Wednesday, September 29, 2010

St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come down. Something is lost, and can't be found.

I found the picture below going through my files. It's the place where my Grandmother and I always ate lunch when we went into Manhattan, taking the bus in from her apartment in Riverdale. We'd go to this classic American burger place, the Prime Burger actually, after stopping at St. Pat's Cathedral to light a candle for St. Anthony. The waiters were all daylighting jazz musicians who wore white jackets with their names sewn onto their breast pockets. One of them, a man I remember as being very tall and bald and having a gravelly voice like Scatman Crothers simply had "Broadway" sewn onto his. He flirted with my Grandmother politely and made jokes and had a very warm and disarming way about him, especially notable because I was at an age where adults were usually intimidating. You sat in these one-person booths with a table that folded closed in front of you and they had homemade relish in silver cups with lids and a hole for the handle of a small spoon.

My Grandmother never went out without lipstick and jewelry on and she shopped at Saks and Bloomingdale's. Sometimes we'd stop into Sax briefly where the perfume bottles, in my mind, blend with the red votive candle holders in the hushed corridors of St. Pat's. These were brief stops at church or the department store because she wanted to spend most of the time entertaining me. She must have seen the same Egyptian ruins 70 times at the Met and never hinted at it being anything other than interesting and educational; she always read the little placards next to the exhibits out loud to me as if for the first time. We saw King Tut together. I had Egypt books and Egyptian statues and drew hieroglyphs and pyramids. When I turned 21 I was sober in alcohol recovery and it was such bad luck, having looked forward to 21 throughout my whole short drinking career, that I wanted to do something unconventional, so I got a tattoo. I had no idea what to get so I picked an Ankh. Cliche, but it's the only symbol that meant anything to me at the time. On my night-table right here is a small bronze pyramid from the museum gift shop. On my bookshelf is my Grandmother's Italian phrasebook and her St. Anthony medallion. I think she's still standing there next to the Temple of Dendur at the Met behind that glass window overlooking the Park, watching out for me, a tiny but fierce guardian of the immortal living wonder of my childhood.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love this Eric. She was special and unique and yes, she certainly did love you dearly. Mom

Eric said...

Thanks....