I’ve been having’ one of those days – weeks, actually – when I’m just craving a cocktail.
But not – you know, just alcohol. It’s not really alcohol I want. It’s the time, the place, the, you know, the thing.
There are those places you miss; not a place place, not Hawaii or London or the Scottish Highlands, Venice or New Orleans. That’s bigger, and sadder. That’s a spirit, a feeling.
No, I mean that smaller scale sense of missing. A coffee shop where one once sat, eating greasy food and drinking bad coffee after late nights. The book store where one used to sit and read in a dusty corner. The bar where one once met friends and heard local bands.
And it doesn’t have to be a hangout. Some places I’ve been, they got under my skin after one visit. A pub by the river in York; a fish n’ chips stand on the Royal Mile; a bar down below canal level in Brügge.
One such – and the place I’ve been visualizing now – is a silly place indeed. You know the place if you live in Hollywood; you know it by rep if you read about LA. If you’ve read crime novels by Michael Connely or Robert Crais or Jonathan Kellerman, you know the place as if you’ve been there, eating steaks and drinking mid-day with rough men.
Musso and Frank. Hollywood’s oldest eatery they call it; it feels like it. It feels like it’s seen more old hollywood action than any studio or any mansion. You can imagine Welles, Chaplain or Valentino; the Mark brothers or Clark Gable. You can imagine writers, Bukowski, Faulkner, Hemmingway. They live on in the dark walls and worn tables.
It’s the kind of dark, wood paneled room, the kind of old-fashioned chop house ambiance, that just seems to have ghosts and seem to inspire dreams.
Aside from that kind of cuisine, aside from the feeling that someone very important or deeply sinister may’ve sat in this same seat yesterday or may tomorrow, the thing one goes to musso n frank for would be martinis. And that’s what I’ve been salivating for. Ice-cold, served with an odd, tiny carafe on the side (so you get an extra pour), this is place that understand exactly how a martini should taste.
And I’ve been sitting here all day, trying to concentrate on incredibly dull but important data gathering (to prove with numbers what everyone already knows to be true). But my mind is in that dark, smokey room, (because never mind the silly laws, in my head it’s smokey, like it would have been in those days), with a fine, mysterious dark-haired girl beside me, and we’re drinking icy cold martinis.
Outside it’s daylight – because it has to be. But here inside, I shade my eyes with the brim of a hat, and I breath in the perfume of her, and sip icy cold gin – always gin, never vodka.
Thats where I am today. But the martini I might make when I get home – or not – wouldn’t taste the same. Because the scene is what I want, and the company, the company of ghosts and beautiful, mysterious women. The drinks? Well, they’re just the taste on my tongue.