& MME. X

SEPTEMBER 12, 2013



IN LAST WEEK'S REVIEW: A. Pontious discovered a secret gelato museum and ate most of it. Believing himself to be pursued by the secret gelato society, he is currently in hiding. Of course, one must eat, even when underground. But for reasons that you will soon understand, Mr. Pontious cannot reveal the locations in this week's review.

Life on the lam has always appealed to me ever since seeing The 39 Steps as a small boy. While I wasn’t even totally certain that Museo’s waitstaff was pursuing me, and I was not yet handcuffed to a beautiful woman, I didn’t see any point in waiting around to see if these things would happen. You have to make your own luck.

I quickly sublet my apartment and through various means too subterfuge-y to mention here, I contacted the mysterious Mme X, who it had been rumored, was Ruth Reichel's subterfuge-y disguise advisor for many years.

To get to Mme X’s lair, you must pass through one of those small stores that seems to sell things for one specific person, who presumably is the heir to several oil fortunes but likes wearing exceptionally tasteful and plain clothing, which has always struck me as a dubious dichotomy.

Upon uttering a password to a clerk who seemed to be in a very fashionable coma, the wall opened up, revealing an elevator, and after making eye contact with a CC TV and traveling several floors, I found myself in the penthouse of Mme X.

For some reason, I had expected a quiet, minimalist apartment like I have seen in films and television, perhaps with a secret changing room or something like that. I was not expecting an apartment piled floor-to-ceiling with boxes of neckties, cravats, monocles, masks, hats, dresses, bodysuits, gloves, and glasses. Praise for Mme X’s ability adorned the walls in plexiglass placards, but these quotations were attributed to no one, because that is the nature of disguise. So really, anyone could have written them. But I am going to bet it was someone important!

I imagined my new self; he would wear sunglasses all the time, appear in very impractical formal clothing that would somehow always be ironed and spotless, and somehow manage to hold an expression that said, This is no big deal, I always look like this.

I began going through the boxes, picking out a white suit, blue chambray tie, and blue shooting glasses, when suddenly I heard a microwave oven beep and Mme X appeared, eating a Hot Pocket.

She was about two heads shorter than me, dressed in what I imagine a ninja gypsy might wear; a long black skirt, black shawl, and wirey hair that complimented the outfit.

She squinted at me. “I’m sorry,” she said, through a mouthful of pie dough and sauced meat, “The way you made this situation sound . . . well, I expected to recognize you. Who are you again?”

I coughed. “A. Pontious. I write Tables for One, it’s in that magazine, right next to Tables for Two and Tables for Three. I’m largely known for my scathing reviews of The Viceroy and Plies bar. I have an almost weekly blog. At least, it was weekly, for awhile. . . . ”

“Of course you do, darling,” said Mme X.

I told her that I believed my life might be in danger.

“Why’s that, sweetie?”

I didn’t talk about the secret gelato museum, the waiter who had followed me, the long tunnel from the gellateria to Grand Central, partially because I was a little offended that she hadn’t heard about me. I told her I was concerned about a review that had received “an unwelcome response” and hoped that would be enough.

“Oh! A. Pontious,” she said, as if “unwelcome response” was a key factor in remembering me, “You wrote about that restaurant with the strange food. Sweetie, if I don’t recognize you, it’s because you have what we in the business call ‘invisible face’. If you were an actor or a model, you’d be penniless as well as anonymous, but for a critic, it’s a gift.”

She handed me a mirror with dotted horizontal and vertical lines on it, “Look, do you recognize yourself?”

I was not sure how to answer the question.

“You see? Invisible face. Get yourself a new cardigan and head out of town, you’ll be fine.”

I returned home with new confidence. An invisible face! What a gift. I need not fear the repercussions of a decimated gelato museum. No one would recognize myself, I thought, heading into my favorite coffee house to order my customary espresso. I had started to wait in line when I heard a sneeze.

Had I not heard it, if I had arrived a second later, I would not have noticed. At a corner table in the back, the waiter from Museo, wearing a distressed neon t-shirt, black plastic glasses with what were clearly fake lenses was reading a copy of Cabinet. He didn’t seem to notice me. Instead, he checked his watch, and then wrote something on a notepad next to him.

I did not return home, instead I walked ten blocks, checking behind me all the while, pondering my escape. I could not return home, not now. I was on the lam! And I’m not sure if I even know what the lam is!

Despite the fact that their truck is very near my home, I have resisted reviewing the Salladeo’s Pastrami-Mobile for some time now.

It’s not just because their menu promises that patrons will experience a “Pastrami-gazm!” upon sampling their sandwiches, a thought that demeans both cured meat and the human condition. It’s not just because their menu has a list of 72 sandwiches and then tells the reader to, “HEY, GO FRE@KIN' (sic) CRAAAAZY (sic), MAKE YOU (sic) OWN (sic) SANWICH (sic).”

God, I can't stand any restaurant that lets people do what they want. Hey! Go Fre@kin' craaaazy, make a menu you actually care about . . .

But there is one truly great thing about Salladeo’s, and that is if you have fifty bucks and tell them you need to get the hell out of town, they will press the pedal to the metal and drop you off, far, far away. And that is worth all 72 sandwiches, to say nothing of you own fre@kin' sanwich, which I did eat while stowed away in a pastrami closet, moving at about 80 miles an hour.


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