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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Croque Monsieur

The other day I decided to blow my budget and have a nice lunch and get a much needed manicure/pedicure. I headed over to Nails Noble at 28th & Park. It is my favorite nail place; moderately priced, pleasant atmosphere, and excellent work. I figured Les Halles would be good for lunch, since it is next to the nail place and the Steak Frites is $17.50. I sat at the bar. The last time I sat in that exact spot was the first day I temped at Variety in the early 90's. The Editorial Director had fired a temp the day before and I got the call from Human Resources at the publishing company to be the emergency fill-in for the rest of the assignment. I was to act as his interim assistant while one of his assistants was on maternity leave. HR warned me that this was an important man and he demanded excellence at all times. On my first day, his other assistant was coming in later in the afternoon, so I was on my own that morning. I had to check this titan's appointment book to confirm his lunch appointment.

The lunch was with Kurt Andersen. I recognized the name since he was at that time the co-founder of the satirical monthly, Spy Magazine.  I was surprised that Kurt answered his own phone but then he explained that his assistant was out that day and somehow he didn't know about this lunch. Of course he accepted and he was quite excited that the Editor of Variety wanted to have lunch with him. I told the powerful Editor that his lunch with Kurt Anderson was set. One accomplishment down. Maybe this assignment wouldn't be so scary after all.

The Editor left for his lunch date at Da Umberto, a great little Italian restaurant on West 17th Street, and soon after his other assistant arrived. She asked me if I had confirmed the lunch. She looked in the book and gasped. She said that it was the wrong Kurt Anderson. There was another Kurt Anderson, the one with the letter "C" as his first initial who worked at Hearst. He was the one who was supposed to be having lunch with the Editor. I was stunned. What are the chances that there are two men named Kurt Anderson that are both in publishing in New York and in the Editor's Rolodex? I wanted to run out at that moment but this woman begged me to stay to help her figure out what to do. She said it was her fault. She should have double checked the phone number to see if it matched the correct Mr. Anderson. I immediately suggested we blame it on the temp that got fired. She loved that idea. So that was that, he would be having lunch with Kurt Anderson from Spy instead of Curt Anderson from Hearst. These things happen.

Then it occurred to me that the Kurt I spoke with didn't know about the lunch. Could it be that both Mr. Andersons would show up? I called Da Umberto and asked how many people were in the Editor's party? When the person on the phone said, "three" I decided to high tail out of there for a couple of drinks. But before I left, I alerted his assistant that her boss was having lunch with two Mr. Andersons. I couldn't help but act out what probably happened at the restaurant. I pictured the Maitre'D going over to the Editor's table and saying, "your guest, Kurt Anderson is here, sir." And then a few minutes later going over to the table again saying, "your guest, Curt Anderson is here, sir." Suddenly, his assistant broke out into laughter and the two of us became fast friends. Finally I composed myself and headed over to Les Halles where I sat for a couple of hours gulping glasses of Cotes Du Rhone. I considered never going back to finish the assignment. But I got up enough courage and returned to see how the blunder would play out. I stepped into the elevator and there was the Editor. I felt a reserve come upon me and boldly looked him straight in the face. I was ready for the confrontation. But instead of berating me for his awkward lunch date, he complimented me on my hat. The wine I had inhaled prompted me to ask, "how was lunch?" He responded, "actually, very interesting." He never mentioned about it neither to me or his other assistant. Powerful people are unpredictable; that's how they keep others off guard. Here we expected him to come back yelling and he accepted it with ease.

Now years later I am back in the spot at the bar amusing myself with memories of that day and ordering a Croque Monsieur instead of the Steak Frites. It's been a long time since I had Croque Monsieur, that gooey French white bread sandwich with the ham between the slices and the melted cheese on top. I felt compelled to have it. I confirmed with the bartender that the Croque Monsieur was indeed the sandwich I wanted, not the other one with the added egg on top. When the Croque arrived, I ate half of it. Whenever I order something really fattening I eat half of it - a diet I've adopted from the film "Analyze This" where a mob guy asks another mob guy what would be less fattening then a sandwich and his buddy says, "a half a sandwich." I finished lunch and it was time for a luxurious pampering session.

I popped into the nail place and picked my nail color and just as I was getting into the pedicure seat, I heard someone say my name. An ex-coworker who had recently been laid off was sitting in the next chair. There went my quiet time. I told her I was next door having Croque Monsieur. She looked like she saw a ghost when I mentioned it.  "Croque Monsieur? I can't believe it," she said. "I was talking about Croque Monsieur a few minutes ago. I had lunch with a friend who was in Paris and she brought up this whole story about Croque Monsieur. I never thought about Croque Monsieur in like ten years. So when we were talking about Monsieur you were eating it next door?"

