Swimming to Manhattan
A personal journey to Spalding Gray’s Memorial Service in NYC
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
April 13th, 2004
by John Boland (aka ‘Ratz Garcia’)
Dedicated to Kathie, Melissa, Theo, Forrest … and Spalding
Day 22 – Sunday Brunch
(Variations on a Theme by Eric Satie – version by Blood, Sweat and Tears)
I drink Cointreau because it’s fucking good but also I don’t get a hang over. Besides brunch can be late.
When I had first got to NYC, I had phoned Kathie (Spalding’s spouse) at her office as she had asked me to, and left her a message. And I updated her on my travellin’ email address. We had discussed Sunday brunch as that was about the only time she had free.
So I arrived downstairs at the Bowery dressed to the tops. Best wool pants, an original Harris Tweed, my Rockports, and a classic art nouveau tie. The only thing slightly out of place was my red checked shirt. My friends and the staff all commented:
“Where are you going – I thought Memorial wasn’t til Tuesday”
“Oh, I’m meeting a friend. I had been thinking the Russian Tea Room but alas it has closed. I’m sure my friend will know somewhere else. This is NYC! This is the Village!”
I went outside just as a limo pulled up. The chauffeur opened the door.
“Hi John. A friend lent me the limo til after the memorial. It really helps.”
I got in.
“Where would you like to go?”
“Oh, it’s too bad the Russian Tearoom closed. You would have loved it. But I know a fairly new place, not too busy yet and we’ve got reservations just in case.”
I had a little tour of parts of NYC as we headed off to the purveyors of food.
As we entered, the waiters seemed to trip over each other as they scrambled to be our personal attendant. I got the idea that we were not to do anything ourselves… chair, napkin, chair… There was already a nice Moet on ice with a pitcher of fresh orange juice. I almost made the faux pas of pouring. Ooh, no. The waiter asks how much champagne to orange juice. I always found that moite et moite was a good start.
The owner came flying over. Knelt down to kiss Kathie’s hand.
“Oh, my Kathleen, at times of such sadness, porquoi tu give me such short notice?” He turned to me.
“And you must be a famous author to be with my dear Kathleen.”
I gave him my card. “Please sir, when you write, don’t mention the name of my restaurant. I don’t want to be, how you say, plus overwhelmed."
"Today as a special appetizer I’ve made you Tempura de Fleur.” I asked him en francais what was in the special.
“Oh Monsieur, votre francais est tres bon. C’est comme a Paris… The special is edible flowers, stuffed with a seitan sauce as per Kathleen’s request, then we dip in tempura batter and deep fry to perfection. You will love it monsieur. Et maintenant, p’tete un peu de caviar…?”
The food was magnificent. I never saw a menu or bill. The conversation was fun. Although in mourning, Kathie’s sense of humor was a strength. I’d never met her before and felt deeply honored. She liked my story of American Immigration.
Hours had passed before the limo made it back to the Bowery. I gave Kathie a small kiss on the cheek, took a deep bow, watched as the limo left, smoked a Sherman, and went back to my fucking cell for a champagne nap.