After a long day of work, wanting nothing more than to sit at a dimly lit bar and daydream, I wound up at a cozy spot in Soho. I started off the night staring blissfully into space, sipping my wine, feeling full of that intangible connection to the humongous universe that sometimes, unbidden but much appreciated, settles over and calms my angst. Then the bartender started talking to me.
She was from Siberia but had grown up in Poland. She had two master’s degrees, one in applied linguistics and one in international relations. And she had come to the US to work at the UN, first as a translator but then, after deciding she’d rather be a diplomat, for the European Union. She hated it and abdicated to the corporate world, where she was so bored that she researched and developed a skin care line, which is about to be exclusively distributed in the Middle East by some sheik or other. In the meantime, she’s been tending bar at two places – the one in Soho where I met her, and the other on the Upper East Side where she’s come into contact with a bevy of men who want to marry her. At one point she was juggling two fiancés (one twice the age of the other) because, as she put it, “I’m a yes woman.”
She was spinning the most fantastical stories, and nothing added up, but whether it was true or not was of absolutely no consequence because I was transported, exactly as I had wanted to be, to a land of being wooed by barons, and failing psychological tests to teach English to children in Beijing, and flinging Am Ex Black cards into soon-to-be-ex-husbands’ faces, and having every man you’ve ever slept with beg to impregnate you for your excellent DNA. In short: a land of hyper-emotion, excess, exaggeration, and extremes that I could never live in, but that I could visit with great delight.
She was the kind of bartender who tops you off without your asking, and then, when you say you can’t finish because you have to work In the morning, and joke that she should finish it instead, shrugs and says, “Somewhere in the world there is a sober Russian child, I’ll drink it for him,” and laughs maniacally. I’m sure after I left she did just that.
I almost walked into a pole on the way to the subway. It was just what I needed.
Moral of the story: it’s possible to travel to foreign lands while right at home. You just need to pick the right bar.
[Photo: 🙂 🙂 ]