January 27, 2012

This Hip American Life

The morning is still, the air is quiet and hardly a thing stirs in the cozily furnished room. The two bay windows watching over the narrow street are uncovered, the old glass lets in a bold stream of light pool over a worn out and flattened shag rug. A small fireplace reveals the remnants of last evening's fire, the crumbling cinders perched so delicately, the breeze from a passerby would easily cause the entire structure to turn into a mound of dust. On the mantle, a variety of clocks tick, each one slightly off by mere seconds as if some one took pride and time in setting each and every single one of them. On either side of the fireplace, there are built in bookcases overflowing with old cloth bound novels, several first edition copies of famous books, some art books, and even a couple of fine press books hidden in the mess. Photographs, framed in simple wooden frames hang on the walls and sit on whatever available surfaces are around. Vintage portraits, drawings, prints and drawings get large huge frames as they are carefully placed in the wall space, to give the most aesthetically pleasing situation. Overstuffed couches, covered in pillows, sheepskins and throws sit sadly, sagging from years of overuse but there is something about the bright patterned fabrics that still show they have some life in them. A coffee table made of some stolen street sign is littered with typographical magazines, literary reviews and stumps of burnt out pillar candles.

Down the hall, the door to the kitchen is ajar slightly, mostly because it sticks in the other direction. A peep through the crack reveals a worn looking tile counter, but scrubbed clean. The dishes from last evening's dinner still sit, soaking in lukewarm soapy water. Further down the hall, another open door reveals what looks like an office but looks almost like a reading corner in some old university library. An old lion claw foot table sits in the middle of the circle of bookshelves, a single lamp in the center with several books strewn about. A copy of planetary physics, mechanical systems and a stack of dog eared Harry Potter books are what you can make out from the doorway. It would be a bit rude of barge into this little sanctuary of learning. All around you, evidence of life, scarves and hats hanging on hooks, several heavy coats and a pair of bicycles suspended from the ceiling. At the end of the hall, a door with a stolen restroom sign hints at the contents of that room and the bright sunlight streams in off to the side illuminating the stacked washer dryer.

The door to the bedroom is ajar, open only a crack. Peering in, a semi naked man is seen carefully on tip toe bearing a tray with two cups, a pot of tea and several various pastries. He sneaks to the far end of the room and places them on the coffee table in front of a couch and arm chair. He tries to pick up a cup and a slight shuffling sound from the bed causes him to panic and toss a cup in the air. Realizing the potential peril of the ceramic container, he fumbles and tries to catch it as it bounces out of his fingertips each time. Making a narrow save, he has a look of shock as he realized, he managed to actually successfully catch the cup before it broke or woke the other person in the room. The bright comforter reveals a shock of blonde hair, splayed out over the solid colored pillowcases. Replacing the cups on the tray, he pours out tea, and arranges the pastries carefully. Thinking to himself, for a plan of attack, he crawls on top of her, and begins to kiss her cheek.

Suddenly at once, the clocks on the mantle in the living room all go off at the same time, revealing a resonating barrage of bells and gongs that waft down the hall and into the bedroom. The face under the blanket stirs only slightly as it disappears underneath the comforter to avoid the kisses. Frustrated by his attempts, he walks over to the windows and draws up the curtains, bathing the entire room in light. The tea tray casts a reflection over the bed, with shadows outlining the cups plates and pot. The light only furthers the massing of blankets and pillows over the blonde head of hair. Finally, he resorts to a last measure of attack. Momentarily, the room is empty except for the sleeping person but the half naked man returns, with a record in hand. Placing it delicately on a turntable in a corner of the room, the speakers come to life with the crackle and pop of dust as the sounds of a slow jazz piece come to life. Climbing on top of the other person once more, he resumes the barrage of kisses and the face turns to him as their lips touch. A passionate exchange, he grabs her glasses and places them carefully on her face, bringing a smile as her world suddenly comes into focus.

She wraps a blanket around her shoulders for warmth as he leads her to the couch now warm from the morning sunlight. Gingerly, she begins to take a sip from the steaming cup of tea while he munched on a macaroon. They discuss plans for the day as the record then proceeds to the next song. This time, a lively uptempo solo prompts him to walk over to the machine and turn down the volume. They seem inseparable, brushing their teeth together, getting dressed together and assembling in the hall together. She asks him something and he nods in agreement. Locking the apartment door, they walk down together into the sunny street, the proprietor of the shop they live above begins to set up umbrellas for the lunch crowd soon to pack the shop front. At the corner, they part with a kiss as she walks towards the bus stop and him towards the grocery store.

The day goes by without seeing these two for awhile. The shop is packed for an hour or two with brightly flanneled and bearded people waiting for fresh made sandwiches and cuts of meat. The sounds of electric trolley buses running and the noise of San Francisco almost make the scene ordinary. The call of the vegetable seller at the corner shop, the honks of an impatient woman driver from San Bruno stuck behind a double parked taxi waiting for his fare and the talks about town of shows at the Warfield, Regency and Great American Music Hall. The ordinary scene is broken when the man arrives back home, arms laden with paper grocery bags filled to the brim with carefully picked vegetables and delicacies. Momentarily, he is gone, but returns to enter the butcher shop and picks out a decent sized side of meat. Soon after, she comes back as well, with an armful of small boxes and a potted plant on top. They go up the steps together and return to the little apartment.

