FOI – Pat McConnell (Midnight In Manhattan) – Issue 22

MIDNIGHT IN MANHATTAN – A story by Pat McConnell

Some evenings, after his set at the Carlyle, Woody would slip away and stroll home, up Lexington Avenue. He loved walking alone. This was HIS city; he knew every nook and stoop. To disguise himself, he wore contact lens (and bumped into things) with a Boston Celtic cap and jacket – who would ever believe Woody Allen as a Boston fan – great camouflage?

One night, he was halted in his tracks. A cab had pulled up on the corner of 82nd Street and a pair of unbelievably long legs slid out. Attached to the gams was a stellar Armani body and a mop of jet-black hair that was swinging loosely above a Botticelli face.  Woody searched desperately for a suitable chat-line but, unfortunately, the vision ducked into a dingy storefront on the corner of Lex. The sign on the window read “Schroedinger’s Gym – Be very careful as you open the door, don’t let the cat out. Closed Tuesday to Sunday”.

Undeterred, and in the flush of the chase, Woody pressed open the door and immediately encountered a desk with a large man behind it, stroking a Burmese (cat that is). “New member? 100 bucks to join and 20 per session, what’s your name buddy?”  “Allen,” he hesitated, “Yes, Allen Woods,” said Woody.  “OK, Mr Woods, you are welcome to take a look at the equipment upstairs, before you sign up.”  Upstairs, Woody saw a run-down gym but with some very hi-tech equipment.  In one corner, on an exercise bike, Woody spied the Venus he had followed.  She was wearing a black leotard that would be banned everywhere outside of New York. The Aphrodite looked over at Woody and smiled, a smile that caused his knees, already weakened from climbing upstairs, to buckle. She then returned to read her Wall Street Journal and Woody ran downstairs to pay his 100 bucks membership.

Next Monday, Woody was ready.  In his clarinet bag, he packed an unused pair of Nikes (actually signed by Michael Jordan) and a natty New York Knicks tee shirt and shorts (actually signed by Patrick Ewing). The set at the Carlyle went really quickly because Woody cut out all the slow numbers, he was on fire.  He skipped out the door without signing any autographs and ran up to 82nd street, paid the twenty, and made for the changing room.

Woody pushed open the door and his heart sank.  It was his worst nightmare – a room full of good-looking jocks, all shiny muscles, tight pecs and steel jaws.

“Hi buddy, which school are you from?” asked one Adonis.  “Public 99 and CUNY,” mumbled Woody.  “Good One,” said the Adonis who introduced himself as Ross, “No, Which school: Kant, Schopenhauer, Sartre?” Pointing to another Michelangelo sculpture, “David and I have just been discussing the role of theory – he doesn’t agree with Kant that ‘Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play’. What do you think?”  Woody fumbled though his mental joke book. “It is impossible to experience one’s death objectively and still carry a tune,” he remembered.  “Profound, Allen, I love your existential perspective. Now let’s build some bodies,” said Ross running up the stairs four at a time. Woody followed one at a time, with a rest in-between.

The vision was already there on a rowing machine. “Hi Clio, meet Allen,” said Ross “He is a post-modern existentialist.” “Cool, I did my doctorate on Foucault at the Sorbonne,” said the Venus.  Woody shook her hand but couldn’t get any words out because he was staring at the sweat seeping thorough her tight semi-transparent tank top.  “Lovely to meet you,” she said, “We must discuss Derrida and the difference between structure and genesis some time. But got to go now. I have a conference call with a hedge fund in St Petersburg in 20 minutes.” With Clio gone, Woody spent 15 minutes fighting with a weight machine, managing to press some five kilos before going downstairs to shower and take a much needed rest.

The following Monday, Woody played his set, left quickly and positively jogged up Lex to the gym. She was there, “Hi, Clio,” he said nonchalantly. “Hi Allen, here try this running machine next to me,” she insisted. Clio was not only beautiful but also helpful.  After Woody slipped off the running machine several times, Clio intervened, “Here, let me turn it right down to ‘Florida’ for you.”  Woody was able to keep up with this sedate pace, only slipping off twice in the next hour. To his surprise, the changing room was unisex.  In the presence of such beauty, female and male in various states of dishabille, Woody was bashful, taking a full 45 minutes to remove his trainers.  “Allen, sweetie,” cooed Clio, as she left, “We are going for a drink at Xenos down the street.  Catch you there, if you want to come.”  “Want to come,” thought Woody, “Try stopping me.”

