"That's a fine looking bathing suit you have on. If there's one thing I like, it's a blue bathing suit."
Sybil stared at him, then looked down at her protruding stomach. "This is a yellow," she said. "This is a yellow."
"It is? Come a little closer."
Sybil took a step forward.
"You're absolutely right. What a fool I am."
Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories is Sunday, March 11, 5-10pm, at Inner Chapters Bookstore & Cafe, 419 Fairview Ave N, Seattle. Tickets are $25 (includes 3 cocktails) and should be pre-purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/229073
Bryn Lumsden, bar manager at Rob Roy in Seattle, was the first person to sign up for Le Mixeur Sharky: Nine Stories. In fact, the original idea was to simply have a soiree at Rob Roy some rainy Sunday afternoon with drinks created by Bryn, Anu Apte, and myself. Then myself started getting funny ideas coupled with delusions of grandeur. Next thing you know myself was throwing a Le Mixeur Sharky with nine stories and referring to myself in the myself person.
Bryn's been bartending in Seattle for about 10 years or so. He is the lone member of the Rob Roy crew to have worked there prior to Anu's purchase of the bar in 2009. So you might call Bryn the world's preeminent curator of Rob Roy culture. You can find him there on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. You'll most commonly find me there on Tuesdays, when Bryn's curating Rob Roy culture via his brainchild, Analog Tuesdays. Bryn mixes up fine cocktails while an assistant curator plays good old fashioned phonograph records and the occasional reel-to-reel tape. Patrons are invited to bring in their own records and tapes to be played, though it seems like hardly anyone does anymore. We need to change that.
I think it's safe to say that over the past two years, no bartender in the world has made me as many drinks as Bryn has. This not an accident, but personal choice. Bryn always makes me something that's perfect for what I'm craving. Plus he always gets the recliner in just the right position for my ailing back.
Oh, and there are a lot of bartenders out there who act like they're rock stars, and who think they're rock stars, there's even some that party like rock stars. But Bryn really is a rock star. Aside from his ongoing solo career, he once was in a really famous band from Seattle. I'd say the name but we're all tired of hearing about it. Especially Bryn.
Aside from Bryn's fondness for the story, he took on Bananafish (not literally) because of an ongoing interest in creating a drink with banana in it. Here is what he came up with:
A PERFECT DAY FOR BANANAFISH
1 1/2 ounce Zaya 12 year rum
1 ounce heavy cream
1/2 ounce cream sherry (Hartley & Gibson will suffice)
1/4 to 1/2 ounce rich demerara syrup (to taste)
In a tin, muddle six thinly sliced pieces of banana with the demerara syrup.
Add the rest of the ingredients and shake with ice.
Double strain into a snifter.
Add crushed ice and a straw.
Rich demerara syrup is 2 parts demerara sugar dissolved in 1 part water.
For Le Mixeur Sharky, we're going with Bryn's alternate instructions for mass production. For this method, combine 6 ounces Zaya, 4 ounces heavy cream, 2 ounces cream sherry, 1-2 ounces demerara syrup, and a whole banana into a blender with ice. Blend! Pour into double old-fashioned glasses. That's right: banana rum milk shakes. Straw 'em up!
SO WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THIS STORY ANYWAY?
Perfect Day For Bananafish was originally published in The New Yorker Magazine in January of 1948. It was anthologized first in “55 Short Stories from The New Yorker, 1940-1950." Vladimir Nabokov famously graded all 55 of the stories. He gave an A+ to only two two stories in the entire anthology. One was A Perfect Day For Bananafish by JD Salinger, the other was Collette by... Vladimir Nabokov.
The story tells us about a young woman named Muriel in a beachfront resort hotel room, talking on the phone with her mother, mostly about Seymour Glass, Muriel's significant other. We learn from their conversation that Seymour's behavior has been erratic for some time. He is unstable since returning from the war. He's openly contemptuous of the world view their wealthy family ascribes to, has no patience for the petty facade of their culture. Muriel defends Seymour and plays down his troubling behavior. Her mother is far less forgiving.
The scene changes to the beach itself, where Seymour is wrapped tightly in a robe sitting on a chair near the water. A young girl named Sybil, who knows Seymour already, approaches him and they chat. He compliments her on her blue bathing suit and she points out to him that it is yellow. He then assists her in going out into the water on her raft, and tells her to look for Bananafish. It is, after all, a perfect day for Bananafish...
"They lead a very tragic life," he said. "You know what they do, Sybil?"
She shook her head.
"Well, they swim into a hole where there's a lot of bananas. They're very ordinary-looking fish when they swim in. But once they get in, they behave like pigs. Why, I've known some bananafish to swim into a banana hole and eat as many as seventy-eight bananas." He edged the float and its passenger a foot closer to the horizon. "Naturally, after that they're so fat they can't get out of the hole again. Can't fit through the door."
