Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Reci: "Zbogom"
Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
What feels like a hundred years ago, I left Toronto to pursue some sort of fantasy art life in NYC.
Everything was going swimmingly for the first little while.
My friends over there were spending time and taking me out...I had a sublet on E14th and 1st, on the top floor of a five flight walk up.
But then, eventually...my friends went back to their normal lives and I was left to fend for myself for company.
For anyone who has moved away from home, you know that making friends can sometimes be difficult. Especially when you're not really working anywhere, per se.

One day, I was wandering around alone getting my bearings, I was homesick and lonely. For many years while growing up in Toronto, I went to great lengths to be Canadian.
I didn't like my mother speaking Serbian in public to me, I refused to listen to traditional music and made fun of it.
But, when I passed The Dubrovnik Restaurant at W20th and Avenue of the Americas, I couldn't resist the pull of something familiar.
I went in and sat at the bar and ordered a Turska Kafa.
I sat and listened to people talking and joking in a language that was familiar and was overwhelmed with a feeling of comfort.
Like home.
The lady behind the bar came over and started to chat with me.
Sanka and I talked for a long time.
Turns out that she was the wife of the owner "Ziggy".
Sanka offered me a job waitressing on weekends, and I took it.

Ziggy was a character if there ever was one.
Vitalis smeared hair, a gold eye tooth, a horseshoe pinky ring, and a suit...always a suit with pointy shoes.
Pravi "fraijer".
Above one of the booth seats was a painting of Ziggy, sitting in a boat off the coast of Dubrovnik, on the waves of the Adriatic with a fanned out deck of cards in one hand, and a pair of dice in the other.

This may sound like I'm making fun of Ziggy, but I'm not.
He and his wife were two of the kindest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.
He was a proud American with a thick accent.
He often challenged us with questions like:
"Eef da Amerika hev da var veet YU, an vitch side yu gonna fight?"
And then we would all laugh at what a ridiculous idea that was!


Ziggy called me "Mala" (little one) the whole time I worked there.
Perhaps he just couldn't remember my name, but it was sweet just the same.

The Dubrovnik Restaurant was as diverse as the former YU was.
Employed at that restaurant there were Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Italians, and Puerto Ricans.
I used to sit sometimes in the dark booth at the back with all the other waiters, and they would talk about "back home", and politics..often shouting at each other one minute and hugging each other the next.
The Dubrovnik is where Guido, the maitre d' introduced me to Espresso with lemon peel around the rim and then dropped into the cup...trying to convince me that this was better than Turska Kafa.

My time at The Dubrovnik taught me a lot about myself.
It's not there anymore, and hasn' t been there for a long time.
But, I think about Sanka and Ziggy from time to time.

No matter how far you run....there you are.