Monday, May 17, 2010


And the bookend to my Hot Bird post... Alma.

Very few invites would have willed me to leave my apartment at 8:30 last night after said epic weekend, where I could be found enjoying a Sunday evening in the exact fashion that I prefer to be enjoying a Sunday evening-- finishing a project on the floor in sweatpants while watching Tracy Lord berate C.K Dexter Haven.

However, when a call came to grab a late dinner at Alma, I leapt out of the sweatpants and into-- oh, ya know, clothes-- and practically ran the four blocks from Congress to Degraw to drink in the sunset with a nice, tall cucumber margarita in hand.

The food is perfectly fine and the prices slightly annoying for tacos, but that margarita was divine and that view-- that view!-- worth leaving even Cary Grant in the dust for.

But the real reason that I went to Alma--the reason that I've been dying to go since hearing of it exactly one month ago-- wasn't for the short distance or even for the sunset. I've wanted to go for its name. Alma, in case you have forgotten, is the name of both female leads in Nicole Krauss's The History of Love.

And why would someone ever chose a restaurant based on its name? I don't really have an answer for that, other than that the name itself is significant in the text, and is in many ways, the driving force behind the story. And because sitting at a place named 'Alma' reminds me of chapters such as this:

"So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves. On rainy days, you can hear their chorus rushing past: IwasabeautifulgirlPleasedon’tgoItoobelievemybodyismadeofglass-I’veneverlovedanyoneIthinkofmyselfasfunnyForgiveme….

There was a time when it wasn’t uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations. Shy people carried a little bunch of string in their pockets, but people considered loudmouths had no less need for it, since those used to being overheard by everyone were often at a loss for how to make themselves heard by someone. The physical distance between two people using a string was often small; sometimes the smaller the distance, the greater the need for the string.

The practice of attaching cups to the ends of string came much later. Some say it is related to the irrepressible urge to press shells to our ears, to hear the still-surviving echo of the world’s first expression. Others say it was started by a man who held the end of a string that was unraveled across the ocean by a girl who left for America.

When the world grew bigger, and there wasn’t enough string to keep the things people wanted to say from disappearing into the vastness, the telephone was invented.

Sometimes no length of string is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said. In such cases all the string can do, in whatever its form, is conduct a person’s silence."

And this:

"My brother and I used to play a game. I'd point to a chair. "THIS IS NOT A CHAIR," I'd say. Bird would point to the table. "THIS IS NOT A TABLE." "THIS IS NOT A WALL," I'd say. "THAT IS NOT A CEILING." We'd go on like that. "IT IS NOT RAINING OUT." "MY SHOE IS NOT UNTIED!" Bird would yell. I'd point to my elbow. "THIS IS NOT A SCRAPE." Bird would lift his knee. "THIS IS ALSO NOT A SCRAPE!" "THAT IS NOT A KETTLE!" "NOT A CUP!" "NOT A SPOON!" "NOT DIRTY DISHES!" We denied whole rooms, years, weathers. Once, at the peak of our shouting, Bird took a deep breath. At the top of his lungs, he shrieked: "I! HAVE NOT! BEEN! UNHAPPY! MY WHOLE! LIFE!" "But you're only seven," I said."

And then I'm reminded of another character in The History of Love whose name is Bird. Like Hot Bird, get it? A bookend, indeed.

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