Wednesday, January 14, 2009

L e F i g a r o C a f e

The drizzling rain subsided for a moment, early in the afternoon of the first week in September. The tourists weren't fazed by the rain or the clouds; after all, they've come to visit the village. They were ready in the rain gear and portable umbrellas. Some of them even rode on the second level of the double decker buses taking in the scenes from lower Manhattan.

Inside a smoke-free "Le figaro cafe", the Ethiopian maitre'd with blonde streaks welcomed the tourists and clients to sit and enjoy the open window view to a truck-swept Bleecker Street. The skinny Pakistani helper brought ice cold water to the tables. The burly Yugoslavian waiter took the orders. One hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream, regular coffee and one cappuccino. The couple sat and waited for the order to arrive. The cafe is renowned all over the world for being the gathering place of artists and the like. In these sterile times, though the bohemian air permeated the ambiance, the lighting of an art studio on a budget and duplicated famous paintings decorated the walls, there were no artists, only tourists, some same sex couples and a wishful poet.

A shiny NYPD patrol car parked at the corner answering mundane questions and pointing out directions to spellbound street trekkers. The wishful poet thought he saw a 20'ish John Lennon on a cruiser bicycle, pedaling on Bleecker Street. How could that be, John's been dead for more than 10 years, what would his ghost want to see here in the village? Maybe John wanted to see how much New York has changed from the days he walked around with Yoko in Central Park. Or he could've been looking for new verses to be found behind the Tower Records billboard. Maybe he was humming a tune to the sound of city finches and pigeons pecking on the sidewalk. Perhaps he was heading to Washington Square Park to listen to the street musicians render dedications in his memory.

Where are the poets asked the wishful poet to himself? Do they only come out at night, unannounced, and spring life on the sidewalks of Lower Manhattan? Do they try to hard to become poets when the only voice they have is that of a flat note drowned out by the subway rattle? Do they only bleed dry ink on computer monitors and disguise themselves with nicks to cover up their shame?

The Yugoslav waiter wrote up the check, and the wishful poet swore to himself that he could capture these scenes to never fade away as the evaporating rain anticipating the sun to shine bright over Manhattan. A three-dollar tip is left on the table, and the couple walks through the village like they have done for many years to mark the changes in the times.