I don’t get out much, so I was pleased when the guys proposed dinner downtown. And disappointed when I woke that morning with a stomach ache that suggested I was about to give birth to a convulsing armadillo. And pleased again when I fell asleep, exhausted from the misery, and woke feeling 100%. Hmm. Well! Let’s go eat spicy, fried food and drink, then.
Actually, I had a famous sandwich. A slab of meat seemed excessive and cruel to the gullet, and the sandwich sounded delicious: sirloin strips on pumpernickel with horseradish sauce. It was the signature sandwich of a famous old Minneapolis restaurant, Charlie’s Café Exceptionale, long razed and long lamented by the old, vanishing guard. At least we’ll always have the matchbook:
That’s Charlie, of course. The restaurant had a statue out front called “Scherzo,” a charming little water-nymph raising one leg as though she’d almost stepped on a slimy frog; it was originally located in the courtyard of the Foshay Tower, and now rests in private hands. When I first came to Minneapolis I knew the statue, but it was just one of those things you drove past. Then the restaurant closed and was replaced by a silly pink-and-blue octagonal Helmut Jahn building for which I’ll always have a soft spot.
I have a swizzle-stick from Charlie’s, too. I found a half-dozen in an antique store and bought the lot. People must have stolen those things by the thousands. For that matter, I can’t remember the last time I got a custom swizzle stick. Pity; it’s an opportunity for some interesting motifs.
Yes, I have a swizzle-stick collection. Pathetic, I know. Left to right, it's the Sheraton-Ritz, the Stardust, Lindy's in New York (try the cheesecake!), the Versailles in Miami Beach, the Camelot (local joint, I think) and the Saxony, which traded on that mid-60s vogue for all things Saxon. (Actually, no.) (Warning: link may make you feel poor.)
This fellow's cute. The old bar in the Sheraton Ritz was the Cheshire Cheese. Given the cheese theme, I would have gone with a mouse, but I can understand why the restaurant chose a cat.
Apparently no one swizzles anymore; it’s been years since I’ve gotten one of these.
In any case, I had the ghost sandwich from the bygone café, and it was delicious. Everything was delicious. The restaurant was empty for the last hour of our discussion. (The restaurant was still open, so we weren’t keeping the waiter from going home.) Politics, as you might imagine. Nothing better: Fresh drinks (peaty single-malts for the Swede and the Uke, Dalwhinnie for myself and Wes.) (Because we have better taste.) (Oh, you want to start something? You think that Balvenie is better than Glenlivit? You just go on thinking that, fella.) (Heh.) and vociferous opinions, expressed vociferously. General opinion on the new permanent campaign: it’s fun, gosh darn it, and good for the early entrants since the dirt gets aired out and burned off straight away. This puts the late-declarers – you know, guys who announce their candidacy in April the year before the election – at a disadvantage, since the press will have finished sucking out the marrow of the guys who’ve already tossed in their hats, and want someone new to disembowel. The general consensus had Hillary as the nominee, due to the money factor, and Fred By-God Thompson’s entry was anticipated. He would surely suck away Rudy’s oxygen – not that anyone disliked Rudy, but Fred, he has the voice and the laconic manner and an inexhaustible store of folksy metaphors, and you sense that he wears boots.
I drank enough coffee to guarantee I would not sleep until 1:30, so I stayed up watching “When We Were Kings,” a movie about the Ali v. Foreman fight in Zaire. Everyone looked hot and uncomfortable and in need of deodorant. Everyone lauded Ali as a great fighter, which of course he was, but the admiration of his persona was a bit much. When he was tapping his own depthless well of charisma, the braggadocio and bluster was amusing and charming, but half the time it was rote, flat and tiresome. Okay, you’re the greatest; noted.
Anyone who knows Foreman only as a meaty-beefy cheerful grill pitchman would be amused to see his earlier incarnation, which was truly fearsome. And not because he stalked and skulked and growled and glowered; he just radiated power, a strange variety of casual brawn he possessed almost as an afterthought. Except when he got in the ring, and then: damn.
Just a few days earlier I’d seen a Jack Paar interview of Ali, back in his Cassius days. He’d done a routine with Liberace. I don’t think they ever worked together again. Odd how that works out – you don’t think of Ali for a long time, then you spend two days watching and learning. But that’s how it goes: this afternoon I was standing outside soaking up the sun, grousing about the column I was working on, and for some reason I thought of “I Don’t Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats. Got in the car an hour later, turned on the radio: there was the song.
This being Monday, it’s not that remarkable.
I did like this Monday, though; it was warm and civil. I picked Gnat up from school and took her to a dentist’s appointment. She lost a tooth Sunday afternoon, and was greatly relieved that the dentist would not have to yank it out with gigantic pliers. Afterwards we went to the medical building’s gift shop, which has plush toys and fake flowers and things to bring sick folk stuck in the hospital next door; it reminded me of the trips we’d made to this building before, for ear infections and check-ups. It reminded me how much I always dreaded anything medical, and had to be dragged into the Clinic; she skips along the sidewalk, completely at ease. In fact she was disappointed to learn she wouldn’t get a shot, since that didn’t mean a trip to Target for a toy.
We drove past the new Target, incidentally – I’ll have to take more photos. It’s enormous. It’s like the Vehicle Assembly Building of Targets.
And now back to work – two columns left to do. New usual comic book as per the Tuesday schedule. It's just one page, but most of the entries in this series will consist of covers, so don't get your hopes up for long multi-part weekly additions. It's like the Matchbook Museum - one page, once a week. Also a Quirk, although God knows how brutally it was edited for space this time.