There is so much pleasure in a new face. I love everything about shaking a hand, or giving a hug to someone who is completely foreign. I get a kick out of expressions and colloquialisms and hearing a well turned phrase from a new person. I like hearing stories, and I like collecting wrist flicks, the timing of a blink, the crack of a knuckle (or the absence of knuckle cracking), a laugh, shirt texture, cuffs, rings, when a choice is made to sigh, do they sip through a straw? I log those things. I draft their visage the second that we part.
I try my hardest to get it right.
A few Tuesday’s ago I left the office and went directly west. It was drizzly, cold and wet in Manhattan, too bad I was going to a room with a view. I imagined it would be ruined by the clouds, but somehow they cleared by the time I reached my destination. I went into the lobby of The Standard hotel and up the elevators, I hadn’t been back in at least three years or so.
The Top of The Standard, (a.k.a. the “Boom Boom Room”) is a very special spot to me. I love it when I get a whiff of old New York and the Top of The Standard gives me that feeling. Its nearly all glass, with tiered seats that face a huge (literally, huge) glass wall that looks out over The Hudson and downtown Manhattan. It’s breathtaking at sundown to sit and face the windows while sipping a cocktail. So much to see.
I found my friend Asher sitting at a table for two, done up smart in a leather jacket (I have a feeling its his signature look). We pick up chatting where we left off from a slew of text messages prior while he was away.
And in the foreground of my thoughts, the conversation. In the background, the gathering. Asher is a trove – a writers dream. He has brown-blonde-hair that was combed up and fell to the right sharply, as the hairs were influenced by gel, so their curves were more like spikes. (I couldn’t tell if it was purposeful.) On the subject of his haircut, he said once, “it’s a specific look.” Around his neck a thin, spotted scarf, mild décor to an expensive looking black button up shirt with white buttons. Black slacks (nearly matching the shirt) and boots. This is carefully-selected chic.
On his wrists were a variety of silver beaded bracelets and silver rings. Close-cut nails.
We order drinks. A Pimms Cup for me (I veer slightly from my usual Negroni only because I skipped supper and wanted to be lucid) and a fizzy lemon drink for him, with an egg white foam on the top.
A jazz band is playing and we get on the topic of our two passions.
“We’re lucky that we’re both creative,” he says.
Lucky? Creative? This is only the second time in my life that someone has said that I was “creative.” The first time I balked. Yeah, right. But maybe I just don’t understand the sense of the word. “Creative” people wear turbans, and know all the Pantone colors, and are just cool. You know, APC and Hershel bags, and a cigarette habit. Not me in the slightest. But, he surmised this from reading this very blog (in one sitting, mind you, at an In ‘N Out). I was flattered that he’d even read past the first post. I’ll admit, my recent posts have been a bit too “Carrie Bradshaw” for my liking. So I’ve stopped reporting on my dates for the near future just to keep the male readers at bay. Thank goodness Asher didn’t fall asleep, but for the life of me, I can’t stop writing about love. And apparently, I can’t stop asking people about it.
“Have you ever been in love?” I asked him.
He had, twice. “They say that when you’re in love with someone you think about them at night before you go to sleep, and then they are the first thing you think about when you wake up,” he said.
I asked him about his travels, which keep him always all over the world. On the topic of cars, I admitted to him what I had never admitted to anyone: my new found love of Sunday BBC “Top Gear” marathons. Then we discussed my industry, which was once his industry. I told a friend once that my only fear about getting old was “losing ‘The Cool,’”. But Asher, though he’s far from old, is more than a few years older than me and hasn’t lost The Cool for a second. I know many people the same age as him that squint and tap frustratingly at their iPhone’s and ashew social media but Asher was not the type.
Deceptively, the sun had sank and the hours had flown by. The city now sparkled, and Asher ordered his third lemon drink – “they’re so tiny” – and I dismissed the option for a third Pimm’s. Before leaving I made a visit to the bathroom at the Boom Boom Room which is unique and cheeky in a way that only The Standard Hotel could dream up. Each private stall, all done in black, has a floor to ceiling glass wall looking out over the street and the rest of Manhattan. So while you’re sitting on the toilet, you feel like the world has full view, but a 3-foot-high screen blocks out the view of you waist down. I finished using the ladies room but stayed in a second to press my hands to the glass. The Empire State Building in all its glory was miles away, beaming in the rain.
We left the bar and got on the elevator.
“It’s raining,” I said.
“In Alabama,” Asher said, “the rain is beautiful.”
“That is because it is so lush,” I said and folded my hands demurely, suddenly feeling shy, as we were sharing the elevator with a stranger.
Back on ground level, a favorable mist was falling. We walked a few blocks and parted under one of those warehouse-like buildings made of brick. I never watch people walk away, but I spend hours after leaving people feeling like an archaeologist post-dig inspecting what I’ve collected. Every person, in my opinion, has some lesson for me. Asher’s lesson was very, very clear very, very quickly. It’s normal for me to spread these insights, and to write about them heavily and get the opinions of friends. In this instance, however, I have kept it quiet and guarded, nearly secret because I must work toward it, I must try. I must become it.