Saturday, March 20, 2010

Me and David Byrne

Today finds your humble narrator at his usual haunt when he needs some time away from the Fortress of Solitude, and the care and feeding of his elaborate menagerie of hissing cockaroaches, halucinagenic toads, and peacocks. Which is to say, I'm swilling beer from a size 9 Manolo Blahnik at my favorite Russian chick cafe. Where else can you get internets, beer, and hot Russian chicks in any one place? Except Heaven.

Since I've subconsciously decided to take you down memory lane, let's all get in the Way-back Machine and go all the way back to 1988. I realize that for some of my loyal readers, this is around the time they were born. Which not only depresses me, forcing me to order another beer, but also means I may have a lot of splaining to do.

It was August of 1988, and I'd recently returned from a semester abroad in China. While there are at least two good stories out of that trip (and several amusing anecdotes), this is not one of them. I had been back for about a week, and I was spending the Pergatory between end-of-one-semester and beginning-of-the-next in New York City, hanging out with my dad. Dad was great, and the subject of quite a few interesting stories on his own. This is not one of them.

I was hanging out with dad at one of his stores in the Bronx. Dad used to sell new and used furniture to people on Welfare, which is why his store was in the Bronx. It was a cash-only business, though he did take lay-away. It was lucrative, and would remain so until the advent of Ikea, which catered to the same crowd. Who knew poor people wanted so much crappy furniture with names like Snott and Blikendorf? Before you judge, dad also owned a few antique stores, but rich people don't buy in volume. The important fact of the story was that I was on Grand Concourse in the 180s, which means I may have well been in Beirut. Remember that.

So the phone rings, and it's my step-mother Elaine. Elaine is awesome. The first time I saw her, my dad took us to dinner so I could meet his new girlfriend (which is kind of sweet, considering how many times I'd taken girls home to meet him). He asked me about an exam I'd quite frankly bombed on, and I tap danced furiously about it. "Who do you think you're kidding?" Elaine asked. "Do you think you're fooling us? You fucked up. Just be a man and admit it." I was instantly in love with Elaine. So Elaine wanted to talk to me, which was unusual.

"Ross," she asked, "do you know a singah named David Byrne?" (I'm going to try to appoximate Elaine's thick New York accent).

Why yes, I do, Elaine. Why do you ask?

"I'm at the office," says she. Elaine was a CPA, and worked for Chris Callas, a famous fashion photographer. She did his books, and actually had power of attorney to draw money from his private account to pay his personal bills. So she was in his offices a lot. "And this nice Jewish boy keeps coming in and showing me pictures of monkeys. He wants to know what I think of them."

That's very nice, Elaine, albeit strange. Why are you telling me this.

"Well, this man says he's a singah, and the monkeys are for the cover of his new album. He says his name is David Byrne. Have you ever heard of David Byrne?"

Yes, yes I had. Lead singer for the Talking Heads. Burning Down the House. Psychokiller. Stop Making Sense. Yes, it's a famous band.

"Oh, well, he just came in my office and asked me to join them for lunch. I told him about you, and he said I could bring you along. Would you like to have lunch with David Byrne?"

I admit, my brain locked up. I couldn't process what I'd just heard. But I recovered. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! YES! I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE LUNCH WITH DAVID BYRNE!

"We're leaving in 15 minutes."

Dad, can we get from here (Grand Concourse in the 180s, in the Bronx. Like I said, may as well be Beirut), to midtown Manhattan in the next 15 minutes? Dad just looked at me, rolled his eyes, closed them, and shook his head. Dad always rolled his eyes to make his point. It was his way of saying "I'm serious." I was doomed.

No Elaine, I can't make it. Thanks.

I was so bummed for the rest of the day. I tried to pick a fight with a gang of Puerto Ricans just on general principle; when they asked me "yo man, what's your problem?" I told them the story, and they understood. They bought me a beer. One of them gave me a hug. At least, I consoled myself, I could ask Elaine about lunch with David Byrne when I got home. Maybe hear an interesting story (David Byrne likes escarole! He's allergic to shellfish!). Maybe get a contact high.

I burst through the door that night, tackled Elaine, and asked her how lunch went. "Oh, I didn't go. I had too much to do, so I had a salad at my desk."

Gee, Elaine, why not punch me in the balls, too? I briefly considered killing her. It was a momentary thing. But it passed.

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