Center of the Universe (4)
Gleb said the first night — the Saturday with Wendy, Dave and the band and the drop-ins and Sonia’s diabolically delectable lasagna in Sorella’s back room — was the best of his trip.
More importantly, he said it a month later, at the end of the trip, after he and Maroussia had rolled across the Golden Gate to North Beach (where Dave’s chick Joan used to hang) for American whiskey down the alley at Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum and America’s finest hot-and-sour soup across Columbus at Brandy “Medium is hot” Ho’s. Said it after he’d tripped the light fantastic of Highway 1 and overnighted in view of the Morro Bay rock. Said it after tarrying among the supernova smiles of the City of Angels — where the warm California sun really does live and you can finally put on those cargo shorts you packed for freezing San Francisco.
Moscow Gleb, smart guy, cool guy, music guy, multilingual guy, guy with all the creds to know what-what in the world, said Sorella’s was the shit. Which I, not multilingual (never mind the eight freakin’ years of French), not young and inoperably white, would translate as:
Sorella’s is my jam, yo.
It’s fun to look at it through Gleb’s eyes. I wasn’t sure he’d like it — certainly not as much as he did. I thought he might like glowsticks and EDM, Eurotrash-style. But in his attempted sideburns and washed-out rock and art tees, Gleb is not near as shallow as a provincial’s dashed-off cartoon. Skinny, scruffy, shy, loose-limbed, intense, goofy and brilliant at the same time, through thick glasses he quietly goggled it all down, the whole funky dreamscape, highly magnified pupils registering unaffected, unsung, unlikely, unassailably small-time, unexpectedly out-of-the-way and unabashedly mom-and-pop (even if it is two sisters). Russki peepers peeping that behind the export-Amerika of McDonald’s, KFC and Fast and Furious 5 — cartoons from the reverse angle — is a palpably 3D thing made of twice-bent brass and Italian dough strips in red, white or green sauce.
America the Beautiful, “just like I pictured it,” nary a supernova incisor in sight.
Any one night in Sorella’s Caffe (save Mondays, when, like any authentic Italian, they’re chiuso), front room to back, it’s old-school Americana — honest, hardworking, optimistic, do-it-yourself and a little loud — all wrapped up in new: a polytonal, polyrhythmic, polynominal loop, socio-cultural EDM — a postmodern mashup of Italian and Korean, Brazilian and Polish, French/Russian/African/Indian/Born-in-the-USA; Christian with Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and/or Jew; Presbyterian pastor plus shineheaded ex-Mackerel Snapper; rich, poor, townie, commuter, hiker, biker, jazz, rock, salsa, soul, Airplane, Dead; Dave, Wendy; weed (in the parking lot), whiskey (under the table) and beer, wine and Clausthaler on the laminated menu; old, young, man, woman, straight, gay, L, B and T; brown, yellow, red and, yes, inoperably white — that invites the imagination to vogue.
George is the grinning fireplug of a merchant seaman, recently retired, longtime Fairfax — but straight outta Bensonhurst — a gringo with a gray rope of ponytail down the back of his unironically tie-dyed top. When he is drinking (which, as a single fellow, he scrupulously constrains to those times he decides to be drinking), George has been known to abruptly bounce from the table and gambol about the restaurant, summoning — in exuberantly unreconstructed, and, by all evidence, wildly persuasive, Brooklynese — solo diners, of all tints, ranks and genders, to join him under the bust of Augustus Caesar at Table 10, the big booth in the corner, front, that the Kang sisters call “the family table.”
If this all gets yurtish and utopioid, it is Fairfax, after all. And, after all, there it is. Right there. Table 10.
We’ve found each other.