Joe DiMaggio had his funeral in the church across the square. So that’s where he has gone, boys. That’s where Joltin’ Joe has up and gone.
At Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store, the wine-dosed young man in a fisherman’s cap sitting at the bar is talking about Mario Batali and some trick Mario plays carving out a shape in a wheel of Parmesan. The new art form is food, not, as it was in this corner bar’s Beat Generation heyday, poetry.
Another lad at the bar in glasses with thick plastic arms is wrapping jars of homemade pickles into a priority mail shipping box, a glass of hoppy-looking ale on the wooden bar in front of him next to his roll of bubble wrap. To his left, a young blond lady with a thin cotton headband holding her locks back is peering at him through a hole in the center of a pearl onion, which she sets down and then turns to another man at her right in a black wool night dockworker’s cap and says, “Everybody here comes here religiously.”
The bar mistress in a turquoise blouse and dangly silver carp earrings takes an order for a double espresso. This, boys, is a bar like they make bars outside of New York City, a place where you can come during the day and there is a background of ragtime music doing a strut against the clank of a coffee cup hitting the steam arms and the crunch of two old ladies biting simultaneously into their prosciutto and cheese panini, and characters who are neither dangerous nor worrying sitting in sunlight coming through windows which are not tinted, not hiding anything…. They may be wasting their lives, may be living their lives imperfectly or may be just living their lives sans judgement in a corner of the world where that is still occasionally possible.
The bar mistress finishes pouring the espresso and comes to take away my empty cappuccino cup. I thank her and she says, “Yeah,” in such a friendly way I imagine she is actually answering the question of whether she’d like to go out with me sometime, her rosy cheeks and young narrow cheekbones under them, dark eyes…a life we might live together…
“Can I have a Coke?” a new arrival asks behind me.
“We don’t have lids. Is that okay?” says a male co-worker behind the bar with a beard like mine who is serving food, not writing.
I don’t hear the answer. A truck drives by on Columbus Avenue past the west window. But I’d like to think it is okay, the cola off-gassing uncontained into the atmosphere.