Monday, February 1, 2010


Love talking about food.  Eating, cooking, finding menus, wonderful restaurants, sharing a great meal with friends, even by myself.  Thinking about Frankie and me, Manuel, Dave Schwartz one night in New York, flying out from Los Angeles, connecting in Chicago, pulling up in a cab at The Franklin Hotel, stepping out later and seeing Tommy in his bright red Corvette, grinning and gunning his engine, saying 'get a cab', and we did.  All the way uptown to Harlem, past graffiti painted walls, crossing borders we didn't know we were crossing but it was okay, Tommy had the lead and when we pulled up to Sylvia's it was past eleven o'clock. 
White linen table cloths, ordered stiff drinks; martinis, Dewars, the good stuff, and when the waiter came by all crisp in his white apron and showed us menus, I inquired about Sylvia's fried chicken.  The waiter gave me a dead pan stare, like I'd asked if Koufax had a fastball, if there were bodies in the Hudson--'hey kid, try it'--that kind of look.  
I did.  
He was right.  
Koufax has a fastball.  The best in the business.  Eleven o'clock at night, just a few tables with customers lingering over late night cocktails and the best fried chicken, THE BEST, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.  
Hey kid, how do you like us now?  
Only I was no kid.  We were in New York City to see Felix Trinidad fight at the Garden.  The Garden. That's all you say.  Madison Square Garden.
Frank died a few years ago, and I still can't drive by his place.  Haven't gone to the fights since.  Frankie and me, Bob, Dale, Stan, holed up in some Vegas hotel, go to the fights, have that blast you only get in Vegas, that was us.
But this weekend, in New York City, we swaggered our way through two nights and a day of cab rides, fried chicken and mac 'n cheese at Sylvia's, lunch at Mario Batali's Po Restaurant in the Village when we stopped the Maitre 'd, told him we were big shot cable television execs from Los Angeles--we were--and Mario overheard us, instructed the Maitre 'd, instructed him, carefully and respectfully, to show us a nice table where we stayed for two hours, sank three or four bottles of wine and the best Italian lunch I'd ever had, took the sidewalk and found ourselves stopping at every neighborhood bar for at least one drink.  
Mia, that was her name, Mia, wearing a black tank-top and camo pants--I knew then, camo was making a comeback--and she served us cold draft beer and we were happy.
A bar further down in the Village had an open air porch and we drank vodka martinis and smoked, watched waitresses in tight black dresses wiggle, serve drinks, moving to techno until we didn't want to go anywhere, such was the rhythm of music and women in New York City.
The Franklin, that was where we'd checked in uptown, 87th and Lexinton, a boutique classic, a beautiful Puerto Rican girl with her hair pulled back in a bun and black horn rim glasses, said Frank's last name, Maldonado, like I'd never heard anyone say it.  Said his name like she was rolling candy around in her mouth. Reserved, beautiful, cool almost, icy and sexy. Dave picked up the house phone from fifteen feet away and called her at the front desk and asked her out, right there.  Asked her out while we watched.  It was the first night. 
Tito Trinidad packed the Garden with his followers, spent all of a round and a half before he knocked Troy Watters stiff with a left-right-left combo that had Watters out, standing up.  He didn't fall back, didn't fall sideways, his knees just went straight down and he crumpled on the mat.
We stepped outside after a rowdy celebration in the hallways outside the arena.  There isn't much room in the concourse at the Garden.  We made it out, found a waiting cab and went up for Latin jazz.
That was New York City.  That was great food.  That was menus and cocktails, cigars and techno and beautiful Puerto Rican girls in light perfume, the Garden.  
That was Frank Maldonado.
I don't want to forget anybody.  They're gone too soon.  
Here's to you Frank.  I'll save you a seat.  

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