Saturday, October 27, 2007

Book Jacket, Author's Choice

The image is a production still from Samira Makhmalbaf's
Blackboards, a dramatic feature about itinerant schoolteachers who travel across the mountains of Kurdistan looking for students, blackboards strapped to their backs. The woman in the foreground is not being chased by a mob of people. She is the director with a message for the crew. Cover design by Michael McClard.

Ode to Connecticut Muffin

At the window table closest to the door facing the street, Steve Turtell is proofreading the copy for his first book of poems, Heroes and Householders, out in December. He shows a poem written at the very same table two years ago to a group of us, women friends at the other window tables--most of whom met here too. From 1987 to that tragic day, October 13 1999, when one of the two owners of the café lost his life as the victim of a botched robbery attempt, Connecticut Muffin was a magic place with a magic vibe, where serendipity reigned and small miracles occurred daily. The low-key, sympatico oasis in a drastically changing neighborhood functioned as the local Buena Vista Social Club of Little Italy, for many part of their routine. Running into friends, whether seasoned or brand new, was welcomed as much as, or more than planned rendez-vous. In the pre- laptop and cell phone era, Prince Street was still paved with cobblestones. Scores of varieties of muffins, including the famous cheese dill scone, were lovingly invented and baked by partners Gary and José in their bakery around the corner on Elizabeth Street. Utter privacy or shared conversation at adjacent tables coexisted peaceably. There were fresh flowers on every table. Conversations between acquaintances would remain site specific to the muffin shop or grow into friendships lasting decades. With no pressure of any kind being exerted by either the owners or the staff, this mindfulness of others was echoed by the café's visitors. Today, some of the old magic was revived.