Last night I had cocktails with Robert Rowland Smith, who’s in town promoting his book, Driving with Plato. Back up because I’ve already fudged things a bit: I had cocktails, and he had beer. There we are. Temple Bar. Noho. The darkness, as you walk into Temple Bar, is seductive and complete. The figure greeting you from out of the shadows is barely visible and therefore seductive. She appears and moves and is in front of you. A shadow amid the shadows. Seductive, escorting you into a room that evokes another day and time. A speakeasy where alcohol flows freely, executives woo their interns, filmmakers draw on napkins and then cry into their napkins and then crumple their napkins.
different friend: The early side, yes, because after that’s when the true alcoholics and bosses having affairs with their secretaries like to assemble.
me: yes to the early side. 6 p.m. is perfect. (You left out the soppy filmmakers.)
him: the soppy filmmakers and architects sketching on napkins.
me: Just to confirm: See you tomorrow at 6 at Bathos Bar.
& him: Bathos. A six heure. Absolument.
Robert is charming, reticent, well-spoken. I like him almost instantly. He seems clean of bullshit. He quips about wearing Paul Smith, about getting a beer that’s dark but not too dark (mid-dark, did he say? not too dark in this place which, after your eyes adjust, enchants. You want to drink cocktails and say beautiful things and sound sincere but lighthearted and drink more cocktails.). He talks of purchasing a Yamaha keyboard, then of cycling the new piano teacher through his daughter, wife, and him. Three in a row, assembly-line. I’m amused. “Do you play an instrument?” he asks. I don’t say: “Was once a middling flutophoner.”
To be charming, eloquent, and humble; to take up a room without taking over the room; to hang back but not mouse out; to come forward without being too forward; to talk seriously without being stuffy; to love life without hanging on; to laugh honestly but not brutally; to enjoy the dalliance without getting white knuckles. In this, there is life and only life.