M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, June 19, 2002  

Went to a new sushi restaurant last Friday. There are probably cities where a sushi restaurant will open and everyone will rush to check it out. The new place will have some openings for dinner reservations, but only if you eat with strangers during a fifteen-minute window some time before 3:00 p.m. on a weekday. Inside, people have to crowd-surf to get to the bathroom. Outside, excited patrons camp out on the sidewalk with their kimonos and katanas, reenacting memorable snippets of Kabuki theater. Such is the way of things in some cities. Not in this one. People in this town will check out a new place when we get around to it, and if it’s not still there by then, it couldn’t have been very good anyway if it only lasted fifteen years.

That’s my theory on why the new downtown sushi place was practically empty at 6:00 on Friday night. Either that or everyone was at the perfectly good sushi bar that’s been a block away for years.

Trash and I went with our friends G. Grod and the Girl Detective (See that? That’s what happens when you let people pick their own nicknames for your blog) and we were instantly led through a factory showroom’s worth of empty chairs to our table. We were just wrapping up a rather salty conversation that involved a sling, a police baton, and post-modernism when our server popped up. She was the peppy, friendly type, the kind who would sit down at your table with you if this were Applebee’s. She looked witty and clever, and she had our attention when she offered to tell us the amusing story behind the Band-Aid on her finger. We all dig funny waitron stories, so what the heck?

“I cut it shredding vegetables. Blood everywhere.”

Hmm. Okay, well, at least the story was short. Plus now we knew not to order anything with vegetables. And another first impression dies screaming.

It’s not unusual to get a server who’s inattentive. It’s a bit more unusual to get a server who’s too attentive. This one was really something, though; she managed to be both.

During our preorder banter at the table, she seemed almost preternaturally attuned to the rhythms of our conversation. Our blathering would hit a lull and she would appear at our elbow, as if our social yammering had been some kind of supernatural incantation by which we had been unwittingly keeping her at bay. We soon realized that our table was right next to an alcove that the waitstaff had co-opted as a sort of bullpen. You know that scene in Fargo, where Frances McDormand abruptly stops talking while the waiter is there? Minnesotans actually do that. Try eating a whole meal that way. There’s being an attentive waitperson, and then there’s stalking. Yet somehow, before I could get her to bring me a spoon, I’d eaten half my soup with chopsticks.

We tipped her twenty percent, of course. We’re not barbarians, you know.

* * *

Collectively a Benjamin poorer, we strolled over to the new park in the shadow of the old Federal Reserve Building. It’s a Cancer Survivor’s Park. Whatever comic abilities I have are utterly blunted in the face of this. Like, what’s making fun of people with cancer if it’s not pure, 24-karat comedy gold? I can make fun of the building, though.

As I understand it (and I’m too lazy to actually research any of this), the Federal Reserve Building was on its last legs for years. We now have a shiny new Fed a couple of blocks away, and for that we can all thank Tim McVeigh. It seems the old building had a configuration that allowed any disaffected right-winger to drive right under it with a bomb cleverly disguised as a rental truck. After Oklahoma City, federal buildings aren’t allowed to have that any more. Go figure.

There was some question as to what would happen to the building after the feds bailed out. There probably would have been more talk about tearing it down, but there wasn’t for three reasons. 1) It’s unique and recognizable, and there’s always resistance to razing anything unique and recognizable. That resistance is typically overidden by the people with the money and the power, but that brings us to reason: 2) Drive-up bombability or no, the place is still a fortress. Typically things are easier to destroy than to create, but this beast wasn’t coming down under anything less than an airstrike. And even if it did, there’s still reason: 3) As I understand it, the place is built like a suspension bridge. That inverted arch on the face of the building basically represents a giant bowstring. Dismantling the building would be like disarming the world’s biggest mousetrap; you start taking it to pieces, pull out the wrong girder and SPROINGGG! You’ve just catapulted seven floors of offices into the northern suburbs. Oops.

Ergo, the building’s still standing. It’s been bought and refurbished, but not to its original state. A huge addition has been glommed onto the southeastern face, and the less said about that, the better. But from the park you can see the shiny new windows, returning sparkle to a structure that a couple of years ago looked as if the airstrike had already begun. The building was sick. Now it’s well again, even if it looks different from some angles. Sick people in need of inspiration can come to the park and look around at the prosaically uplifting thoughts on the plaques, but they can also look up and see towering proof that yes, things can get better.

Okay, I was wrong. I can’t even make fun of the building. Those cancer people wreck everything.

posted by M. Giant 3:44 PM 0 comments


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