"Not too far out," Sybil said. "What happens to them?"
"What happens to who?"
"Oh, you mean after they eat so many bananas they can't get out of the banana hole?"
"Yes," said Sybil.
"Well, I hate to tell you, Sybil. They die."
"Why?" asked Sybil.
"Well, they get banana fever. It's a terrible disease."
Why does Seymour think Sybil's yellow bathing suit is blue? For some insight, look to the Salinger novella entitled "Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters," in which Buddy Glass tells a story about his brother, Seymour Glass. He says that when Seymour was a child and their little sister Franny (later the title character in Salinger's novella "Franny") was 10 months old, Seymour read her a Taoist story to calm her when she became fussy.
The story was about a royal man named Duke Mu, who was accompanied by an enlightened man named Po Lo. Duke Mu asks Po Lo to send him a man who could pick him out a superior horse. Po Lo picks a man to do this, and the man selects a horse. When the Duke asks the man about the color and sex of the horse, the man tells him it is a brown mare. But when the horse arrives, it is a black stallion. The Duke is upset that the man is no ignorant that he doesn't even know how to measure the color and sex of a horse. But Po Lo is very happy, and says that the man is able to see the "spiritual mechanism" of the horse. "In making sure of the essential, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external."
Blue is frequently used in Salinger's writing as a symbol of innocence. In Bananafish, Seymour Glass is wearing a blue bathing suit. When he looks at Sybil, he forgets the homely details; intent on the inward qualities, he loses sight of the external.
A RED MONKEY WITH A BLUE HEART
from Be Brave: A Wife's Journey Through Caregiving, by Florrie Munat (Sharky's grandmother), a not-yet-released memoir.
This portion of the story begins with a description of one Christmas day years ago, when the elevator to my mother's 2nd story apartment was broken, and so we had to assist my ailing father in getting out of his wheelchair and up the stairs. Sharky, then three, provided some unexpected assistance...
I pushed Chuck’s wheelchair into the stairwell, and Ted and I assumed our positions on either side of him. Sharky scampered around the three of us and up the stairs to the first landing where he turned and peered down at us. On the count of three, Ted and I hoisted Chuck out of his seat, and he gamely began to mount the stairs. As Ted and I gripped his arms tightly, our concentration was intense – one slip of the foot could result in a disastrous fall for all three of us. As I pulled on Chuck’s arm and shoved my thigh into his butt in an attempt to propel his body up to the next step, I wondered about the wisdom of our decision.
Then we heard a small voice coming from the landing. “You can do it! You can do it! C’mon, Papa, you can do it!” Glancing up, I saw Sharky’s animated face and his arms raised over his head, fists balled like a cheerleader. Then he lowered his arms, and with palms out, he cautioned, “Slow down, slow down. Take it easy.” With his arms over his head again, he resumed the “You can do it!” chant.
By the time we reached the first landing, Ted and I were hard-pressed to remain upright – not only because of Chuck’s weight that we were balancing between us – but also because we were giddy and giggling over Sharky’s words. The little guy scooted up the second set of stairs and resumed his exhortations to Papa from the top landing. When at last Chuck had ascended the last step, he did indeed fall into the awaiting plastic chair, weary with effort. Sharky, jumping with glee, patted Chuck’s arm and then to our complete amazement, he put his arms around Chuck’s shoulders and hugged him. Kissing Chuck’s reddened cheek, Sharky said, “Good job, buddy. You did it! Good job, Papa!”
I like to think that was a turning point in Sharky’s life. Certainly it was a moment of greater connection with another human being than I had seen in our grandson in many months. There would be, and there continue to be, hurdles in his development. But with the attention of a cadre of devoted teachers and therapists, not to mention his parents, Sharky is now, at age nine, one of the happiest, most well-adjusted and sensitive children in his third-grade classroom. He hugs us, calls us by name, does chores and homework, sleeps well, makes jokes, chats with strangers, loves superheroes and YouTube, and is amazingly empathetic. We could not have imagined such a scenario a few years ago.
Three and half years after his Christmas Climb, Chuck entered Hospice about ten days before my birthday. Ted asked then six-year-old Sharky what he thought I would like for a present. Without hesitation Sharky replied, “A red monkey with a blue heart.” Father and son drove to a local toy store where, amazingly, they found a stuffed monkey of that description. At least it was a mostly red monkey with a blue tail, a blue-striped leg, blue hands, and a cream-colored face with a kind smile. I told a friend, “They found me a red monkey! Isn’t that amazing? It doesn’t have a blue heart, but that’s okay.” And my friend, who has been a special education teacher for many years, replied, “How do you know? The heart is on the inside. Sharky knows the monkey’s heart is blue.”
Of course he knew the monkey’s heart was blue because he knew mine was. Sharky told me the monkey’s name is George Abberson. George Abberson now lives among the red pillows on my bed.