Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Omelet, The Priest and the Mustache

I just had the most surreal breakfast at a Mexican cafe in Miami.

I was eating alone, with a book. Which, if you ask me, is far from eating alone. It was loud because there was construction happening on the sidewalk on which the cafe sits... jack hammers and all. But it seemed the best choice for a breakfast near to the hotel. And it turned out to be a delicious breakfast: spinach, tomato and mozzarella omelet, potatoes, wheat toast and coffee. But that isn't important.

At a booth by the open window literally inches from where men in orange vests pounded the pavement, sat a boy around twelve years old and a priest. They sat on the same side of the booth, next to each other, their backs facing my back and a mirror that hung above the bar that I could watch them in. I only saw their backs, but I heard every word.

The gist was this: the boy had done something, or a series of things, wrong and the boy's mother had asked this priest to speak with him. The priest had a booming voice with which he prodded the boy into starting a new chapter of his life. "What are the effects of your behavior," he asked, waiting for a response. Then he held up a napkin. "If I let go of this napkin, it will fall. The cause is I let go. The effect is it falling. So, what is the effect of your behavior?" The kid thought for a second. "I upset my mom," he said, "And I might not get into a good school."

This kind of talk went on and on. It seriously felt like a scene from a small independent movie shot in Guatemala. "What church are you going to on Sunday," asked the priest. "Well, sometimes we go to (unintelligible) and sometimes we go to (also unintelligible)." That's not good", says Mr. Priest. "You need to tell your mom to find one church to go to every Sunday. You need that kind of consistency..."

He then continued to make all kinds of analogies and statements like, "Start doing small things better. Don't feel like you need to make any grand gestures." The kid replied, "But big things would be good." "Sure," says Priesty, "But it's more important to do a lot of good small things than one big thing done just to impress your mom. Do your homework. Do the dishes. Ask your mom what you can do around the house. Stay focused."

This guy was on a roll. And the kid was listening! Then the priest starts talking even louder, in Spanish, and I look in the mirror to see an 80-year-old woman sitting at the table. Now it REALLY looks like an idie film. The lecture stops long enough to chat with the old lady, then continues. Then all of a sudden, they're getting up to leave and now they're standing just outside the open window, still close enough and loud enough for me to hear.

I guess by this point the priest was drunk with power because the kid had been so receptive to his words. "I see you're growing a mustache," he says. "Yeah, I'm trying to," he replies. Then the priest goes on to say that the kid shouldn't believe people when they say he should shave his mustache to make it grow faster. "But, my uncle says I should," says the kid. "Don't listen to him," says the priest. "Your hair will only grow as fast as it grows and shaving it won't speed it up. It just feels thicker because it's shorter. In a month, your mustache will be thicker because it will have grown for another month. But there is nothing to suggest shaving it will help. If I punch you in the stomach, your mustache will be thicker in a month, but will it be because I punched you in the stomach? No. It'll grow whether or NOT I punch you in the stomach because you'll be a month older."

Woah. Priest Dude! Your analogies just got really awkward.

"Say hello to your grandma," he said. "Be a good kid," he said. And then they were gone.

Thank you, Miami. That was some breakfast.

7 Comments:

Blogger Max Koch said...

Stunning.

Sorry to be the first to post a response as usual, but... I just have to say this is far and away my favorite entry of yours so far. How you've GROWN as a writer, man. You put me right there in that cafe with all that was about you. Too bad you weren't stoned. For it ALMOST veered on gonzo journalism!

Bravo, kid. And thanks for paying such close attention to that kid and priest.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Russell Arch said...

I agree with Max. The best writing yet! I feel like I was sitting at the table... the jackhammers, the priest, the kid with the bad mustache, the napkin analogies.

Awesome!

9:36 PM  
Blogger Michael Markowitz said...

I am FREAKING out. Were you eating breakfast on the raked stage of a black-box theatre????

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Nichole said...

Amazing.

You transported me there. I even feel like I ate the same omelet that you did...

Awesome work- please, please, please write more!!!

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Tara said...

I love how the priest oh so subtley brought violence into the equation,what a gem!

12:38 AM  
Blogger BOB said...

I'm telling you, Lisa... you need to tell the whole story on your blog. Not just part of the story. Everything. From beginning to end. Like you told me when you got home from Miami. As far as I'm concerned, you left out the best part. You know what I'm talking about. When the priest blew the kid while grandma whacked off in the corner. How could you forget that?! By the way, great painted pictures... especially the stuff about the omelet.

11:09 PM  
Blogger Max Koch said...

What're you, JUST NOW getting around to reading your sister's blog, Bob??? Shit, man, strikes me YOU'RE the loser!

8:25 AM  

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