Sunday, May 20, 2007

Au Zinc, S'il Vous Plait

Stella has just entered a week-long construction hiatus.

A couple of nincompoop restaurant and furniture supply companies can't seem to get their stuff together enough to ship me my things. Another item that is held up is the zinc. The bar is going to be made out of zinc, and also the top of the condiment stand, as well this very visible long stripe along the front part of the counter. You can say the zinc is meant to really tie the room together, like the rug in The Dude's apartment.

So, why zinc? Well, you know the very French custom of having a quick drink standing up at the bar? According to the guidebook I bought for my first trip to Paris a dozen years ago, they call it au zinc, or "at the zinc", as in "I'll put on my beret, go to the cafe, meet Francois, and talk about the crassness of the Americans over a Vittel Cassis au zinc." Right. We all know they do not wear berets over there, and googling 'au zinc' returns a bunch of links where those two words just happen to be side by side. They probably used to say it, but they certainly don't say it any more.

Those fabulous ornate Parisian countertops weren't even zinc. They were an alloy of tin and lead. Clearly, we can't have that - lead is not very good for you. We don't need all that ornamentation, either - we are living in the age of materials, after all, and zinc is a pretty nice material. It does not have that sterile look that stainless steel has, and when it gets scratched up, it begins to look broken in rather than worn.

So, as Americans, this is what we do - we take an Old World idea, and we adapt it to our needs. Sometimes things go terribly awry, and we get Britney Spears the Kaballah scholar. Other times, things go just right, and we get something wonderful, which, in turn, reinforces our feelings of smugness towards the rest of the world.

I can't wait to get that zinc, because with the cost overruns and the requisite first-time entrepreneur anxiety, I feel I'm losing some of my innate smugness. When the zinc is in place, I'll swing those doors wide open and invite everyone in, so I can trade coffee for flattery.


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