Suddenly, the apartment is a blaze of motion. As the burners on the little viking stove come to life, pots and pans are rested, smeared with butter as garlic and onions are put on to simmer. The dressed up side of meat waits patiently on the counter, tied together with twine and seasoned to perfection. Meanwhile, the living room is cleaned up, the ashes swept up and discarded, books neatly arranged and magazines thrown into the magazine rack. The overstuffed chairs and couches are arranged around the fireplace and coffee table and new candles are brought out. In the dining room, the table is stretched out, the leaf brought in and several folding chairs now lean against the buffet on one side of the room. From the kitchen, the sounds of sizzling and the smells of herbs and spices begin to pollute the pantry and the dining room. The cardboard boxes reveal board games and these are placed on the coffee table in anticipation. While he cooks, she goes around setting the table, eight places in all. Satisfied, she enters the kitchen through the pantry in between the dining room and kitchen and wraps her arms around his torso. Smiling he turns around and kisses her tenderly. The moment is broken when again, all the clocks in the living room chime indicating that it was now five thirty.

The harsh buzz of the door buzzer is broken only by a crackly voice through an old fashioned call box. The door opens up to reveal the first couple to arrive, a tall bearded man with combed back hair and a chrome bag over his shoulder. His girlfriend, an equally tall redheaded girl sporting large glasses and a beanie leans in to give the blonde woman a hug. Again the buzzer rings again before the first couple can even get comfortable and the next group of people enter. This time, it's two guys, one with curly hair and a waxed mustache and the other clean shaven but sporting a bow tie and a vintage blazer. They both walk into the kitchen to talk to the man as the buzzer yet rings again. Two girls appear now, one short and slightly round but very pretty, the other about average but sporting the Bettie Page look. The both of them squeal as they see the blonde woman and come in for hugs. Soon, everyone is introducing themselves in the living room, smiling and exchanging words and glances.

Pretty soon, the dining room is filled with the smell of many varieties of food. Garlic butter onion noodles, the beef roast, a vegetable curry, pan fried onion cakes, fried rice, a tray of fish fillets, breaded and fried in oil and several loaves of fresh baked bread. As everyone sits down, all the guests suddenly produce a bottle wine they each had decided to bring. The couple pulls out a port as he explains to the host "for dessert." The two ladies had opted each to bring a bottle of white and red while the two gentlemen both opted for a bottle of red wine each. Soon, flat cylindrical Spanish wine glasses are brought out as all the bottles are opened and soon the entire group is talking, eating and between the group of two males and two females, a hint of flirting. As soon as the food is gone, the dessert is brought out, a gallon of homemade ice cream, a chocolate fondue pot and a variety platter of things to dip. The hostess jokingly remarks, "we should have bought a fountain instead." The bearded man pulls the cork from the bottle of port and begins to portion it out to the rest of the guests and before taking a sip, everyone toasts the host and hostess. Both of whom blush and kiss each other to congratulate them for a job well done.

As soon as the plates are put into the dishwasher, the group migrates to the living room where a fire is started in the fireplace and an iPod is hooked into the handmade goldwire speaker cabinet. A slow indie playlist comes on in the background as the board games are opened and a rabble of voices argue playfully over which games to play first. In honor of the group, they all choose Hipsteropoly and after several rounds, the game is set aside for team pictionary, the boys versus the girls. It wasn't exactly fair since the two guys who had come together were carving artists who worked at the print shop the host owned, but the ladies defended their ground quite well, even overtaking the guys team and eventually winning with the word Tumbler. Pretty soon, the furniture is scooted around and an impromptu dance party begins and more wine flows. Fearing his liquor cabinet might be raided, the host locks it up, but the hostess gives him that look, a sort of pouty, be nice and share look. Reluctantly, the bottle of absinthe and the brollieur are brought out and everyone in the party becomes distracted from dancing in the presence of ice water and sugar cubes.

The mass of clocks all begin to chime as everyone drunkenly turns towards the mantle, realizing the time and the necessity of sleeping in is mandatory, everyone begins to leave, the couple first indicating they have their bikes locked in the hallway. The other two groups, suddenly turning into two couples indicate they would share a cab. As soon as the last guest is gone, the furniture is rearranged back the way they were, the board games put away, the fire stoked out and the candles put out. The dishes are left to dry in the washer and the leftovers wrapped and stowed away in the fridge. She uses the bathroom first to shower while he arranges the bed, getting it ready for the night. They switch places as he uses the bathroom. Once everything is finished, they crawl under the covers and switch out the lamps and cuddle each other to sleep. They kiss one last time, "good night little boo." "Night night beau."