Sunday night I commemorated my marathon of restaurant work with a solo date, a night out on the town. First I went to Tupelo for dinner. Chef Rembs and the bartender were a little concerned when I ordered two entrees, but the obese man at the end of the bar was delighted. We talked about food until my entrees arrived. Then silence (from him) and the sound of gumbo, biscuits and sausage gravy tumbling down the well of my neck were the only noises at the bar.
The man sitting directly next to me was not obese, he happened to own the joint. The management did not take me up on my offer to wash dishes for free one night a week. They have a dishwasher named Elvis and they like that. I ate perfect chocolate cake and drank fine French press coffee (my first cup since February!) then bid my new obese friend adieu and headed to Kendall Square Cinema to see Soul Power, a documentary about James Brown. I had never seen James Brown perform live and it shocked me to tears.
Here he was in Zaire, 1974, with other black performers, representing American culture as the headliner for a fabulous three day festival planned to accompany the Ali – Foreman fight. Brown acted as cultural ambassador and took his journey to Africa personally as a spiritual quest to the home of his ancestors, bringing with him the evolved music of his forebears to those who never left the motherland. I thought I was alone in the theater, and when all the buildup and logistics and tension climaxed with James Brown exploding out onto the stage in front of tens of thousands of Africans, screaming and doing splits with an unrivaled energetically powered performance, I cried.
As the credits rolled I made my way to the exit and discovered I had not been alone after all. An older obese man sat in the last row. I paused by his theater seat because after the credits James Brown was shown in his dressing room, post performance. He addressed the camera, and said that he hoped this scene would be tacked onto the end of the eventual film they’d been making. James Brown talked directly at the camera, addressing me and the newly discovered obese man. He said, “When you’re walking out of the theater, or switching off your TV set, I want you take one thing away from this… that you ARE somebody.”
I weigh 210 pounds but I think its mostly new muscle.
That same Sunday night I went for a midnight bike round around the Charles River, ten miles. A thunderstorm swirled overhead as I finished and I took shelter in my basement den.
Monday night at work I became very angry. The sweet taste of freedom from my solo date night was washed out by another mouthful of hellhole. My work is not really a hellhole, but I get weary.
The rest of the week I’ve spent down in CT with my family. My aunt and I drove to Colchester for hamburgers at Harry’s. She says that if you don’t get the grilled onions on your hamburger you might as well skip it. She’s right. My aunt was wrong once, however, but it was back in the seventies before I was born. I visited my grandmother Happy and we watched Judge Judy and at each commercial break I recounted to her what just happened in loud boisterous summaries.
Tonight my aunt and I stayed in and had pork chops. The neighbor Cookie’s dachshund has been in the picture a lot. Her name is Ruby and today she licked my face. Cookie says she’s mine now. I ran six miles in the ninety plus heat and then almost had a seizure in my aunt’s AC igloo of a house. Over the pork chops, Aunt Judy reminded me of when I was little, how I used to dress up in her skirts and evening wear. It infuriated my father. So she gave me a pair of her old madras shorts, so I could dress up in a more masculine fashion.
“No way,” my young fat self stated, “Those are GIRL shorts.”