Restaurant Review

Mr. Cornwall’s note: Justice Minotaur submitted the following restaurant review for publication in the New York Times in 1972. No response was received. “The submission was probably stolen by a corrupt mail clerk and published in Tagalog in some foreign rag,” saith Minotaur.

RESTAURANT REVIEW

The corner of Seventh and Broadbent in New York City has been, in the words of de Tocqueville, a “place of much fortune” since Trent Jackson divined maple syrup there a century and a half ago, and the latest manifestation of this good fortune appears to be the opening of John Habsburg’s new restaurant, the Source d’Ichor, which was accomplished with all pomp and circumstance in the early part of last month. Mine was the pleasant occasion to pay obeisance to the new establishment, accompanied by the irrepressible Crooked Shears, a Chicago native who is also my wife, the mother of my adorable twin daughters, Erl and König, and a second-rate classical cellist.

We arrived at “the Source,” as the jet set has it, just before twilight on a Friday that had already been made memorable by my being notified of my father’s acceptance into a mime school in Amherst. We parked the Peugeot in a handicapped space and, faking limps, made our way to the front of the property, where we gazed at the magnificent architecture of the restaurant, a four-cornered wood and concrete structure reminiscent of the Minneapolis mansion where my publisher lives. A gentle stream bubbling mysteriously out of the ground and running into the street just in front of the restaurant (was it the legendary source?) and the cream-colored letters “O-P-E-N,” delicately balanced on a field of scarlet in the upper third of the front door, at once spelled welcome.

The haste with which I scurried down the front walk and opened the restaurant door was exceeded only by the dispatch of the maître d’, who greeted us in the vestibule with a shake of the left hand and called us by our middle names—we were not uninvited. A series of carefully wrought and subtly posed questions told me that his name was Worthington, that he had been with Draper in Pittsburgh before Draper made head chef at Babcock’s, and that he had platooned with Burt Ward in the pivotal role of Robin in the inaugural season of television’s Batman. This last fact did not appear to have gone to Worthington’s head, but indeed seemed to give him a quiet and solemn assurance such as one sees in a man who knows that, were it necessary, he could tie his shoes with his eyes closed. Worthington whispered the names of Burgess Meredith and Adam West with profound reverence, and spoke often and fondly of the jocular nature of Mel Larkin, who, from what I could gather, was either the key grip on the Batman set or Worthington’s green grocer.

Alas it was announced that our table was made ready and we were whisked into the back quarters of the Source, all the while casting glances on the other patrons, which glances were either amorous or embarrassingly timid, depending on whether my wife or I was casting them. Our arrival at the table was contemporary with the advent of our waiter, who exchanged surreptitious pleasantries with the parting Worthington before introducing himself and serving us chilled water. I was intrigued by the curious needlework on his cardigan and his knowledge of Locke and sausage. Not wanting him to get the upper hand, I proceeded to fire, a la Socrates, a series of questions about the history of Paduan rodeo, until he escaped the whirlwind by presenting, with a flourish of the right hand, two printed menus and dismissed himself to go about his other duties.

The light of the neon sign burning outside the window by our table was not so dim as to prevent our deciphering the menu, and what a rich discovery! Ham, soda, beef, potatoes—all availed themselves to us, without qualification, without apology. I was particularly taken with the idea of ordering red wine with buttered cobra, but, though I sometimes wear white pants after Veterans Day, I believe that social mores are more honored in the observance than in the breach, so I opted instead for the boatswain’s platter, against the pleas of my wife. She herself, having discerned that the Source did not discriminate against the serving of traditional breakfast foods at the supper hour, took eggs Benedict, under advisement from a carpenter-patron who had temporarily moved his chair so close to hers that he appeared to be wearing her bandolier.

As we awaited our meal, a sense of anticipation grew in me so strongly that I nearly thought I was once again the eleven-year-old boy who had camped out in a parking lot with his friends for a night waiting in line for tickets to ride a saddled monkey, and I squeezed the bottle of catsup so tightly that Marsha began to whimper. Then was my anticipation satisfied, and in a way I hadn’t dared hope for—the arrival of Habsburg! I thought it was Birnam wood come to Dunsinane, he moved so slowly and deliberately, but then I knew him immediately by the smell of his salve. He bore none of the pomposity one would expect in a man who had made a fortune by manufacturing pairs of left-handed driving mittens. He put us at ease with a barrage of jokes and riddles—mainly about ducks—and by whistling “Greensleeves” in E minor. He had all the charm, mystery, and profundity of a vanity license plate.

