I have had some luck with numbers today. After a good lunch with Vivian at L'il Frankie's I suddenly swung left instead of right on Houston. Something about the freezing air made me go straight to Russ and Daughters, where I took a number in the packed place.
It seemed a revival of an old Marie tradition was in order: Champagne Fridays. Used to be I thought that champagne was only for sharing. And for Very Special Occasions. Due partly, perhaps, to my father's custom in the last couple of years of purchasing various vintages of various champagnes in order to suss out the fuss from what is really good (for him a process filled not with a sense of entitlement but with a charming sense of wonder), and producing these bottles with no particular pomp at various meals; but also certainly because for me, for such a long time, there had been no one (One) real to share it with. And the cat didn't like it...
So I decided to crack a bottle every Friday for a private party. It lasted through the weekend, too, with the proverbial silver spoon in its mouth. There are few things as pretty to me as a tall flute poised, golden, effervescent. About to be sipped.
Next! shouted one of the guys behind the counter at Russ and Daughters, looking straight at me, arrived lately. He didn't ask for a number, and nodded his head when my eyebrows enquired whether it was really my turn. Goody. A quarter pound of wild Alaskan salmon roe, a quarter pound (about 6 slices) of Irish smoked salmon. An old lady elbowed me. The kind of old lady one finds only here: in a floorlength mink, and wearing slippers, leaning on her pushcart.
What's your numba?? she insisted through scarlet lips. Is it 65?
No, I said, looking it, 67.
Is it 65??
She lifted her shoulders in a whaddaya gonna do aboud it way and showed me her number, 66. She hadn't been helped yet...
This lady, I started at the counter guy...
Oh fug-ged it, you started with huh already, she said.
I had beaten two minked ladies to the punch, and they stood there staring at my own floor length wool coat with derision. I'm sure they saw the path the moth chewed.
A packet of blinis and a carton of creme fraiche (sorry Vince, but I was thinking of you) later (It was a pleasure serving you, said the counterman), I went back out into the Freezing.
I already had a bottle of champagne in the fridge. For One Day.
Later, having got home, unswaddled myself, chilled, or thawed, as the case may be (both) I suddenly thought about breakfast. Shit! No coffee. 6.18pm. Sahadi only closed at 7pm. I bundled myself up again, ignored the stricken cat who rolled the whites of his eyes at me:
You're leabeen' me??? It's Friday! Eet's our time together...
...and took another number, 53, at one of my favourite places in New York. Long wait. Rinaldo, my friend and the manager at Sahadi came over to say hello. We talked about my coffee crisis and then politely about the weather, finding nuances that only those who can find no other comfortable subject can detect... How many inches of snow, 1, 2, 3? How will it be by midday, isn't it cold, how long he has to scrape his car in the mornings before his drive from Queens. Subway? I enquired. I would get lost on the subway, he said. Rinaldo is of Argentinean-Lebanese extraction and has lived here for over the 20 years. Which is how long he has held his parking space near the store. What number are you, he asked under his breath. 53, I whispered. What do you need, just coffee? he asked...Yes, just coffee. So, skipping another 8 numbers, I got my coffee and friendly goodbye, picked up some anchovies for good luck and brown basmati for my conscience, and returned to the cold outside.
The blinis were salmoned, the leftover roast chicken from Li'l Frankie's turned into one of my favourite salads, and the champagne was popped.
Friday night was back. I drank a quiet toast to Vince, 3,000 miles away, and gave a salmon egg to the cat, who stared at it. I believe I heard from his little black lips, Thank you.