Burgers, Valentines & the Sky

12 Feb

Every Valentine’s day I get Amy a box of truffles from Li-Lac chocolates, which, since it moved from Christopher Street a few years back, is now steps away from my favorite bar.  And so, yesterday afternoon, basking in one of life’s great win-win situations,  I made my annual pilgrimage .  Chocolates for Amy, burger and beers for me.

All the seats at the bar were taken, so I took my beer, grabbed a stool at the window, and settled in, letting the beer, the hum of the surrounding talk, and the stillness of the moment calm me.  I looked out at the red brick houses from centuries past, the Christmas lights twinkling in Li-Lac’s windows, the dishwashers horsing around in the back room of the Italian restaurant across the street, and all the people passing through the slushy old intersection of Eighth Avenue, Jane and West Fourth, deeply focused on the screens of their various devices and oblivious to the gentle glow of the approaching twilight.

Chet Baker’s voice filled the old speakeasy with his world-weary charm.

Let’s get lost

Lost in each other’s arms

Let’s get lost

Let them send out alarms…

The bit of sky visible down Jane Street slid from blue to purple and I thought of my son.  Heath is enthralled with the sky.  He longs to understand it.

“Why is it blue?”

“Why is it purple?”

“Why can’t we see the atmosphere?”

 All questions I struggle to answer, but never seem to satisfy.   For Heath, with his boundless curiosity and seemingly limitless memory, knowledge is all.  Maybe it’s a product of age, or maybe we are just very different people, but I don’t feel that way.  Facts don’t tug at my soul the way they do his.  I don’t need to understand the sky.  I just want to see it, to feel it, and most importantly, to savor it.

Which is also how I feel about love.  Because I don’t understand it.  I do, however, see it, I certainly feel it, and I try my damndest to savor it, all the more so for the knowledge that I owe it all to luck.  Even a cursory review of my dating history shows that I do not deserve it.  In retrospect, my marital forecast during my twenties was for continued turbulence with a strong possibility of loneliness.  A friend of mine actually expressed his belief that I would never marry, feeling I was too immature.  Now, in retrospect he wasn’t much of a friend, but still, this is the kind of confidence I inspired.

And then I met Amy.  Perhaps my five favorite words.

I recently read a quote to the effect that the best way to find love is not to search for it, but instead to work on removing all barriers that keep love from entering your life.  I like this.  I wish someone would have told me this twenty years ago, pointing out some of those barriers along the way.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day I think I’ll travel back in time and do just that.

Hey you!  Yeh you!  The skinny guy in all that denim with that big mop of hair.  Sit down for minute, I’ve got three things I need to tell you.

Love will not be rushed.

So relax.  Take care of yourself.  Be happy.  Make friends.  Have fun.  Love flees desperation.  Forget love exists.  It will find you when you’re ready.  And for god’s sake quit looking for the perfect person because…

Love laughs at ideals.

Your ideal person does not exist.  You’ve got to let them go.  Because the perfect person is out there, but they are almost certainly not what you expect.  They’re better.  Love has a plan of it’s own, and this is good news because you may know what you want, but (thank you to the Rolling Stones)…

Love knows what you need.

Now this is all assuming that you are in fact looking for love.  Because a lot of people say they’re looking for love, but when it comes right down to it, they’re looking for a transaction, a lightly binding contract in which a person of suitable age, class, education, wealth and appearance will perform the contractually stipulated duties of love in return for the same.  Kids will be born, houses will be bought, retirements will be funded as their bodies grow old and their souls wither and die.  This is not love, this is business.  And I know even less about business than I do about love, so enough said.

Would I have listened to myself?  Probably not.  I’ve always had a wonderful capacity for ignoring good advice.

Chet Baker gave way to Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on the jukebox.  As I finished my burger a young woman sat down next to me and after some time with her Blackberry she looked up and asked if the burgers were good here.  I laughed because this place is always in the running for best burger in the city.  Her question seemed genuine, though, so I said yes, it’s what they’re known for.  Nothing fancy, just a good burger.  She smiled.

I finished my beer, paid the bartender, and as I was leaving I told her I hoped she enjoyed her hamburger, and she smiled again.  It was the gentlest of flirtations, and in a moment it was past.  But as I stood outside on the sidewalk, getting my bearings, I couldn’t help smiling.  And then I began to walk to the train, anxious to get home to the woman, and the family, I love.

 

 

3 Responses to “Burgers, Valentines & the Sky”

  1. Rachel Alteneder Wesley February 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    Derek….I remember that cute young man in high school and college….my younger brother’s friend. You were no more lost that the rest of us…and you certainly made the right choice in love and marriage! Love does find you; eventually, although there may be difficult trails and certainly the roller coaster ride of life along the way! The key is to believe and open yourself to all that life brings!
    You are a wonderful writer!
    Rachel

  2. Suzanne February 13, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    This is not love, this is business. And I know even less about business than I do about love…

    Derek, I love your eloquent perspective, nicely done!

  3. Dan Barr February 14, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    D
    Gorgeous! And where IS this burger/bar place, dangerously close to where I live in the city…? Okay enough time has passed: let’s get together sooner than later. Thursday evening is good for me this week, but let me know what’s available/possible for you. See you soon.
    DB

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