Measured Extravagance

2001-06-19 - 12:38 a.m.

[Continued from part 1.]

When I got back to the inn, I discovered both that my new room was larger and that the kitchen included a hot water tap, so I ended the evening quite contented, with a long shower, a cup of tea, and the BEMF yearbook.

Friday morning, I trolled around for a quiet corner with a working pay phone (most of the Verizon booths on my walk fit one condition or the other, but not both), touched base with Phelps again and left a message for Kale enquiring about his intentions for the evening. I stopped by the Pru to get the eyeglasses fixed and to purchase a copy of The Big Dig for the Beautiful Young Man, who had suggested that I photograph it for his souvenir. Kale had mentioned that Newbury Street was rife with hair salons, and it had been so humid through Wednesday and Thursday that I'd repeatedly fantasized about shaving my head, so I kept my appointment with a Japanese stylist at Trillium who lectured me on conditioning, moaned about her allergies, and did a wonderful job clipping off the offending inches.

Glasses fixed, hair remedied, I felt suitably prepared for the afternoon's potential rigors as a BEMF volunteer. I grabbed a quick lunch (chowder and raw clams) at the Legal Seafood across from the Radisson on Stuart Street, and then presented myself to Bruce, who asked "How good are you at answering phones and making stuff up?" before positioning me at the entrance of the exhibition to check passes. Then he sent me out to obtain change (trusting fellow, that), which in my case involved several wrong turns and eventually walking with a friendly Tufts student up to Sovereign Bank (Fleet was closer, but Bruce had specifically instructed me not to go there, and I couldn't find the branch of Citizens he'd mentioned to me). In short, it took longer than it might have if he'd sent someone more native or less navigationally impaired, but the heat was sufficiently oppressive that no one else had been keen on the errand, so I didn't feel overly embarassed about my inefficency.

After my return, Bruce sent me over to Park Plaza, where the harpsichord portion of the exhibition was being held, and I spent the rest of the afternoon there selling passes and giving directions (yes, I actually can be good at appearing to know what I'm about) before returning to the Radisson to take my turn around the booths and cash in my volunteer chits for a mug and a luggage tag. Then I walked around in circles for a while, occasionally stopping by a pay phone to see if Kale was answering - since I knew he had other friends coming into town for a weekend wedding, I was reluctant to assume that he'd be free, so when I reached Copley Square and got his machine yet again, I told him I'd fend for myself for dinner.

I'd heard about Sonsie on Newbury Street - it has (apparently famous) wall-length windows that open out into the street - and it was on my way to the concert I wanted to attend, so I stopped in there and asked them if they had room for one. It's a noisy, crowded place - not one I'd want to go to with friends, because I wouldn't be able to hear them - but the food was quite good: I ordered a chilled split-pea and avocado soup with lobster fraiche, which disappointed me not because it wasn't well-made, but because (as I realized after several spoonfuls) my tastebuds were craving more avocado. Not the chef's fault, that, and the lobster fraiche was satisfying when I tried a spoonful by itself rather than blending it with the soup. There was focaccia with aioli, which I consumed with a glass of red wine, and then they brought the two vegetable sides I'd ordered - fiddlehead ferns in a cream sauce with bacon and onions, and spicy green beans. I'd miscalculated on the bread, and didn't have room to eat more than a few green beans, but the fiddleheads were savoury and superb.

After dinner, I waddled back down to Gainsborough Street, passing a stash of moving discards and being oh-so-briefly tempted to snatch up the Hello Kitty wastecan perched on top of a stack of ratty sofa cushions (and it wasn't there on my walk back. I'm not personally enamored of the character, but I know several folks I could have probably commanded as my slaves for oh, perhaps a week, had I felt up to the challenge of transporting that can around...). The concert featured Ensemble Doulce Mémoire, performing music from the courts of Charles V and Francis I. The stunner of the evening was "The battle of Metz," which required many different moods and immaculate coordination in the course of the piece, and which EDM pulled off smashingly. The most charismatic performer of the evening was Jérémie Papasergio, a Rufus Sewell look-alike who played his giant shawm like a jazz saxophonist. The encores included a Gounod travesty of an arrangment (Renaissance tune, 19th century harmonies) and a contemporary pop song played 16th-century style, as well as a lively call-and-response piece.

When I got back to my room, there was a pink message-slip taped to my door notifying me that Kale had called. A med student in a somewhat hyper state had been discussing his exams on the lone telephone when I'd returned, so I sipped my tea and allowed several minutes to pass before heading back downstairs. This time, Kale answered, and after some friendly quibbling over whose fault it was that he'd spent the evening cleaning his apartment instead of taking me out for lobster (to compensate for the canceled jaunt to Maine, said he), we agreed to meet in front of the Pru and seek out a relatively quiet bar where I could get a good glass of red.

This turned out to be more challenging than Kale anticipated - every bar was packed with bodies and awash in noise (even the ones that were usually more congenial), and I wound up apologizing half a dozen times to Kale for being a pain in the ass, who dismissed my embarassment by insisting that he now considered my request as his own mandate to find a place where we could sit and hear each other. We finally stopped at the Cottonwood Club, where I bought him a bottle of ciderjack and myself a glass of pinot noir, and we retreated to a near-empty room near the street, where we slowly consumed our drinks and analyzed academia and industry and alcohol preferences and European cities and former classmates and the odd southwestern-style decorations on the wall. He walked me back to the inn by way of the Christian Science pool, shimmering serenely in the night (even with several chaps splashing around in it on the far side of the rectangle).

[to be continued in the next entry...]

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