The Mews of Avenue A

Handwerker

Whitehall Street on the 4/5 subway line clears quickly after the lawyers’ late rush, and that suits me fine; I work a red-shifted day, and I like my trains over and done with. Tonight I have this fantasy that I’ll make it up to Beast Buy before it closes, a fantasy largely due to the reality that I have not looked at a clock in the last hour or so. I’m still cherishing the notion that the big hand is near the 12 and the little hand is near the 8, which has me a good 270° out of whack. Which is what I’ll feel like when I find out what time it is actually.

Reality: Um, Linus?
Linus: Hello — you look so familiar. Have we met?
Reality: whack whack whack

There’s a pretty young thing across from me in the train, raven-haired and skittish with that “I’m not really a pretty young thing, go back to your reading” air. I’ve been ruminating through Middlemarch at the agonizing pace that comes along with a 10-minute commute, so I set to it. Mr. Bulstrode agrees to write the good letter vouching for young Fred’s character after all, which is a relief all around, and about this point the train pulls in to the Brooklyn Bridge station.

I change for the local, as does the pretty young thing (raven-haired). We match steps over to the local track and peer out into the dark distance, as one does, and as we do, PYT(r-h) turns to face me and turns out to be Sharon, a friend I haven’t seen in years.

Sharon was an oddball singer who performed, under the name Ms. La Nive, largely without instrumentation — think Diamanda Galas minus the piano, and hella cute. She was fairly alarming for the uninitiated, since she peppered her shows with a bramble of utterly insane characters who would prove the confluent similarities between dinosaurs and omelettes, say, or would attempt rakish and catastrophic things with the alphabet. She tended to the massively under-rehearsed, which made her too-rare shows a sort of distaff Andy Kaufman experience. You either got her or didn’t, and there was very little middle ground. Her songs, when not ludicrous, were spectacular and deep.

I fell for her completely one night at the Sidewalk Cafe when she did an aria (I don’t recall which one) entirely in karaoke cat language. Pressed play on her CD boombox, and sang a full extended piece with “meow meow meow” as the only words. Now, that’s good. What was visionary was that she pointedly promised a special guest performer, who would join her as a featured vocalist later in the piece, and who would be performing this evening in a foreign language. When the guest vocal solo arrived, she took out a stuffed dog and held him up to the microphone as if he were singing, bouncing him up and down in time, and then kept on going “meow meow meow” for him as well. Foreign language, see. It was amazing. Or perhaps you had to be there.

The last time I saw her show, she did her set dressed entirely in bubble-wrap. This is not nearly as sexy as a guy might hope — she used a lot of layers — but it’s not something you see every day. We weren’t allowed to pop the bubbles, sadly enough.

I haven’t seen Sharon since a few weeks after 9/11. No one much felt like doing anything but drinking and crying at that point, which made the bars desperate and miserable places, but since if we didn’t go out to have fun the terrorists would win, sometimes we did. The two of us sat through an evening at Sidewalk feeling stricken, and then went walking in that loud way you do when it’s late late late and your heart is a little broken. I bought her ice cream and we ate it in the window of Gracefully on Avenue A, and that night I didn’t cry until I got home.

About Linus

The man behind the curtain. But couldn't we get a nicer curtain?
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