why does that music sound so … saccharine now? It didn’t sound like that before, did it?”

“Let’s see if we can’t get them to find an alternative.”

Signaling our waiter, who almost ran to our table, I asked him if he could please change the music to something more contemporary. He looked a little doubtful, but nodded and gave a thousand watt or so smile moving off in the direction of the kitchen. Moments later he and the Maitre’d appeared together in the kitchen doorway with doubt in the Maitre’d’s eyes. The waiter seemed to be reassuring the Maitre’d it was those people who had ordered the special appetizer making the request and even pointed in our direction. They returned to the kitchen and a few moments later the music changed to Elvis Costello followed by some contemporary American Jazz.

I was expecting an argument from Wolfgang but while Wolfgang’s face underwent a brief loss of color, whatever equanimity he possessed returned and no comment was made although the other guests at his table seemed to be holding their breath until he started to speak again.

Elena and I had ordered a rather fantastic dessert, naturally with its accompanying wine, and when our waiter with his now perpetual smile arrived, Wolfgang seemed to be giving his complete attention to the cherub holding the banner, but his guests watched the progress of our dessert across the restaurant floor. The deep creases on his forehead seemed to grow deeper when he saw his guests’ attention was elsewhere. When he turned to see what they were watching, a russet color invaded his face and seeing it, a young man touched his partner on the arm and she in turn touched the man to her right and the touching went around the table like a little ballet until everyone had their attention focused back on the birthday boy.

Moments later, a birthday cake arrived at the table and Wolfgang’s face was wreathed in smiles as he explained what was in the cake and how important it was to eat a healthy diet. The waiters for the table began cutting and serving the cake. I believed the guests were hungry enough to consume Wolfgang himself whom, judging from the pained expressions his guests had after they started to taste the cake, they probably would have preferred.

Elena and I concentrated on our tropic fantasy dessert and toasted each other with its accompanying wine while Wolfgang loudly exclaimed how grand the cake was; I don’t think his guests concurred. One woman arose and left in the direction of a restroom and a waiter began to lift her plate with its remainder of cake to which Wolfgang said, “Leave it. She’ll want more.”

Lingering through our wine, Elena leaned over and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Let’s have espresso!”

“Deal.” I whispered back.

Elena told the waiter we were not in a hurry and he replied, “Yes, madam. No rush, madam.”

At the next table the entire cake was being consumed. The guests looked vaguely nauseous and Wolfgang looked triumphant, but one guest must have marred poor Wolfgang’s evening because he wouldn’t accept the last piece, and in spite of his gusto for whatever kind of cake it was, Wolfgang wasn’t having any more either and a rather quiet row ensued growing louder until Wolfgang, leaning toward the guest and extending his powerful arm flicked the plate with its contents onto the floor.

A waiter hurried over and without much apology in his voice, Wolfgang said, “I am sorry. A mess for you to clean up.”

“This is the part of the movie where I always eat lots of popcorn,” Elena said.

“This is the part of the movie where I always go to the restroom,” I replied, “You were right. He throws food.”

“Don’t let it bother you. Think of it as all part of a grand experience.” She was all smiles.

“I’ve been around food throwers before. They just raise my dry cleaning bill. Why can’t we just enjoy the insects and the humidity?”

“This is better than incest and humility,” she malapropped, “I can’t wait to see who wins!”

Fortunately, our espresso arrived with a national debt sized bill and a smile from the waiter wide enough to cause ivory poaching. It was great espresso and I asked the waiter how it happened that such good espresso occurred south of the equator. What I didn’t notice was that Wolfgang’s table had grown completely silent, they may have been praying for all I know, but Wolfgang must have overheard my question.

After the waiter finished explaining that they received training from an Italian barista and left with my watch, ring, wallet and bankbook, Wolfgang sat forward in his chair leaning on its arm and turned to face our table wiping the corners of his mouth rather delicately with his napkin then said a little louder than necessary, “You know, coffee is bad for the complexion because it affects the liver function. You mustn’t drink coffee. American coffee is high in caffeine and that is ruinous for blood pressure and the heart. With dairy products included it is also bad for the veins and the arteries.” He continued on in this manner for a few minutes and then having finished his lecture, turned back to his guests and said, “I am always the spreader of truth. It is necessary for me because it is who I am.”

“What about popcorn?” Elena quipped loudly.

Wolfgang simply ignored her, but it seems he and I were destined to come into brief contact again. He left his party as Elena and I were getting ready to leave the restaurant and as he walked by our table I just couldn’t help myself saying, “Happy Birthday, Wolfgang,” and restraining myself from throwing a sieg heil instead stuck out my hand for him to shake.

He paused momentarily, looking down at my outstretched hand but instead of shaking it, brushed the back of his hand against the back of mine and then continued out of the restaurant. Elena hadn’t noticed because she was gathering her handbag, but when I told her she giggled and said, “Well, now I am sure of one thing. Wolfgang is very kinky!”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Photo: Diego Fernandes 2009

A dor da minha alma
Foi marcada em mim porque
O céu respira
A chuva impetuosa

Os anjos sozinhos
Souberam porque deus
Queimou nossas pegadas
Na terra

Desvaneçeu-se a música do carnaval
Como o fumo após o fogo
Que deriva ao céu
Esquecido aqui na terra

Como uma faca a luz solar
Cortou a noite para dar
A cada fantasia
Um desaparecimento ideal

E cada fantasia
E cada fantasia
E cada fantasia
Como o sonho desapareçeu

Todos os suspiros
Todos os gritos
Todos os rasgos
Todas as pétalas caídas amor

Você o perigo dão
Porque posso confessar não
Recordar eu posso não
E eu posso não esqueçer

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


My brother appears
Occupied in occupations
He rarely or never filled.

The last time he was dressed
In a tuxedo like James Bond
Holding a martini glass.

He raised his glass to me
Overhead in a noisy crowd
Excluding them for a moment.

Once I sat while he rowed
A tiny dory with just he and I
Out on a secret quiet sea.

A rowboat?
Surrounded by mist
Rising from the water?

The sea was calm green
The fog gray and warm
With steam room odors.

That pea green water
The sea flat and reflective
As a well-polished mirror.

Never speaking words
He just rowed the oars causing
Quiet splash sounds.

Once I saw him sleeping
Just quietly breathing
The moonlight.

Then his apparition was
Rounding a corner
On some busy city intersection.

Traffic lights were flashing
While he removed a cornerstone
Containing a clock, a rusted tool and a note.

He never fails to smile and wave
And I never know quite
Why I am there.

He always appears youthful
Almost dapper jaunty
Full of curiosity.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Source generates sound
Sound generates thought
Thought generates word
Word generates speech

Hear the speech and the word
Hear the word and the thought
Hear the thought and the sound
Hear the sound and the Source

Find the speech from the word
Find the word from the thought
Find the thought from the sound
Find the sound from the Source