When I started to dance with Habsburg the hours began to fly by on unrestrained wing. The cha-cha-cha, the samba, my wife’s jealousy, the waltz (Viennese), Worthington dancing with my wife, my manic jealousy, the rumba, the dinner coming, and dessert (a precocious strawberry glace), the bachata, me dancing with my wife, Worthington and Habsburg’s jealousy, Worthington and Habsburg dancing, my jealousy returning, the waltz again, the Virginia reel, the Balboa, the check, me forgetting to tip, the foxtrot, me arm wrestling the carpenter, my wife’s being subpoenaed, then deputized, my first haiku—everything is to me now only a blur, a gentle, well-scented blur that rouses me softly in the night, and calls me collect from airports, saying “Vive la Source, vive la Source.”

In Memoriam: Man of Associations

Mr. Cornwall’s note: Justice Minotaur penned the following obituary for Virgil McTeague, who died 4 July 2002. It was originally published in the New Salem Trumpeting Beagle on 14 July of that year. While gargling this morning, Minotaur asked Mr. Cornwall to publish it “on the electrical newspaper.”

IN MEMORIAM VIRGIL MCTEAGUE
AKA “MAN OF ASSOCIATIONS”
MAY 31, 1930-JULY 4, 2002

These were the implements of his trade: an aged, basket-front tandem bicycle and several cottage-cheese tubs full of different sizes of elastic bands.

An ad he submitted to the local yellow pages for the 1960 edition formalized his entry into the world of work. The primary ad appeared under “Associations,” but he also paid for cross-listings under “Steering” and “Nurses.”

I MAKE CERTAIN ASSOCIATIONS
555-2609

According to one of his meticulous journals, his first call was to the sprawling home of a physician who on the phone had requested help in drafting the papers to form a business association. “Either a close corporation or a general partnership, whichever would be more advantageous,” the doctor had explained. “Some friends think perhaps the former, because of the insulation from liability.”

Upon arriving at the home, the man of associations leaned his bicycle against a half-hatcheted totem pole and then stood at the door yelling the words that would become a calling card of sorts: “Open Sesame!”

“What are you doing riding a tandem bicycle alone?” the doctor said as he answered the door, not bothering with the usual courtesies.

“It symbolizes the hope for companionship.”

With a look half of bewilderment, half of ridicule, the doctor invited the man of associations into his home.

“Well, what is your business advice?” the doctor asked.

“I am a man of action, not words, if you will allow me to proceed.”

“Very well.”

The man of associations snatched from the nearby sofa table a small framed photograph of a fragile-looking woman and, using a large elastic band he had extracted from the zipper pouch on one of his handmade shoes, strapped the photograph to the nearby bust of Neptune.

“That should do,” the man of associations said, then quickly retreated through the front door to escape the doctor’s ire.

Other early calls were also initially perceived as failures: he strapped a frozen dickey to a cardinal; three Bibles to the side of a breadbox; the queen from a Civil War–theme chess set to a thermos full of cobbler; a pacifier to a clay diorama of a dojo.

One day while watching a Clydesdale being shoed, he encountered the doctor. “I am in your debt,” the doctor gushed.

“What has transpired?”

“As you could no doubt tell, I was stupefied by your actions on that day. I had sought business help, not the strangeness you proffered. Nevertheless, because of the association of my wife—the woman in the photograph—with the mythical and inanimate, I came to perceive that I had treated my wife as a possession and as one fixed in time and space, and not as a living equal.”

“You deserve credit for making the association,” the man of associations replied.

“Do you mean to say that your pairing was willy-nilly?”

“In a sort of way. You see, I set the lock, but in you is the key. I had a hunch about you, about your wife. Frankly, though, most things paired together will yield an association—to those patient and perceptive, willing to fumble through a ring of keys.”

“Does the unlocking always lead to self-knowledge?”

“It may lead elsewhere, too—to amusement, appreciation, and such.”

Soon the man of associations had similar encounters with his other early customers, who uniformly praised him for his inspired pairings. Because of his associations, the woman with the cardinal started a pet clothing store; the man with the breadbox entered the ministry; the family with the thermos opened a café featuring historical dishes and decor; the couple with the diorama began an important new study of child-rearing in the age of the samurai.

The reputation of the man of associations grew quickly, and he was sought in villages and large cities, by those of all classes. Sometimes people thronged to him in the shops and streets, and he would render a dozen associations while waiting in line for buttermilk, or one or two while urinating against a wall. Delighted customers pressed coins into his hands—some thrust their daughters upon him—but he would take no such remuneration. He asked only a “sliver of remembrance” from each customer—the wet, blubbering kiss of a baby, a puff of hickory smoke, a swath of silk wiped in a woman’s wet, hairless armpit, a Polaroid of himself in a customer’s Daniel Webster costume.

