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I spend February 29th late lunching with three friends. Nancy. Treena. Ellen. A painter. A gallery coordinator. A poet. All straight. All avid fans of BTL.
We brave persistent snow during this day’s 2008 bissextile concession to Gregorian calendar adjustment to eat at Detroit’s ever-busy Union Street.
Though the restaurant isn’t crowded, we are cautioned by our handsome, territorial waitperson “not to seat yourselves in the future without the guidance of our maitre d’.” (Waiterese for: Don’t be pushy, Mary.)
None of our snow-drifted party gives indication of reporting my faux pas to Miss Manners – it was I who brazenly suggested we seat ourselves unescorted – or to Jack Pollozollo, the ever-smiling manager. (Unfortunately, Jack starts work at five, so I can’t score one-upmanship points on our Mr. Protocol B. Proper.)
Having spent time and money enough here in past, reasonably memorable – if consistently noisy – years (Union Street has carried Between The Lines since 1995), I feel some editorial and gustatory entitlement to hastily resting my winter-weary self and enjoying a warming meal to counter the aggravating, unwelcome, get-lost-ASAP, godawful, here-we-go-again, cold weather.
Celebration for lunch is twofold. It’s Nancy Pitel’s birthday (her tenth such) and, exactly two hours before our arrival, Treena Flannery Ericson’s niece – luck of the Irish – gave birth to a baby girl. [God grant you, lovely child, many, many February 29s.]
Birthday Nancy has two paintings currently on exhibit in the Affirmations Center art gallery all-media show. In past years she was office manager of the prestigious Scarab Club for artists. Earlier today she was videotaped for a paranormal TV pilot program on “ghosts” she had encountered during her tenure there.
“Alone in the fireplace gallery, relaxing from a long day of unadorned paperwork,” she shares, “I happened to look up from the flickering flames and for several startled moments witnessed a trio of dancers from another era waltzing to unheard tunes.” (Founded in 1907, the Scarab Club was built in 1928.)
Treena, current exhibition director, confides, “I saw a fleeting figure out of the corner of my eye, and Floyd, our longtime caretaker — someone definitely not given to embellishment or fabrication — has witnessed several sightings. He’s used to them.”
I tell Ellen Hildreth, published poet, artist’s model, worldly wise Scarab Club volunteer, that one of my own synchronistic happenings involves her: “As I was walking on Wayne State’s campus, thinking about your erotic verse, I looked up just as a bus whizzed by with a placard on its side advertising the ELLEN TV show.”
“Did you know I’m blogging these days in the New York Times?” asks Ellen, nonchalantly nibbling an eggplant art-deco, something-or-other. “Well, actually it’s the Time’s Laugh Lines: Cartoons and Humor. I call it ‘Hillary’s Diary’,” she giggles. “In case you’re a Hillary fan.” (I mumble noncommitally, noshing my own surrealist BTL with sidecar pickle.)
We also discuss that because of money issues this year may be the last Festival of the Arts in the Cultural Center. And (what else?) Kwame Kilpatrick’s dyspeptic scandal du jour. This transitions into another topic of distaff chit chat consideration: the “Vagina Monologues.”
Consensus among owners at our happy-go-lucky table (myself tactfully excused from wholehearted comment) is that each is more than content with hers, ‘tho Nancy says the question asked during the play, ‘How would you theoretically dress up your vagina?’ is downright silly.”
Not having a firsthand opinion on sincere vs. silly vaginal attire, I hold my peace. “Anyone for Cherries Jubilee?” I ask, winking at our now overly attentive waiter.