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An Aside on the Sidecar
AFTERNOON during my work on the preceding chapter, I was cursing my ignorance
of the sidecar while Albertine was clipping something from the Times.
She stopped her work and said, “What’s bothering you now?”
“Oh, nothing,” I claimed.
“You were muttering under your breath,” she pointed
out. “What is it?”
“Ahhh, it’s this damned sidecar problem,” I confessed.
“Because I didn’t how to make a sidecar, the drink that Patti and I concocted
in ‘Testing the Hypothesis, Part 1’ bore no resemblance to a sidecar, so
I’m not able to use the sidecar in the manner of tea and madeleines to
aid me in netting my flitting memories, and the thought keeps nagging at
me that if I had known how to make a sidecar, and had made
actual sidecars that night, I would be able to sip one now and then during
my reconstruction of the story of my mother’s lunch launch, and the occasional
sipping of a sidecar might make my reconstruction more vivid, so I was
cursing my ignorance.”
“I don’t think I can help you there,” she said.
She extended toward me a coupon that she had clipped. It could be
exchanged at a shoe store for two passes to a preview of Luis Villanueva’s
six-hour one-man show Me Llamo Sancho, an evocation of the personal
history, adventures, experiences, and observations of Sancho Panza, famous
sidekick. “Want to go?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said, heading for my workroom.
“By the way,” she added, as if it were an unimportant
afterthought, “what is a sidecar?”
“It’s—well—it’s a cocktail—”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Damn it!” I said. “I still don’t know
what a sidecar really is!”
“If you don’t know how to make a sidecar,” she said,
in the measured, patient tone probably employed by saints, “how do you
know that what you made for Patti wasn’t a sidecar?”
“I don’t,” I admitted.
“Come on,” she said, opening the hall closet and
reaching for her coat. “We’re going to go to this shoe store, and
then I’ll take you somewhere where you can learn all about sidecars.”
A couple of hours later, we stopped at a bar called
the Silver Hound. “Let’s try this,” she said. “It looks interesting,
a little out of the ordinary.”
The bar was dark, and it was empty except for the
bartender—a tall red-haired woman with tattoos who was wearing a tight
black top and a very short gray skirt—and a pale fellow playing a video
The pale fellow called out, “Fuck! I fucked
the game! I don’t believe it! I fucked the game!” He
smacked himself on the forehead, leaned across the bar, accepted a long
consolation kiss from the bartender, said, “I gotta go,” and left.
The bartender moseyed on down to our end of the
bar and asked “What would you like?” The long consolation kiss came
to my mind, but Albertine must have read it, because she shot me a glance
that we both know means, “Don’t you dare.”
I asked, “Can you make a sidecar?”
“Sure,” she said, and she shook up a couple right
before our eyes (two parts cognac, one part Cointreau, and one part fresh
lemon juice, shaken with ice and poured into chilled cocktail glasses).
She said as she poured them, “It’s happy hour, so you can have another
round if you want.”
I took a sip. Albertine watched.
“Are you awash in memories?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “I guess the drink I made that
night really wasn’t anything like a sidecar.”
“No, not really. At least I know—”
I was distracted by the bartender, who, bored without
a barful of barflies, had entered a photo booth at the back of the bar,
the kind of booth equipped with a camera that produces a strip of black-and-white
pictures. She hadn’t closed the curtain fully, and through the narrow
opening I could see her making faces, as people are inspired to do inside
those booths, while three flashes went off. Then, just before the
fourth and final flash, she stood up and lifted her skirt.
I turned toward Albertine to see what her reaction
to this photographic flashing was, but she hadn’t seemed to notice it.
“Maybe you should try to reconstruct the drink you
did make,” she suggested.
Had I actually seen what I thought I saw in the
photo booth, or was it just the effect of a sidecar on a guy with a vivid
“Yeah,” I said. “Maybe.”
The bartender emerged from the booth, skirt in place,
and waited until the strip of pictures dropped from a slot on the side
and landed in a hemispherical metal cup. She plucked the strip from
the cup, began waving it in the air to dry it, and sashayed back behind
the bar. She stuck the strip of pictures into the frame of a mirror
there, where, I noticed now, there were others, strips of grinning faces,
patrons mugging for the camera after they’d pickled themselves sufficiently
to become inspired to mug for a camera and discovered that, thanks to the
foresight or experience of the proprietors of the Silver Hound, there was
in the back of the room a camera for which to mug.
“Want another round?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, and when she had shaken the drinks
and began pouring them I added, “and I’d like to see those pictures.”
She pulled the strip from the mirror and held it
out for us to see. “The last one’s a little naughty,” she said, girlishly,
as if she might start giggling.
Albertine and I bent over the strip and examined
it closely. The first three pictures were like the others stuck around
the mirror, but the last little image showed her from waist to mid-thigh,
naked. It was a black-and-white picture, of course, but the tone
of the grayness of her pubic hair allows me to report with certainty that
it matched the red of the hair on her head.
“Yes, it is a little naughty,” I said, “but on the
whole quite nice.” The three of us chuckled amiably.
OUTSIDE, on the way to the theater, with a brace of sidecars in her,
Albertine said, “Well, as I predicted, the Silver Hound was interesting,
and it was a little out of the ordinary, and what I
learned about sidecars was that if you had known how to make a sidecar
that night with Patti, then the ones you had tonight might or might not
have brought the memory back to you, but I will bet you two more pairs
of shoes that the next time you drink one, you will be transported
in memory to the Silver Hound, and you will see in your mind’s eye that
tiny snapshot of the redheaded bartender’s nether parts.”
I HAVEN’T TESTED that hypothesis yet, because, to tell you the truth,
I found the sidecar too sweet and fruity for my tastes, but I’m sure she’s