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Monday, July 09, 2012

Working in Coffeehouses, Summer Edition

The Dregs | Photo by B. A. Nilsson
I COMPLAINED ABOUT THIS back in March. I’m rarely a whiner. In this case, however, I can’t complain enough.

Anyone who doesn’t have to live with me will tell you I’m a calm and reasonable person. I enjoy the company of people, yet I’m bashful about seeking such company. My passions tend to center around the arts in which I’m interested. Those include classical music and jazz, theater, and literary fiction – rarefied provinces all. Folks don’t beat down my door in order to exchange opinions about the latest Simon Rattle recording.

My outlet for those passions is writing. Fiction, plays, and an unending stream of reviews. Most of those reviews run in Albany, NY’s, alternative newsweekly, Metroland. Alternative newsweeklies aren’t necessarily known for their coverage of such things, but Metroland admirably pursues a more culturally varied profile.

I also write about restaurants for the magazine.

There we have a subject upon which everybody I meet is eager to weight in. As a casual glance at a Yelp listing confirms, it’s a subject that inspires opinions from all manner of scribe, although the blithering idiot seems to dominate online discourse.

My restaurant review runs on a page of its own fairly early in the book. There’s a photo, usually one that I took and submitted. Having written these things for over 25 years, I’m constantly searching for a new approach, a new style. I try to make my reviews upbeat – funny, even. I enjoy dining out, and hope I convey a sense of that pleasure.

Yet despite the time I spend in coffeehouses, writing to deadline, surrounded by people flipping through Metroland’s pages, I have never seen anyone in the act of reading one of my reviews.

I’ve seen them flip past the page after a cursory glance, and have resisted the urge to wrench the magazine away, fold it open to my page, and thrust it back with a cry of, “Read this, goddammit!”

If you would read me, I reason, you would love me, and that’s all I really ask. “Who,” you would cry, “is the genius behind this prose?” and upon discovering my identity you would insist on pursuing an eager friendship. “If only,” you would say, “you also knew about the latest Simon Rattle recording.” The love would be profound and tremendous.

Instead, I sit and stoically sip my latte, my eyes misty, my heart in tatters. You and your companion finished your coffees and abandoned the cups, table, and magazine in your haste to leave. Even as I sit and pound out next week’s column for you once again to ignore.

Another latte, please. Make it a double.

3 comments:

Rachel Mabb said...

I always read your reviews B.A.! Albeit, usually squintilly over a cold pour and some tequila chipotle wings at the Ale House,(Where they keep a stack of Metrolands' at the ready on top of the jukebox) not at a Coffee House- but I never miss one of you fun, insightful and gloriously verbose food reviews!! When I have the opportunity to compare we seem to have similar palates & aesthetics when it comes to food which is a wonderful plus. So! Write on!! Do not waiver- we ARE paying attention!!

B. A. Nilsson said...

Clearly, then, I need to spend some time working at the Ale House. Or your house.

Anonymous said...

Hi Byron,
Don't know if you remember me (Cynthia from a production of Around the World in 80 Days eons ago) You popped into my head last night and tonight. Funny- both times were food related. Last night my husband asked me "What's the best pasta you've ever had?". I recounted my time in Troy NY and coming over to your house and you making handmade fettucini and an amazing puttanesca sauce.
And then tonight I made myself a cup of Earl Grey tea and remembered how you used to bring a thermos-full made with milk and honey and wafting this lovely aroma. Ever since Earl Grey with milk and honey is favorite tea to drink.
Anyway- I had to google you after those two back to back memories and see what you've been up to. Sounds like you're as busy and creative as always.
P.S. I also have great memories of hanging out with your charming, precocious daughter- who I'm sure is getting ready for college now!