“Something chocolate,” I said. “But not chocolate cake.”
The pastry lady pursed her lips and thought about it. Think all you like; no rush. We can stand here and consider this for as long as we wish.
That was Friday, when something snapped. I’d just done a thing related to the torrent of work and obligations and worries and due-dates. For some reason all the strife just left me, lifted off my shoulders, and I attained a state I had known before but for which I never had a name.
This would be laughable to my near & dear since I am anything but at the airport - but that’s because there are two phases. Two states. Before, and after. Before you get through the line, it’s fraught. After, it’s zen. It’s all out of your hands now. You cool your heels and watch the world and live in this little city where there is naught to do but wait, and perhaps consume. Everything is clean and secure. You’re going someplace - an adventure awaits! Best of all, you’re outside the routine, but you’re in a familiar state. Airport Calm.
But I wasn’t at an airport. I was leaning against my car in the Lundsenbyerly parking lot, having a cigar. Why this, why now? Interesting question. Perhaps it was the quiet prosperous mood of the store, which never has the downbeat vibe of CUfB or the harried get-it-done mood of Target , or the party-on-dude mood of Traders Joe. It’s an older-demographic store, but I always feel younger than many of the people I see walking in. Walking, slowly. Tall and grey, inevitably masked. Or birdy widows. I don’t feel any kinship with someone ten years my senior, but I know we could probably reminisce about the old store that was on this spot once, the big chandeliers over the frozen foods section. Maybe that’s it, and I didn’t see it before: it’s an old-folks store, and I feel young when I come here with a lively step.
Or it’s the newness of the complex, the apartment buildings, the tall towers, the interesting way this part of town has developed. There’s no graffiti. There aren’t any screeching cars or staggering dudes. It’s the way everything used to be. From the parking lot I could see that wretched earth-buried furniture store I talked about last week. The ads made it seem wonderful and hip and modern:
That lady is the stooped and slow woman stomping her walker into the store now.
Impossible; that was yesterday.
True, but also it was many yesterdays. The lower half of the hourglass.
At least the sculpture still stands! Whew.
Back to the Lundsenbyerly's confection counter:
“Something chocolate,” I said. “But not chocolate cake.”
“Well, this is a flourless chocolate torte. It’s very dense.”
“That seems to be entering cake territory, though.”
“Oh no, it’s almost like fudge.”
So I recalibrate. Wife doesn’t want chocolate cake, why? Because it would be spongy and unsubstantial, chocolate that doesn’t really provide any choco-joy. But fudge might be too much. Too rich. Must watch the figure. (Wife, I should note, can fit into her wedding dress.) Or do we go full fudge for a birthday indulgence?
The pastry lady pointed out something else that was chocolate flavored, marscapone, chocolate drizzled over a heap of raspberries. Yes! Chicks love fruit. But also that over tehre, the triple-layer chocolate mousse. It has a cake base, but above that, the stratified tiers of aerated confection, topped with two hard fillips of fudge, pierced with a triangular piece of strippled white chocolate.
“I wish you didn’t have to put the calorie count,” I said.
“Oh I know,” said the pastry lady. (Who was yardstick thin.)
“I mean, that.” I pointed to the cream puff the size of a baby's head. “Twelve hundred calories. Does anyone buy that? Or is that just there to make everyone feel better about buying the torte with 690 calories?”
“Oh yes! They buy it.”
I wondered who and why and when. The thing about this store: a very small percentage of the people who shop there, or work there, are overweight. It’s just not a cream-puff-patron place.
It was difficult to ring them up in self-serve, since the barcodes were placed on top. You didn’t want to topple the mountain of berries and wreck the whole presentation. But I beeped and bagged and left content. I had made a custom birthday card, prodded Natalie to text Happy Birthday, secured a useful gift, and now I had the birthday dessert.
She loved the raspberry dessert, and having just played two hours of high-intensity tennis, she said she deserved every bite. I think that was the reason for Airport Calm. It was her birthday, and I knew she’d like this, and this glorious indulgence would tie a bow on the day. We’re at the point where birthdays are celebrations but also a red arrow pointing to the room where the bigger red arrows point to the exit, but dang if she didn’t look great, smiling, happy with the course of the day, pleased with the simple pleasure of the fork and the berries.
From the age when boys wore ties, and got letters.
Oh, come on. I know you’re Universal and you own this, but come on. Close enough so we notice, but not so much that we’d think of Frankenstein?
Well, as long as you don’t quote anything else from the iconic score -
OH COME ON
This is the second in the series of Crime Club movies featuring the wisecracking drunk and nap-prone private detective, whatsisname.
He’s more interesting this time, and while this one is as knotty and eventually who-cares as the first, Preston and Jenks have comic snap:
Hey, it’s Wild Bill Elliot on the left, our laconic detective from the 50s B-movies we looked at last year.
The Elevator operator.
Is he credited? It would be great to hear his story . . . No, not credited. Well, I’m sure he’s treated with plenty of dignity when our hero asks him to help recreate the supposed suicide:
You're surprised the scriptwriters didn't make a "strange fruit" joke. It's not as if it didn't occur to them.
Maybe that would've been too much.
Now two ways to chip in!
That'll do: off on another week of stuff, and I hope you enjoy it.