Of all his pairings, the best known was made in 1976. In that season of life, the man of associations, though by now beloved by the general populace, was also under surveillance by police authorities, who could not fathom that a loner with such uncommon behavior could be innocent of malfeasance. One evening in the early spring of that year, the man of associations was making his rounds on bicycle, with the police and a local newspaper reporter secretly following. He steered his bicycle into a seedy part of town and entered a men’s club where women danced. The journalist and police gathered in shadows around the door where they knew he would eventually exit. They would expose him as a danger to society, and his business would be ruined.

He exited only moments after he entered, and in a most unexpected fashion. Sitting piggy-back on him, and bound to him by a giant elastic band, was one of the lady dancers, wrapped clumsily in a curtain. He meekly made his way to his bicycle through the surprised and dispersing crowd and, unstrapping his cargo, placed her gently on the rear seat. He rode her to a motel across town and helped her check into a room. He paid for six months of lodging in advance and later that night brought a sack of groceries by.

That spring and summer, he was often seen leaving various kinds of packages with her at the door to her room—a stack of books, fresh mangoes, fine paper and an expensive pen. He took her on the bicycle to the doctor and to church and to get her hair done. Occasionally she accompanied him on a customer visit, during which she would always be strapped to his back, just as everyone had seen in the papers that spring. Sometimes they were seen riding nowhere in particular, both smiling broadly, the light summer wind fanning their hair and carrying the sounds of their happy conversation into the tops of the trees.

When she died that October of cancer, he was strapped to her in her hospital bed. He paid for her burial, and then sought out her many creditors and repaid them. Then he was not seen again for a long season. People wondered what had transpired between this antihero and one who had been a common prostitute.

Finally, he reemerged. His work continued, and his fame grew.

Journal Entry: Thankful Lists

Journal entry, 12/1/13: Two weeks ago, Justice Minotaur asked Mr. Cornwall to affix a poster board to the wall at the chambers office and label it “Things I Am Thankful For and/or for Which I Am Thankful.” The idea was that the various clerks, beadles, justices, secretaries, brightsmiths, personal assistants, fresco painters, reeves, vending machine operators, janitors, statisticians, and others on the premises would, at their own leisure, write something on the list, bringing the entire group to a kind of catharsis as they contemplated their individual and mutual good fortunes. Without being asked, Mr. Cornwall also tied a pen to a string and stapled the string to the wall near the poster to provide ready access to a writing implement. The holiday of Thanksgiving now being over, Mr. Cornwall here reproduces the inscriptions that were made on the poster.

Things I Am Thankful For and/or for Which I Am Thankful

-Mother loaves & speed
-Absence of malice–not the American movie but the concept
-I am thankful that Aunt Quatilda seems to have the habit of having large amounts of money in her purse but not being terribly cautious about where she puts her purse
-On a recent transoceanic flight, a very large, sweaty, and hairy man was seated next to me (he in the middle seat and I at the window). As his extraordinary girth pressed against me, I found myself literally being suffocated against the side of the cabin. In a kind of near-death hallucination, I imagined a flock of birds looking in through the tiny window and watching me take my last breaths. The thought of extinction suddenly horrified me and I jolted into full consciousness. Turning my entire body toward the window, I was able to create a pocket of air by pushing against the fiberglass wall mightily with all four limbs. Thinking of many courageous women and men of the past, particularly those in the grocery industry, I was able to summon stores of strength I did not know I had. After about six hours (I arrive at this estimate because the entire Omen trilogy had played in the cabin as the in-flight entertainment), I felt and smelled an enormous quantity of hot vomit on my back, which soaked me so thoroughly I shivered from the cold. Then suddenly the pressure against me ceased and I found myself at liberty. Fortunately, my copassenger had become violently ill after eating the tuna and pear compote and spent the remainder of the journey in the lav.
-The unfathomable wisdom of the Minotaur [Mr. Cornwall’s note: this entry appears to be in the handwriting of Justice Minotaur]
-George Washington Carver [Mr. Cornwall’s note: here “George” and “Washington” were written in very large block print, and “Carver” was written very small in a different ink and handriting]
-I am thankful that every year we gather with families to watch a game where squadrons of armored men use a variety of ploys and brute strength to attempt to advance a leather, oval ball across an imaginary plane.
-All marsupials are dear unto me: kangaroo and koala, possum and opossum, numbat and wombat and wallaby, Tasmanian devil and bilby, quoll and quokka, bandicoot and bettong. I have savored and drawn energy from the sinewy, salty meat of each.
-Nudiustertian leftovers
-That the government has finally allowed individual citizens to purchase surgical staplers
-Bernard Whalen Convy
-End-of-line hyphenation [Mr. Cornwall’s note: this entry was cleverly done–the word “hyphenation” was itself hyphenated and the remainder of the word was completed one line beow]