Monday, July 05, 2004

Michael & Me

Peter Moore says he is probably my lurker. He says that the weird URL I am so fascinated with can be explained by the fact Peter checks out this site on the computer at work, which is just his way of sticking it to The Man without actually enjoying himself, a kind of Berkeley thing to do.

But I choose to believe in my lurker, that he is still out there somewhere peering in from the far side, since the existence of my lurker in all his infinite possibility justifies those little spasms of Brownian movement that characterize my mind when it is loose, playful and utterly at random.

I believe in my lurker, though I understand that there are things we believe just because we would rather believe in them such as:

I believe I got a free drink because someone thought I was Michael Moore. Here are the circumstances. Find among them the truth you need, as I did.

My wife and I went to the A's-Giants game last Friday night. I was miserable with a summer cold. But great art and terrible crimes have been done by people with summer colds because if days are long and weather is temperate, what's your problem? Suck it up, people say. And you suck it up. You straggle. You watch everyone else disappear in the distance. You lose contact with the pelaton, but you do not stop moving.

This was my mood, and I dressed to suit it: the baggy jeans with the droopy seat that seems to trail behind me, like a parachute brake; the formless sweat shirt; the commodious tweed jacket that I bought my father some years ago and which I retrieved in what was a rather nasty scene the day after his funeral. (Tweed makes it sound nice. Think horse blanket.)

Of course, I wore a baseball cap, but not a high-crowned one with the Mount Rushmore feel. It was black and rather limp. I am in any circumstances a fine figure of a man, filling the oval, with a strong tendency toward the circumferential. But in this outfit with the sag in the pants and the billow in the sweat shirt and the canopy of tweed -- I looked really thick.

The A's lost. We were in no hurry walking down the Embarcadero to BART. We saw a night heron staring at the Bay Bridge, rather glumly, I thought. My wife suggested we have a drink and avoid the crowd on the BART platform. Claustrophobia is sometimes a psychological manifestation of a physical ailment. I did not want to feel crammed.

First, we tried the Hi-Dive on the Bay. We walked in. It was dim and crowded. There seemed to be many young people, paired and otherwise, thrusting their wants, dreams and pelvises at one another. The music was very loud. I am not interested in listening to young people or to what young people listen to. I suggested we try the lobby bar of the Hyatt Embarcadero, which I knew would be dim and figured would be empty. It was, almost embarrassingly so, with the requisite hustler languidly hustling one of the cocktail waitress.

We found a table well away from the bar with a view of the Ferry Building, which looked.... Attitudes toward landmarks must draw on history, and I did not feel well enough to remember, select among those memories and assemble a comment. I sat. I ordered a Manhattan. I said nothing. My wife said nothing. It's not just nice to be married; sometimes, it's necessary.

Odd thing. My wife's Grasshopper came in what looked like an ice tea glass from the Sunday brunch. It was a disturbingly large drink; it struck one as a parody of one's assumed drinking habits. I sipped at my Manhattan until the level was just low enough for me to daintily pluck out the maraschino cherry by its stem. It required concentration. Time passed. My wife pecked at her Grasshopper. Maybe a little before 11:30 I wandered off to pay the bill, and my wife went to the bathroom.

Perhaps, I shambled. It was late. I told the waitress I wanted to "settle up" -- that's good bar lingo. She patted me on the arm and told me it was on the house. Some pep in my shamble, I went looking for my wife to tell her the news: two free lobby drinks! A handsome savings!

She had an explanation.

"When I saw you coming, I didn't recognize you," she said. "You looked just like Michael Moore."

And I suppose I did -- thick, shabby, vaguely irritable and not fully at ease and certainly possessed of a weird manner of speaking, one originally sort of Hillbilly but tattered by moving about the country so that it might just sound Michiganish to a tired waitress feeling the weight of the night and the shift and the blandishments of a hustler who wouldn't recognize a working class heroine if he saw a thousand of them.

Suddenly finding a little bit of celebrity... well, who of us has not seen the back of Robin Williams head on the escalator at Nordstrom's.

"You really look like Michael Moore," my wife said. "Everything you are wearing is too big, and you look really fat. Plus the wire-rim glasses and the hat. And your hair is sticking out, and you need a haircut."

Well. If a mistake what a heartening mistake, that the message is out there and spreading and someone is ready, weary or not, to buy the messenger a drink.

1 comment:

G Pabst said...

What is this world...? never mind. That was my Gran'pa talking.

And since you and I - sharing only generally alike physiognomy, roughly similar body type and height plus grey hair and glasses - get confused by students who sit for fifteen weeks looking at each of us with dead eyes, what celebrities are we yoked with?

Michael Moore (you in big, bad wardrobe). Roger Ebert (me associated with his current svelt-er but still zoftig, rumpled self).

Why can't it be Ralph Bellamy? Huh? Or Melvyn Douglas? Or Henry Cabot Lodge? Or Jimmy Stewart? Or John L. Lewis - those amazing eyebrows!?

Because there's no respectable geezers around, that's why. They're all pretending to be aging kids.

It's just not fair! America was enthralled when Dade got Warren G. Harding to come fishing in Florida (in necktie and shorts with his stocking garters showing). The grey haired were accorded dignity!

Geezers were elder statesmen. College Deans. Heroes of Science. Presidents!

And now they're "elder youths," Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman and Mick Jagger are the images we're expected to present, summer cold or not.

I say it's spinach and to hell with it!

As Gran'pa used to say, "What is this world..."