Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Get It Together

There’s nothing like a bad system to wreck a fun time. How do people not realize this? How can a person enjoy herself when she’s worrying about what the fuck is happening? If she's worried that she's going to be missing the real fun by waiting in the wrong place or having done the wrong thing?

This past Saturday night in New York was a study in contrasts.

First, S and I went to a noodle restaurant called Republic. It was a visually stunning space: warehouse tall ceilings, pale paint, long narrow room, low pale wooden tables at front and back. A slate blue bar ran most of the length of the room – it framed the liquor at the front and the food at the back. The whole place hummed with people talking, waiters taking orders in murmurs, and kitchen staff banging pots around. We walked in and spent about 5 seconds figuring out what was going on and how to get in line before some efficient server or other spotted our confusion and signaled me to the right place. We were ushered to two spots at the bar with a fine view of the cooking. I loved this restaurant even before the menu arrived.

The staff put on a good show without doing anything out of the ordinary. They each had their own station. The guy in front of us was desserts: take the fudge cake out of the freezer, ditto the gelato, 1 scoop on, put dessert on deck. Put the gelato back. Take the white gelato, green gelato and the orange one out, scoop scoop scoop. Beautiful, each one. And I wanted green tea ice cream with every fibre of my body. Just to watch him make it into a perfect globe of sweet.

Across the way from desserts was wok. I could never really get the hang of what he was doing except that it seemed to involve way more fire and water and wire-brush scrubbing than noodle sizzling. He was graceful and economical in his movements.

All the staff had their assigned spots and stuck to them, perfect small motions keeping the whole machine in tune.

We left feeling calm and full of food and admiration.

And thank god we had a good base to start off with.

The next part of our evening must have been run by baby monkeys. We went to se Le Scandale (that’s Le SCAN-dal to you, bub, so don’t you dare get all Frenchy and scan-DAL-ey on me), a burlesque show that’s been running for months in the same back room of the same bar on the same street as it started in. Surely, adult monkeys would have had time to get some kind of system down pat by now.

First, we’ve called, and I’ve been told we can get tickets at the door. We get there early, 10ish, when the show is supposed to start at 1030. We can’t buy tickets and wait comfortably at a table. No, we have to wait till they open the door and pay then. We can’t put our names on a list and relax till they call our number. No, we have to mill around and wait till they open the door.

Well, by 1030, the club is packed full of suburbanites looking for a little titillating titty. And make that suburbanites WITH TICKETS. So by now, we’re in an ad hoc line up in a place there’s really no room for any kind of line up, getting jostled by anyone going to or from the bathroom. Or the bar. Or the mysterious back room. And it’s now 1045. People are restless, no one knows what the hell is going on, the door guy has been saying "About 20 minutes" for about 45 minutes to anyone who asks when it’s gonna start.

There was no way that show could have recovered from that crazy baby monkey system. It would have had to been a damn sight better than it was. It takes a really pretty and talented girl to make up for a wretched half hour of worrying about getting stampeded by people you categorically don’t like.

Up with Republic, down with The Scandal.

No comments: