July 29, 2009

Birdie alights / Sarasota 09

Birdie was in town for a few days. We met up in Sarasota and spent the day together yesterday. After a chat at her mother's house in a lovely old neighborhood of the city, we headed out, found a parking spot downtown, and set off on foot. Well, I was on foot, Birdie was on skates. I threatened to take her shoes away if she didn't slow down. "This is my natural pace," she said. My natural pace is to consider moving.

Sarasota is an arty town. We drifted around downtown for a while, peering in galleries and boutiques. We came upon this Calderesque chair, a moulded plastic rocker, rather deco in style. We each had our observations about its design and comfort...

We stopped for lunch at the legendary and sprawling Columbia cafe at St. Armand's Circle off Lido Beach. Birdie suggested I try the legendary and sprawling Original 1905 Salad, which can be ordered by itself as an entree, or as a combo with either a Cuban sandwich or a cup of soup. I got the sandwich combo, Birdie wanted hers with black bean soup. "There isn't as much garlic in it as there used to be," Birdie said of the salad. "It used to burn your mouth." I thought it was fairly well garlicked, myself, and altogether yummy - big, clubbish, ham and pasta-strewn. The sandwich was a toasted ham, turkey, and cheese, on flaky/crisp Cuban bread.

I regaled Birdie with my God-as-movie producer theory, deduced from my observation of two essential features of the human condition: we're creatures motivated by carnal imperatives, placed in a moral context. The tension between the two produces conflict, drama, narrative. I quoted rabbinical wisdom:

Student: "Rabbi, why did God make us?"
Rabbi: "Because God loves stories."

Birdie put it more simply: "All the world's a stage...?" Wish I had thought of that. This reminded Birdie of the time she was doing make up for college theater and got herself up as an arab with a beard. I seem to have lost the part of the story explaining why she was subsequently out and about in the beard. But she was intrigued by the responses she received as a male. "Women wouldn't make eye contact," she said. "They looked down and away." Women had always made eye contact with her before. And it took her quite some time to figure out why she couldn't get the male bartender's attention, despite having smiled, repeatedly, and tilted her head in the usual fetching gambit. Then she realized: it was the beard.

We went for a long walk along Lido beach, while the garlic from the Original 1905 Salad, now long gone, seemed to be gathering strength. First we trod the nature trail, as far as the reticence of the gradually encroaching sand spurs allowed, then back along the shore. The blackskimmers, an arty bird (and therefore attracted to Sarasota), were hunkering down in the sand for a view of the sunset.

But Birdie and I would have to share a sunset on the beach another time. The drive back to the Cape, and whatever salads, shore birds, bartenders, eye contact, and narratives awaiting me there, loomed.