September 26, 2005

On Buying Burgers for Your Dorm

It will take a while, and several entries at least, to do justice to the impact of The New Yorker Festival. Working out the implications of Malcolm Gladwell's talk on Saturday morning alone will take ages, and probably nudge me a little further and a lot faster along my career.

But here's something that happened during the weekend that, while not sponsored by The New Yorker, tied in very well with everything else. On Saturday night, before heading over - too late for comfort, it turned out - to Satalla, a club where Rufus Wainwright would entertain us - we found ourselves at the Shake Shack. Ms NOLA and I were delighted to find that we were introducing our companion, Graf von D, to the Shack. Graf is a burger aficionado, and the Shake Shack has been on his list of destinations. But, probably like every native New Yorker, he could not really believe that there is a pavilion in the middle of Madison Square Park that dispenses boardwalk fare. Exclaiming in delight, he judged the Shack Burger to be better than the offerings at In & Out, the Los Angeles chain.

This drew the attention of a young man seated nearby. He must have been an Angeleno, because he was bursting with joy at the opportunity to sing the praises of In & Out. He seemed very young. His face was still a teenager's, and I actually wondered, worried, what he was doing out alone on a Saturday night in the Big Apple. He spoke with the unmodulated enthusiasm of an eager ten year-old. I couldn't follow much of what he said, because, like all enthusiastic youngsters, he assumed that I knew what he was talking about. Graf von D, of course, actually did know what he was talking about. The two guys were promptly engaged in a litany of four-by-fours and three-by-elevenses. Wrapping up, the boy noted that In & Out only takes cash, so "if you're buying burgers for your dorm you've got to carry a lot of money." He said this looking at me square in the face. It was very alarming. Did he think that I faced this problem, this buying of burgers for my dorm?

When I told her about it, Kathleen was not alarmed. "He simply thought you were a professor."

Spending so much time with Ms NOLA in settings where youth was always well-represented, and talking with the very intelligent Graf almost as if we were old friends, I had forgotten that I am in fact just a couple of dozen months shy of sixty.