Demitasse #8


Demitasse   a sip of the Compendium

Winter 1998


Demitasse is a free sip of the sardonic social commentary and reports of real life weird that fill the Ladies' Fetish & Taboo Society Compendium of Urban Anthropology (the Compendium).


(c) copyright Kathy Biehl 1998


A noise like a fog horn blasts from the back of the subway car. Oh, great, what disaster does this portend? I wonder. The train keeps moving; the lights stay on, but the noise doesn't stop. Instead it slides into the approximation of a melody. The changing notes unmistakably pinpoint the source as a saxophone. They're a lot less helpful in identifying the tune. The noise moves from some bad joke version of John Cale to poorly played children's songs -- Old MacDonald, Bingo -- and what might possibly be a Christmas carol. All of it is loud.

Finally the assault breaks, only to change form. "Haaappyyyy ho-o-o-o-olidaaaaaaays," a male voice booms. He elaborates on the seemingly simple sentiment for a good thirty seconds before segueing to the point. What he wants is money, of course, but his method of calculation differs from the busker norm. In fact, it's right along the lines of Emmanuel Ravelli (Chico's "Animal Crackers" character), who charges more not to play or rehearse. This guy announces that he'll keep playing until we give him enough money to stop. Whereupon he immediately makes good his threat. And the playing's worse than before.

A week later truly awful saxophone playing breaks out on the same subway line. It stops a few bars into the atrocity and the player announces, "That's right! Money makes me stop!" Him again. Some kindly donor has just saved us from musical torture, but it quickly becomes apparent that this guy has no intention of letting the car go quiet. Instead, he explains himself. "Ladies and gentlemen!" he intones. "I am not from this planet. I am an alien. I am from somewhere far far away. I have come to earth for the holidays. I am not like you. I am spirit made flesh"  and blah blah blah until his elaboration of his non-earthly origins moves into a discussion of a prime purpose for his coming here. The women of this planet are goddesses in the flesh, he explains, goddesses in the flesh and should be worshipped and adored. And so he has come to earth to have sex with them. Rather than taking any public action to further that mission, he launches into a lecture of how women are to be treated -- and how these goddesses should *not* allow men to treat them. "Men of earth," he yells, "Do not take your goddesses for granted! Women of earth: do not allow men to treat you with disrespect." Alien or not, his counsel is compelling.



Out-of-town visitors inspired a dinner trek to Manhattan's Little Italy the Saturday evening before Christmas. Our destination was a modest old restaurant on Mulberry St., which I remembered as having loud vocal music, wine in short water glasses, and waterstained wallpaper peeling back in curves. The street has become considerably spiffier since my last visit (which occurred in the company of the second strangest person I know and his beat-up bust of Wagner), and so had this place. The wallpaper was gone, for one thing, and replaced with a fresh coat of paint. Still, the place was invitingly cramped and moderately priced, so we accepted a table in the very back, in the soap-scented proximity of the restrooms.

It was also in a vortex. The first sign was a really horrible saxophone player rambling through the neighboring shot-gun dining room and waiting expectantly in the doorway, right at my back. When no encouraging signal came, he moved on (without any mention of his origins, interplanetary or otherwise). A parade of street life followed, more populated than I've experienced in outdoor dining. Someone offered to sell us roses. A man with a camera asked to take our picture. Another rose vendor dropped by.

Only one drop-in tarried: a band of five or so old guys playing Christmas carols on horns and an insistent bass drum. They were a walking Italian equivalent of musicians in Hooterville. Loud, inappropriate for the music, occasionally on pitch, their playing was as spirited as it was awful. They had a name;  painted on the bass drum, in all capitals, was something like "Big Red Mike's Band." I was sorry to see them go.

At the end of the meal the waiter brought a saucer to the table. It didn't contain the check, but a couple of handfuls of small chocolate balls and eggs wrapped in Christmas-patterned foil.  The twelve-year-old among us pocketed what the adults didn't scoop up. After a while, when the check still hadn't arrive, we flagged the waiter. "Would you like more chocolates?" he asked. The news that we wanted the check struck him like a revelation.

May unexpected delights fill your holidays and brighten the coming year.



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Moving On '98 (Vol. X, No. 2), featuring:

Impersonators of dead comedians taking to the streets, along with mermaids,

      men in platform shoes and the inexplicable, near-ubiquitous Supergirl

The detonation (and target-hitting) of another scud lust missile

The Continuing Adventure of Mass Transit

      or what people get away with doing in public

New Horizons in Snack Food

The Dangers of Mall Walking (hint: they carry a clip board)

How Microsoft is wasting our lives

The sorry tale of a book deal gone stoopid

...Not to mention more inductions into the Bad Name Hall of Fame,

ranting about restaurants, research into the migratory properties of animate

objects, random weird, odd coincidences and the best letters in zinedom



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