She then went on to say that she is not a spiritual person but this was weird about the Croque and maybe it is a sign that she was supposed to bump into me today. The conversation went on about job interviews and how she was going to handle being unemployed. We talked about when she looks back on this summer, she can either remember it as a good one where she was able to spend time with friends and her beloved nieces or she could look at this summer as one where she missed those opportunities because she was too worried about getting a new job. She stayed even after her nails dried and sat with me at the manicure station. It was getting time for her to leave and when she proceeded to get up from her chair it wheeled backwards off the edge of the platform. There was a loud crashing noise and everything stopped. She was going down. I didn't move an inch. My body stayed straight forward with my nails perfectly placed on the manicure table. I only moved my head to the side when I heard the commotion and watched with horror as she was scrambling to save herself down there. Luckily there was a railing nearby that my colleague grabbed. She caught herself about an inch away from disaster. Within seconds one of the manicurists came to her aid. Once she got up I could see that she was embarrassed since her face was scarlet and she had the attention of everyone in the salon. She so yearned for the meaning of bumping into me that day and all I could do aside from protecting my newly applied orangey red nail polish was think "It's a good thing I ordered the Monsieur for lunch instead of the Croque Madame!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wacky Wednesday

Last Wednesday I swung by Cafe 28 on 5th Avenue to pick up a hot lunch. I knew I wanted the rice with peas but what was going to be the main dish? I saw the baked ham with pineapples and knew that was it. It was partially carved and I needed to take off a piece. Of course there wasn't a sharp carving knife anywhere in sight so I had to manage with the tongs. I kept pulling and pulling with them but the ham was relentless. I ordinarily would give up by choosing something else to go with my rice but I was determined to finish what I started. It was the theme of the day. I had such a stressful couple of months and I even had a nightmare where I was in dirty water filled with bugs and slimy creatures. In the dream I had to push through the water that was getting deeper and harder to navigate. I finally pushed through the scummy water and found myself on an elevator. As I was wrestling with the ham I thought about the dream and I was not going to give up until I got my piece. It was crowded in Cafe 28 and people were all around the hot food area. I didn't care if they were watching me. I kept going for it. Suddenly, another customer next to me said, "let me help you with that." He proceeded to take his own set of tongs and he instructed me to hold on tight as he pulled in the opposite direction. He was determined too and I felt like he was in the same "head" as I and we were both trying to accomplish anything these days...maybe that's what led us to this particular piece of ham. We had to get it off the bone. I knew that if I just pulled the piece with my fingers it would come off easily but I didn't want anyone to see that I had to "touch" the food, a real "no no", like double dipping at cocktail parties. Finally I decided to go for it and I pulled it off with my naked hand. One of the pineapples went flying. It landed on the chicken wing dish. No one flinched. I thanked the man and went on my way. The ham was actually very good.
Later that day I received an email from my friend. Her subject line was "Wacky Wednesday." That afternoon she stopped by Genaurdi's Supermarket in PA not because she likes it, in fact, she hates that store. She only went because she wanted a Starbucks coffee that has a space in the store. She needed a couple of veggies too so she entered where only angels dare to tread. While she was perusing the ears of corn, the moron who works the produce department came up to her and scolded her about pulling back the husks. She has bumped into this guy a few times before and he was one of the reasons she stopped shopping there. He screamed at her for touching the corn. He said that he would need to throw out the ones she touched if she didn't buy them. My friend went off...see she had a couple of tough months too and this was just the thing to put her over the edge. She cursed him out and people were looking at her. She threw the corn and went over to the service desk to report him. I emailed her back to let her know that around the same time she was throwing corn, I was wrestling ham.
It was a "Wacky Wednesday."</div>

Thursday, June 4, 2009

So What If I Have Peanuts

I was coming up the escalator at Penn Station when I thought about how my father used to say that I had peanuts in my head. I was beginning to think he was right since none of my new ideas for my coaching practice seemed to be working. One of my ideas was to start a blog which would definitely fit into my father's idea of peanuts. I was sad. I know my clients benefit from coaching and I get excited about my future plans to do the work and make it into a viable business. When I reached the top of the escalator a young man reached into a big blue bag and handed me a free Planters Peanut Big Nut Bar. There was a promotion going on for their new chewy triple nut granola snack. Just as I was about to give up, there were the peanuts and here is my blog. Maybe it's a good thing to follow something my father would ridicule. The traditional stuff doesn't seem to be working anyway. I took it as a sign to continue believing in my ideas. I opened the candy bar and took a big bite. Boy, was it good!