Gentle Reader, the thing I miss the absolute most from my days of affluence isn’t the cocktail parties, the evenings out, or being able to afford – well, anything. No, what this former dandy misses more than anything else is the solitary luncheon and its attendant activities.
I would, of course, be dressed to the nines in my signature style – colorful blazers, ties, and pocket-squares; a brooch on my lapel, argyle socks to match the blazer, and always, always, always, classy over-the-knee shorts. In short, a sort of male equivalence to the Chanel Suit. Comme ça:
Sundays were my day of choice, because I would be in town later those evenings anyway. Typically, I would begin at Amocat Cafe, and take a brisk walk and my coffee down to Frost Park, to enjoy what remained of the prior Friday’s artwork. You see, each Friday, there’s a chalk-off there; artists and amateurs alike create beauty, there on the pavement, the steps, the walls of the fountain. Spontaneous moments of creativity are always a pleasure, and I took pleasure in viewing new art weekly.
From there, I would wander past the majestic old girls of the Theatre District, the Rialto and the Pantages, and see whether there was anything worth seeing in the coming weeks. There typically was; they do fantastic productions at both houses.
I would then wander up Broadway, and the afternoon’s work would begin in earnest: shopping. At the many fine antique stores, I would pore over ancient volumes, or scour the locked glass cases for scintillating brooches – it’s important to keep one’s lapel jewelry fresh. I would visit the funny little Italian man, who was eighty if he was a day, who made my copper brocade-and-patent-leather dress shoes by hand, for twenty dollars. I would visit the woman who, in her shop of gothic splendour, had trinkets and tchotchkes that perfectly suited my taste, and who took custom jewelry orders – but only from me, and only because we’d built a rapport. I would visit the young man, on the middle floor of Sanford and Son’s antique mall, who shopped the thrift shops and collected the finest menswear that he could find for resale – and, if he was sweet on you, he would tailor it, too. I visited the shop where I once found a pair of WWI military-issue spats, and where the long-haired proprietor once gave me a vintage boater, because I reminded him of himself in youth. I visited London Couture, and the aptly named “What” shop. I visited them all.
After I had made my weekly rounds, I would take whatever thrilling new tome I had found to a little hole in the wall off of Opera Alley, the Over The Moon Cafe. Strolling into the alley, one had to take care; alleyways can be a dangerous experience. Once safely ensconced inside, I would have exquisite grilled gruyére paired with lobster bisque, two glasses of reisling, and an hour alone, just me and my book. They knew me as a gentleman there, once – a decent tipper, not much for conversation, always ready with a quick glance from the page and a “Thank you” when appropriate. Those lunches were the highlight of my week – a time of rest, contemplation, recharging my wit and good-humour.
After my meditative hour, I would stroll up to the statue of St. Helen or to the Spanish Steps, find a comfortable spot to lounge, and watch the panoply of people pass by. The variety of life always astounds me, and I loved to make up little stories about the strangers as they passed. Once I had watched my fill, of course, I would amble up the hill to the Mix, where I would purchase a pitcher of mimosa, quietly writing in a table by the corner, awaiting my companions – but that’s another post.