Last night’s start stop rain versus humidity gave way to gray an drizzle today, much to my delight. So much heat all week was just piling more wear and grief onto me and onto the city with every day, and today wiped everything back down to the simple scent of cement and a breeze. With the city so cool and forgiving Hillary entertained my ambitions to get out and wander. We were on second street looking for a restaurant to preface seeing Ghost World, and somehow we wound up in Pagoda.
Pagoda occupies a place in so many simultaneous sentences in my head that i can hardly discern what order i’m supposed to write them in, so please excuse the tangle.
Pagoda is nestled in a restaurant-and-Ritz-theatre district that is Old City, so there are a lot of cobbly streets and things with “independence” in their name. In front of it there is some kind of tiny square about Ben Franklin (though it is not the Ben Franklin House, which is nearby), and in it is a tiny metal model of a historic house on a tiny podium. I saw the house all of the time, because Pagoda has just recently become Pagoda… it’s claustrophic bamboo-strewn space has experienced several incarnations in my lifetime. The restaurant to occupy the building for the longest time was Waldo’s… the same upstairs balcony with a low-flying view out the two-story front face of the building but with a marbly bar extending the entire length of the restaurant from front to back with the swingy doors to the kitchen at the end and a pinball machine tucked into the back corner.
I would sit tiny in those high chairs at the bar with a can of pineapple juice over ice and a bowl of chunky round bar pretzels watching football, because i was nearly always there on a Sunday. The surroundings and everything have melted away now so much that i believe that i really didn’t know anything about the place other than the doors and the balcony and the chair and the top of the bar and the teevee. And my father behind the bar; but, he’s not something i know all that well.
Any story i could tell you about Waldo’s would just be an iteration of “and then the Eagles scored” or “and then we played pinball,” but looking back i think it was the only place i’ve ever been where i have been unequivocally happy; time has wiped away all of the pouty bored pieces of it so they are just smudged pictures around me at the bar trying to teach my dad how to play football on gameboy (“What do you mean there’s not penalties?”) or making my typical assertions (“If the Eagles lose the the Cowboys on my birthday i’m never watching a game here again, okay dad?”) or something. My last memory was from down at the end of the bar at one of those Superbowls that Denver lost, but by then we were me and my dad and his wife and i only remember it was strange being there at night on a Sunday because visitation always was over by 7pm on a Sunday so my life could get orderly again for school the next day.
Splitting time between parents was a funny thing, because weekends with my father never got very much accomplished except for stealing me away from what i was used to, and we never went anywhere because i always was back at home by sundown on a Sunday with a kiss goodbye from his rough stubble. But, i did it nonetheless, from when he lived in a tiny apartment with fish and one of the other bartenders to the wife’s adorable splitlevel house in Andora to their home in BlueBell that is anything but that to me. And, now i don’t even really call him for father’s day, because i don’t have a strong enough association with the world, but i think of him whenever i hear doo-wop on the radio because of his silly high voice that i cannot really match, or when i am distractedly ignoring the Eagles lose. Or when i see where Waldo’s used to be.
So, Hillary entertained my buried sense-associations and we ate at Pagoda and i choked back some tears. It was raining, anyhow.