(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt of the soon-to-be published book, “Faux Pas is French for Restaurant” is published on this blog.)
As bad as the ride to Manhattan seemed at the time, it was a pleasure compared to my first three days in The City. Manhattan reneged on her promise to welcome me with open arms. The Royalton Hotel, worn but seedily elegant in the early eighties would become home during my first days in New York.
The Helmsley Palace had just opened and Leona had raised the bar for hotels. The Royalton was attempting to polish their sloppy, worn act. The rates were right – not a single room occupancy hotel, but not nearly as posh as it is today. It served as the setting for a play I had recently completed writing-“A Room at the Royalton” was my ticket to New York City- and having familiarized myself with the digs months and years earlier I assumed it to be a comfortable, temporary home. Plus, sitting across from the writer´s roundtable at the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th. St. also seemed geographically desirable for a wordsmith with a plan of romantic lure in future pages. I was set for a big-city-beginng and I might add, exuberantly excited, for a New York welcoming weekend.
My romantic expectations of surprising Allison at a Friday night party, confessing that I followed her suggestion, had moved to the city and made a monumental life changing decision, took a somewhat disastrous turn at first sight. She dumped me, loudly, in front of 127 other guests. This slight romantic stumble, set in an atmosphere of all black jackets, dresses, shoes and slacks, with the exception of course of my Khaki pants and blazer, somewhat shattered Friday evening. Labeled "the jerk who tried to break up Ali´s relationship with Courtney," my New York coming out party did not go as previously visualized. It also ended earlier than expected.
Saturday was a new day. I was meeting the Off-Broadway producer, a relatively well-known Broadway guy who expressed a serious interest in the play I had recently completed. Once face-to-face I realized his expressed interest was more apparent when I was still in Burlington. Sitting across the table from him at "21", he made it known that his desire to produce anything with me, including payment for the lunch, quickly went south. The red banquettes of Siberia, the room in the rear of "21" where no one wants to dine, seemed perfect for me now. The cup of Senegalese Soup was much warmer than my lunch guest. Senegalese is the traditional chilled soup at "21". Even though he suggested lunch I ended up paying. Another disaster.
Faced with a few unexpected obstacles- no friends on the Island, no means of support since "A Room at the Royalton" apparently sucked, and a hotel that on Friday seemed posh and affordable due to future endeavor, suddenly became as seedily expensive as my cash reserve was not deep enough to support a hotel with room service offerings. I felt I was in a bit of a patch that only a jaunt through Central Park could soothe.
Suddenly my luck changed. It got worse. Much worse. Looking up towards the tall buildings, I was summoned by a shove into a crowded three-card Monte game as the shills and tourists all screeched and screamed as if they were actually in Vegas. I watched for a moment as the guy next to me won hand after hand of fist full cash. So convincing I decided to play. With a hand full of twenties waving in my face, the guy assured me the dealer was a dummy. Thanks for tip, I thought. Finally I am making friends in the city known for cold shoulders. Assuring myself I could beat the guy on the other side of the toilet paper box I began to make my move. One C-note. Another. A fifty. A twenty. Another C-note. A win. Three hundred bucks up. Three C-Notes down. A loss. Another. Another. Another. Six hundred dollars down before I realized that the shill next to me was "the house" that I thought I could whoop.
What a stupido. The guy seemed nice enough. But then he disappeared into the crowd leaving little Johnny with a few pieces of change and some lonely lint in his pocket. Could this be happening? Alone in the toughest city in the world? Staying in a semi-expensive hotel. No girlfriend. No producer. No money. No play sale. A naive, blue blazer clad country bumpkin in the land of black strapless, lost, without connections, friends or associates. I needed help, but I had nowhere to turn. I was advised not to venture into the jungle, but I didn´t heed the warning. If I had only written that boneless chicken recipe down. I didn´t even know how to cook a French fry. Or worse, set a table. I needed help. It was time to become a waiter.