24 January 2009

salt lake, sushi bars and the power of sincerity.

So this afternoon, feeling glum about the direction of the world and the inevitable effects of this context on my own life, I decided to take myself out to a movie. I don't go very often, I have come to find that some times what I really need is to be completely distracted for a few hours. Fortunately tonight marked the opening of Revolutionary Road, a movie based on a book I loved, so there was really no question in my mind that it would be a satisfying evening down at the art filmhouse.

I got there just in the nick of time, just in time to run up and get a ticket, to dash in and get a set. Except. Sundance. Fucking Sundance! Only one cashier was working the regular tickets as the other cashier managed the non-existent line of Sundance Film Festival goers. The regular ticket line, of course, stretched well out onto the sidewalk, past the parking meters, and the first twenty minutes of the movie passed away. Confronted with the reality of seeing a 9:30 showing, I bought my ticket and came up with plan B.

Downtown Salt Lake is something of a ghost town at night, much in the same way it is a ghost town during the day. At night the homeless people seem to fade into the darkness. The few bar goers get straight off the Trax and go into the clubs; those going to the finer restaurants spend mere seconds on the sidewalk as the valets whisk their cars away. Depressingly empty but pleasantly quiet, the deserted old buildings watch as one moves through the unusually foggy evening blissfully alone.

After a pleasant stroll, I made my way to Takashi. Takashi is, for the uninitiated, the finest sushi place in all of Utah. They fly in fresh fish and line up a phalanx of sushi chefs at the bar, prepared for the iminent crush of well heeled natives and visitors pressing into its teeny waiting area. You can't get in without a reservation on Friday night, unless of course, you are patient or are willing to sit at the bar. Sushi bars are a very convenient place for the inconspicoius solo diner, unencumbered by the need for so many chairs.

Seated, a Sapporo beer speedily handed off without the flushed scrambling for ID, I ordered a Magic Dragon roll and contentedly watched the chef masterfully create this extraordinary work of culinary art. My silence was only briefly enjoyed as the commraderie of a bottle of sake flowed along the bar and I was soon overwhelmed by the company of two Outdoor Recreation conference goers. One-- the Director of Marketing-- was in his thirties, the other-- The Quiet Guy-- seemed in his mid-forties, and all the pleasantries were exchanged as these two east-coasters cheerfully made conversation. I started to work on my roll, and as I did, a tanned gentleman in his sixties was seated to my right. He discretely ordered salmon sashimi and, enticed by the beauty of my own feast, a Magic Dragon roll.

Turning to my left, the Director of Marketing is giving me his sales pitch-- identifying me, by virtue of my independent dining endeavor, as an individualist of great taste--about how it's not about product, but about the purity of experience and the clarity.

But you do marketing, I ask, so how do you sell without selling out?

The Quiet Guy pours us all a shot of sake. The Director of Marketing ensures me that it's about a discerning, adventure seeking personality and finding truth and here's my card and you should email me when you have that moment outdoors-- I'm not trying to hit on you-- it's really about the truth.

I assure him that I am a post-modernist and I don't really think about truth.

Vigorously he tries to pursuade me that truth and purity and business somehow make totally realistic bedfellows. I concede that he is something of a capitalist spiritualist evangelist and The Quiet Guy pours me another shot of sake after I tell The Director of Marketing that I think what he's telling me is bullshit. They are drunk. I return gratefully to my roll.

The Tanned Gentleman compliments me on the selection, as the Magic Dragon roll really was a heavenly delicacy. As it turns out, he is from Florida and spends 300 days a year travelling to sell products to oil companies. I tell him I am a working on a Master's in history and he says, well I'm sure your dad wonders this, but what will you do with that? And I tell him that given the state of the world today I really don't know, and we fall into a discussion of the state of the world and he makes sure I know why gas will by 300 dollars a barrell by 2011 and that diesel is so expensive because of regulation. I don't know where it came from, but somehow-- Florida, deregulation, business-- I bring up Mitt Romney, and don't ya know this guy was a Mitt supporter. I have got conservatism down.

Leaving, he reminds me that as a guy that was once on the Howdy Doody show and lived to see a man walk on the moon, as a guy who has seen every oil boom and bust, he's never seen anything like this. His parting words to me reemphasize the genuine concern about America's affairs that he's professed; he has the sincerity that the trite Director of Marketing lacks. He says,

You are cute as Christmas and I hope you get a job.

I hadn't expected to meet people; I hadn't expected to find such solidarity at the sushi bar. I emerged from the midst of this strange spectrum of contrived nonsense and real feeling buoyed by the heartfelt candor of a stranger. That man made my day.

The movie was good but rendered inconsequential. On a night that I intended to revel in my solitude, It is good to realize that I need people.


Queen Mum said...

Wow! So what you should do is just write, that could be your job, writing, telling a story. This was a good read with my morning coffee and toast. And remember you are "Cute as Christmas" and you will get a job!

Michaele said...

She's right- you should be a writer- you're amazing.