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Shake it like a polaroid picture

January 25, 2010

It struck me after I wrote my last post what I really liked about the school we visited: the teachers talked like we do at home, asking the kind of “yes, but what else” questions we do at home. We ask them not to grill AJ – he asks questions like that too – but because we are curious people and because we like talking about interesting things. And that was really what it seemed like there.

_ _ _ _ _

Last night, Mr. Spy and I headed downtown to meet up with my brother, whom I haven’t seen in nearly three years. He was in town for less than 24 hours for the 40th birthday party of a college friend.

The train ride was unusually alcohol-laden, which is saying something. The couple across the aisle were fairly sedate with their picnic of supermarket sushi and a bottle of red wine drunk out of red plastic frat party cups. The guys upstairs who drank a couple of six packs of tall boys? Not so much. The loudest of them was doing his best impression of a New! Improved! Sean Penn in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Now with added profanity!, which was pretty entertaining, if hard to avoid. Although I was wondering how the elderly woman toward the front of the car, the one in the crocheted hat with an aggressively upright knob on the top that looked exactly like the top of a teapot sticking out through a tea cozy, was handling all the F-bombs.

The guys upstairs got off before the end of the line, at which point the two married men behind us who’d been talking about their children started celebrating the end of the litany of curse words and talking about how much the guys had been drinking. “I mean, I came home last night and had six Guinnesses and basically passed out, but at least I wasn’t riding around on some train.” No, you were home with the wife and kids. That makes it a lot better.

We grabbed a cab to a street where I used to run concerts on a fairly regular basis. I hadn’t been up there in a while. The road up there was almost unrecognizable, but that neighborhood looks pretty much the same. We were deliberating about the building when we caught sight of a bunch of guys drinking champagne in ‘70s outfits through a window and knew we were in the right place.

My brother is three years younger than I, so we overlapped in college for just one year, but our colleges were only an hour apart, so I got to know some of his friends, including the one having the party, R, and one of the other guests, M. R, M and my brother all lived together in college. My brother and M once came to my college to visit. I haven’t seen either R or M since my brother got married nearly fifteen years ago. My brother hadn’t seen R since then either.

R opened the door. He was wearing a silver lame shirt, a pair of tight bell-bottomed leopard print pants, complete with prosthetic package, and zebra platform shoes. I was so preoccupied with figuring out whether his mustache was real that I forgot to hug him and ended up just saying hello. R grew up in Hollywood. He’s the son of someone you may have heard of. R’s always been, as my brother put it, “a bit over the top,” so his throwing himself a costume party for his birthday was no real surprise. In college, I always thought he was the boy most likely to self-destruct, but he always seems to land on his feet. He was much happier and more at ease than I’d ever seen him. This is one of the chief advantages 40 can have over 18. His preschool-aged daughter came down to see what was going on. She was in her own costume, not ‘70s like the adults, but a pink and silver Supergirl, complete with pink wig. She was flanked by a small ninja toting a sword across his back, a friend, bodyguard and willing assassin. R’s daughter eyed us suspiciously before disappearing back upstairs where her mom was getting ready, trailing the ninja in her wake. I never did meet her mom.

M came over to say hello. He always struck me as sweet and a little uncomfortable with himself, and I have to say, he was exactly the same. He was dressed much more sedately in a tunicky shirt printed with puzzle pieces that seemed to be falling down the front of it.

We kidnapped my brother and, after a failed attempt at getting into a new and apparently trendy pizza place, we ended up eating fish and chips and drinking beer by a fireplace in an Irish pub. My brother told us how he’d made friends with a man named Carmen, who’d been sitting next to him on the plane. Mr. Spy asked if he liked to talk to people on the plane. Mr. Spy does not like to talk to people on the plane. He is generally opposed to socialization on public transportation of all kinds. My brother said the conversation was sparked when he pulled out his Arabic books. We all nodded knowingly. You don’t want to be thrown off the plane for studying Arabic. He showed us his government ID card and we made fun of his mustache and beard (now nowhere in evidence).

After dinner, we walked back to R’s house, which was now full of children and their babysitters, and waited while my brother put on his 70s costume – a tapestry polyester tux jacket and an enormous Afro wig, both borrowed from his host. Then we all headed around the corner to the bar where the party was already going on. The bar is one I used to go somewhat regularly. The orchestra I used to work for used to perform at a nearby church and I’d often head over to the bar after concerts with my backstage coworker, the recording engineer and a handful of the performers. I haven’t been there in a long time. It’s more of a late night place, so the barn-like main room was all but deserted. In the back, though, the party room was packed. A band at one end provided live backup for anyone brave enough to try karaoke. The room was full of polyester and bell-bottoms.

Mr. Spy stayed just long enough to split a bourbon and to take some pictures of my brother with his college friends. M gave me his card and told me to call him when I’m in New York – he lives just a couple of blocks from Cranky’s house — and he’d take me to dinner, and then turned to Mr. Spy and told him what he had just done. In retrospect, it was kind of a strange thing to do, really, both the asking and the telling. But M is a nice guy and no one thought he meant anything but benevolence by it. I had to laugh, though, when I got home and dumped the contents of my purse on top of my dresser and out fell the orange and white card. It’s been a long time since I’ve come home from a night at a bar with one of those.

The train trip back was much less eventful, full of sedate theater-goers quietly discussing their evenings, except for the two people in the back who’d eaten too much pub food and were dozing.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    January 25, 2010 12:09 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting evening. Is your brother back in DC?

  2. January 25, 2010 12:37 pm

    Yeah. He was here for about 24 hours.

  3. January 25, 2010 5:05 pm

    This all sounds so sophisticated and cosmopolitan!

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