Last Thursday, I went out with my friend to Otto, an Italian restaurant in the village. The place, the crowd and bartenders had a dramatic effect on me. I felt as if I was in one of Woody Allen's movies. Not surprisingly it was the night with my friend JM who, even though an American, has a very international and even somewhat European old school presence. It was somewhere between a glass of Rose and Medium Red that I started getting a sense of being transformed to a Woody Allen's scene. In fact, I almost felt to be in a different place and time.
First, whenever I meet JM, we talk about foreign places, people and cultures, books and writing. He’s been around the world and is the most worldly American I ever met. Our conversations themselves are very nostalgic to me, almost idealistic in a sense. The best way to describe it is I feel as if I am in the past time but as myself now. JM has an amazing ability to take me out of this hectic and stressful dynamic of NYC and make me feel as if I am in a glorious past when men were gentlemen and women - ladies.
Secondly, the place is truly Italian in a sense that bartenders are just like Italians: first mean and unaccommodating, only to turn into smiling and most helpful hosts if you hold your own and don’t get intimidated by their initial attitude. That’s how they test you. Be strong with them, be persistent but polite. This is just a little secret to an Italian’s heart.
So that is exactly how it went at Otto: JM lost his faith after 2 unsuccessful attempts to get the bartender’s attention. I knew that just one more try and my unwavering smile would make him go out of his way to make our time there a joy and wish to come back for more. Sure thing, in a split of a second he pulled up 4 glasses and gave me a generous wine tasting. My friend was exhilarated.
One man by the bar who, as I understood, was there almost every night was amazed with this transformation and sat right next to us to share in the glory. So we got ourselves a talkative neighbor which is lots of fun if you are in a mood for it...
Just when I thought I couldn’t feel anymore excited a new bartender came in. And I swear God, if he doesn’t look like Tom Cruise from the movie Cocktail than I need to see an eye doctor. The funniest thing was that I noticed him when he was trying to tell some people off. I wasn’t sure what they did but he seemed very serious and almost angry. That is till the moment I saw him, and interrupted his anger with my most genuine and cute I can’t believe you look just like Tom Cruise! I was so fascinated and my face showed it so clearly that the guy just became speechless. He was lost for words and I think almost emotionally struck that he just turned away and left. It was hysterical to those watching by.
Our neighbor was blown away, and didn’t want to leave my side from then on. Not even when 4 of his female friends showed up. The women were relaxed and I think very much enjoyed their company and the wine bought by their friend. In fact, they were so relaxed that hardly paid any attention to him. Maybe because of this serene aura around them or uncanny disinterest in men around (even the one they came to see), I found them look like Yoga teachers. Once I shared my thoughts with our neighbor, he reached the level of his amazement with my open and pretty much naive perception of the surroundings. He couldn’t get over it, it sounded so beautiful to him, he knew I was out of this world.. He said it was the best compliment you could give to a woman. In fact, if he likes a woman and wants to approach her, he’ll just ask her whether she is a Yoga teacher.. I was happy I made a difference for several people that night.
That’s when I realized that in what seemed like a movie, I felt my most authentic self: happy and joyful, like a Tinkerbell sprinkling her fairy dust on those around. And that is more real to my heart than anything else.