Catalogue | Souvenirs | E-mail | Links
«growing all over the place. | Front | 6x6 »

December 19, 2005
The things one should rather not do. It is just so incredibly fascinating to listen in on other people's conversations. They are such various kinds of conversations too. It is so tempting, so tempting to eat slowly at lunch and to follow that fascinating stuff. The tables are much closer to each other here in New York and when one picks the right restaurant, at the right time, the exchanges at the neighboring table can be quite entertaining. I recently learned that the semiconductor market was about to rise by about 20%. Then at another table, somebody was discussing that big announcement being finalized, about that very important new development for Lehman Brothers. One girlfriend was happy for another, as she had finally found the right man who managed to fullfil her various sexual desires. There were many, now all fulfilled. His wife liked that stuff as much. Things were going really well there, especially when all three of them were in the same bed, or so she felt. At a different table, a daughter recently asked her father if it was okay for fish to swim motionlessly on the surface of the water. An assistant in a different restaurant complained to her girlfriend that her boss was really strict about a gift policy and required all gifts from a vendor to be returned. Needless to say, our storyteller managed to eat all the chocolate and bypass the policy. One of the best conversations was that one recently in a midtown restaurant, there were two men, their accents somehow foreign, their knowledge of literature really beyond anything I will ever achieve. The lunch was a friendly testing of the waters. The gentleman with the French accent ended up paying. I though that the man with the other accent was the person out of town, but he mentioned NYU several times. Now that's certainly here. But he might have travelled. The conversation had started innocently enough. It was about books and articles and papers. Names were exchanged like soft strokes on cheeks between lovers. This man liked this name, the other one admired the third. The conversation felt a bit like a dance, a slow one, the bodies not moving. They were talking about books and soon they were talking about those who write them. There was a man who had written a great novel in the 30's and has since only given lectures on time as river and life as a clearly temporary dream. Then there was that Brazilian writer who was very interesting, who's wife however was a really serious piece of work. The story started with the couple coming over from Rio on a first class flight, and staying in an NYU apartment overlooking Washington Square Park. They must have arrived on a Friday, as the wife called our man with the unknown accent on Sunday at midnight, requesting a cleaning service for her husband's underwear. He had only brought two pairs of briefs, now both were soiled, he did not want to leave the apartment and she certainly was not going to wash his things. A maid had to be hired to wash this man's underwear. On a Sunday. Perhaps. The stories went further and further. The man with the unknown accent apparently must have been quite attractive when younger, as this one pianist had performed an entire concerto in Carnegie Hall, staring at him only. A very interesting picture somehow. Oh, the special times. Then the conversation turned to the baron. Intellectuals, so continued the conversation, hated to meet other people, as social gatherings were more than a waste of time, they were seen as hurtful to the fragile creative process. Enter the baron. He knew that the only way to attract the best people was not to actually organize anything, but to simply have an open house. And so the great minds would just some over to watch the news together, very casually, while he, dressed up in various robes or dresses, would treat them as if they were his naughty, naughty little pets. He knew all about them. He was powerful and eccentric. His wife was a great collector of photographs. Oh, and he was so very brutal to his lovers. He was a bit of a sadist really. Something the man with the unknown accent seemed to actually enjoy. He did not like that the baron tossed one of his boy toys aside, once he had found out that the young man had aids. The tossing happened too late, so it seemed. The baron eventually died of the disease. Oh, but the time spent with him early on in Bruxelles was oh so enjoyable. The man with the perhaps French accent seemed to agree. The time spent with the Baron in Bruxelles was indeed wonderful. And so the two men discovered, right at the table next to me, that they had had relationships to the same influential Baron Phillippe in Bruxelles. Both seemed to have had a wonderful time. His anorexic daughter was also an interesting character, both men agreed. She had been sent to a boot camp in the States, where she would be forced to eat, more than that, they stuffed her like a goose. Upon her return to Bruxelles, she organized a great party for all of her friends. Shortly after the party, apparently a good bye party, she committed suicide. Oh, yes, a party, the conversation then continued, there was one coming up, a New Yorker party. It looked like only one of the gentlemen was invited, even though he had written maybe ten or so pieces for the magazine. The man with the French accent went on to tell what he seemed to feel was a very impressive story of his boss having to gather 26 million dollars for their institution every year. This hunt for money somehow turned him into a very particular kind of a machine. Having to ask for more than 70 thousand dollars every day of the year somehow must have a very particular influence on a man. The cheque was picked up by the man who's boss needed to rise large amounts of money and who had met the baron through his family as a young and innocent boy. The other gentleman was very thankful. He was a writer, certainly, at least this was what he managed to imply. Had I known more about the field entered by the two characters, I could perhaps follow the literary trails of their conversation. I have not only no good knowledge of international literature but also a pathetic memory for names. And so I was left with a small forest of images. The forces, the dirt, the strange hidden experiences of people long dead. I saw the pianist look from the stage, I saw the wife of the writer talk about the soiled underwear, the daughter force-fed somewhere in a block cabin in upstate new york. There was the wife of the baron, her photography collection. There was their living room the walls covered in large images resembling a forest. The baron making dirty jokes about his wife in her absence. The jokes being trapped in French (which I do not understand.) There was the writer, whom both of the men were thinking of as a pathetic figure, who spent the rest of his life talking about life as a dream, and time as a river... and maybe this cliche was a bit of a key to their conversation and my being there. I was no more to them than a dead dog by their river. To me they were two strange birds, discussing the life of dolphins. They might have seen some, somewhere, but what did they really know about the depths of the depths of the sea? Oh, and it is morally inexcusable to listen in on other people's conversations. Unless I do it. Then it is legal and noble and good. Had I not listened, we would have all missed a somehow important pieces of nameless arrangements of stories about people we do not know. Stuff like that is what saves lives, I hear. For years now. Tomorrow we will talk about the beauty and importance of stealing.