Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Masticating Sophisticate

Jean-Pierre Kensington's reality show 'The Masticating Sophisticate' (in which he would travel the world to eat all kinds of strange and singular foods) had opened extremely strongly but quickly fallen in ratings. It was canceled after only 3 episodes. In retrospect, perhaps that blockbuster pilot episode, where he'd flown to Papua New Guinea to expose the world to the delight of cannibalism, would have been best saved for the series finale. None of the later episodes could really recapture the spirit, novelty or outright audacity that the masses had experienced in that first escapade.

Years later, he could be found at dives in Manhattan 'just chasing tail', as he would tell associates. You wouldn't think many women would go for a man who has partaken in the flesh of the long-pig, but Jean-Pierre didn't seem to have any trouble. In this vein, then, transpired this one night where he managed to convince a ranking executive of a prestigious bank (this is only hearsay from Jean-Pierre) to sleep with him, which is only interesting in terms of the dialogue overheard by myself, the snooping bartender.

By the time the woman -- 'Pamela' being the only name I heard spoken that night -- arrived, Jean-Pierre was already in that parched, dying-fish state of inebriation. In fact she had woken him from the sound of laying down her heavy satchel bag as she settled into the bar stool next to his. Jean-Pierre was completely startled, and began staring at her a stare that, now I recollect, never actually ended. It had merely transformed as time and conversation went on, into different kinds of stares, with different dimensions and intensities. To begin with, however, it was a stare much like a hitherto dozing lion may warrant a playful monkey that drops a mango onto its head from a reachable branch above. The lion refrains from attacking out of sheer incredulity. Pamela of course ignored this stare and began ordering shots for herself in the plural.

It was only after her eighth hit of snakebite that she finally turned to Jean-Pierre and asked him bluntly if 'everything was okay'. By this time Jean-Pierre's stare had refined to the one I call 'The Sheriff'. The head is tilted upwards about thirty to forty-five degrees, and this is accentuated by a protruding jaw and jutting lower lip. The eyes are squished into tiny dark holes, yet still piercing, as though carefully studying the subject. I had learned from Jean-Pierre that this is a good stare to use in order to mask a yet confused state of mind.

"You seem to be having a lot of shots," said Jean-Pierre, maintaining his gaze, "will you come back and sleep with me?"

The woman coughed and ordered another shot. Now, at this point, I might have walked up and struck some kind of conversation with Pamela to disengage her from Jean-Pierre. It is part of the service a good bartender provides, and also sometimes, one gets lucky. I did think about it -- she wasn't that bad looking at all. But tonight I was a little tired, and anyway, I thought it would be more interesting to hear what possible conversation could occur between the couple. So I gave her her shot and walked off to a faucet nearby, and pretended to wash shot glasses.

At first there were only the usual things you hear in conversations between people. "What do you do?" "Where do you come from?" "What is your bloody name, for god's sake?" I began to wonder how long I would be able to pretend I was washing shot glasses, at that rate. I began to wonder if Jean-Pierre had gotten too old. That all his stories about travelling the world and eating the strangest things (starting with human beings, who are certainly the strangest of them all) were bygones. Has-beens. Ancient artifacts, old silverware. Your great-grandmother's IMAX 3D movie. Then the magic started to happen.

"Wait," said Pamela. "You look really familiar. Where have I seen you before?"

I turned from the faucet to look, and saw that 'The Sheriff' was slowly morphing into 'The Cyrano'*. 'The Cyrano' is a stare that is difficult to pull off even from a generic face posture, but to do it from the cynical depths of 'The Sheriff' is something only a true master can accomplish. To do the Cyrano, you have to look at someone as though your nose is completely distorted -- completely messed up -- yet deliver a level of confidence and poise that makes them realize that you realize that they realize that your nose looks like pig shit, but that your inner soul is so strong, none if this matters. And that you are doing it for love. And you have to be very careful -- you cannot over-do it, or you will turn into 'The Pinocchio', and people will begin to pet your head, or even worse, ask you to tell them a lie (as a joke). 'The Pinocchio' stare has its uses -- whenever you need to tell a lie that is so obvious, but also need people to accept it happily, for example. But unless you want the girl to pet your head, 'The Pinocchio' is not something you want to express in a pick-up situation. You want 'The Cyrano', which of course, is certainly a very powerful stare. After all, to pull it off, you do have to stare in such a way that the person comprehends that beyond the chaos of your face*, there does lie the raging bullstorm heart of a virile poet. My doubts began to fade as I watched them, lulled by the warm water from the faucet and soapy curves of the current shot glass.

"Was in a TV show," said Jean-Pierre, almost meekly.

Pamela had, all this time, been busy writing her own little novel, but now suddenly spat her shot all over the table, almost as if on cue. "Hmm? OH MY FUCKING GOD!" she screamed. "You're that cannibal guy!"

'The Cyrano' gazed back at her from the chaos of his face.

"Y-you ate people!"

"I ate some people, yes. But I didn't murder them. Wasn't like I hatched some contrived or diabolical plan to entrap some human beings and then take pleasure in their slow, torturous deaths. It was just the meat of some people. It was given to me by some other cannibals, and I ate it."

I heard the squeak of Pamela's bar stool as it inched a little bit away from him. When she spoke, it was as if she was gagging. "Ugh. Stop -- stop staring at me. Why are you looking at me like that?" I turned again, and I saw that 'The Cyrano' had done its job, and that now Jean-Pierre was using what he called his 'finishing move'. He called it 'Le Jean-Pierre Kensington', and threatened to eat me if I ever described it in my pitiful writings.

"Well, for example, right now you find me very parched from drink, and," (I don't know how he did this, but his stomach actually growled a little), "a little hungry. And so I stare at you, wondering what you might taste like after broiling for a spell over an open pit fire. Or perhaps stir-fried with a little ginger-soy sauce."

"What do I look like to you," spat Pamela, "a piece of meat?"

Jean-Pierre smiled a little. "Like one of those people-turned-steak chops in the cartoons, actually," he said.

"And you want me to go back and sleep with you?"

"Come on, I'm starving," said Jean-Pierre. "Come back with me to my hotel room. We can order some pizza and then have some sex." Seeing her face, he added, "What, you don't like pizza?"

"You're going to fucking eat me!" shouted Pamela.

Jean-Pierre laughed and laughed. "No, no, my dear. The hotel doesn't provide the right kinds of utensils to cook such a delicious little mignon as you. And anyway, there is no stove. What am I going to cook you with, my zippo? We will have to do with pizza, I'm afraid."

Now I tell you the truth when I say that, about half an hour later, the two did leave together. And I can provide the comforting knowledge that Jean-Pierre did not in fact eat Pamela, since I saw her a couple of days later, having some drinks with some other people. She looked pretty happy with her life. Later Jean-Pierre would tell me she was a big executive or something at a major bank, and that she had been a real animal in bed. I don't really know if I believe all that. But who cares? If that is what matters to you, I assume you will have to make do with being the chicken nugget in life, infinitely shooting for an onion position in the french onion soup. Otherwise, consider the greater good.

* Elderly gents may substitute 'The Cyrano' for 'The Ernest Borgnine', with varying luck.

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