Xenos was not a ‘bar’ as such, but a 24-hour organic juice joint. Woody opened the door and was faced with a room of some of the most beautiful people he had ever seen. Not only were the Schroedinger’s crowd there, but also a troupe of ballet dancers from the Met and modern dance students from Columbia. In the corner, a male model from Vogue (who moonlighted as a linguistics professor at Cornel) was describing the perils of computer translations of Sanskrit to a troupe of elegant Flamenco dancers from the University of Havana.

“Hi everyone,” shouted Clio, “Meet Allen, he is an existentialist.” Turning to Woody, she smiled, “I would recommended the organic buckwheat smoothie with galangal, it is great for all-night energy.” She ushered him towards a crowd of dancers discussing the influences of Diaghilev on hip-hop and Jay-Z in particular. “What do you do, Allen?” asked one particularly lithe young beauty.

Woody hesitated, “I play the clarinet. And I am doing my doctoral thesis at Julliard on the influence of Bela Bartok on Acker Bilk.” he lied. To prevent further embarrassing questions, Woody pulled out his clarinet from his duffle bag and gave a rendition of Poulenc’s clarinet sonata as interpreted by Benny Goodman.  The crowd loved it.  “Bravo!” said Clio, “How witty, how clever you are.”  Woody was in, he was accepted, he was no longer the dweeb, but part of the beautiful crowd. For the first time in his life, he was in with both jocks and they all were beautiful. The crowd also loved him and his apparently off the cuff aphorisms, such as when discussing the death of Montaigne, “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” He recycled to applause.

Woody thrived over the next few months.  Each Monday night, he would play at the Carlyle, with the audience marvelling at just how upbeat his music had become. He would skip up to 82nd Street and work out, now able to keeping going for almost 35 minutes.   Woody was the toast of Xenos. He was considered serious but Clio also adored his witticisms and, in turn, he loved the way she would sometimes hug him with childish delight.  His wife also noticed a change. Woody’s legs and thighs were thicker and stronger and the couple’s intermittent Tuesday morning romp had now become a regular and not unsatisfying ritual.

One night, Woody asked Clio, not entirely disinterestedly, what she really would like to do in life. “When I was little,” said Clio, “I wanted to dance.  I started ballet lessons at six, and danced and danced for years, I loved it. But at 16, my teacher said that I was  ‘too tall’ for ballet” she ‘quoted’ with her fingers in the air, “And I gave it up, to go to Bryn Mawr and then Harvard.” Woody cracked up as he heard a sob in her throat.  “I would just love to go to Hollywood. I would do anything to be a real star, like Cyd Charisse.”  “But you could still do it,” said Woody, “You are as beautiful as Cyd.”  He melted as she bent down and kissed him on the forehead, “Too late.” She sighed.

“Maybe, I,” Woody caught himself on. “Maybe, I could ask around Julliard to see if anyone knows anyone in Hollywood who might be able to help,” he fibbed. “Would you, would you really do that for me,” asked Clio, her eyes now star struck, “I would be so, so grateful.”  That clinched it.

All the next week, Woody worked the phones to Hollywood, calling in and doling out favours. It worked.  The producers of the new movie, ‘Resident Evil – Augustine’s Revenge’, were prepared to ditch Milla Jovovich purely on Woody’s recommendation. “Beauty and brains you say, how unusual, a whole new genre,” they enthused, “And in return you will consider ‘Resident Evil – Bananas’.”

On Monday, Woody could hardly wait to tell Clio. He bolted through the set, disgusting a party of out-of-towners from Duluth. He ran up Lex to 82nd but was stopped short by the notice on the door at Schroedinger’s. “Closed permanently, someone let the cat out.  No Refunds”.  Xenos was shuttered also, “Summer vacation, back in September, but then again maybe not.”

Next morning, he rang the number on the business card that Clio had given him. “Clio’s gone,” a guy said in answer to Woody’s question, “Yes, crazy broad, she has given up a vice president title and four mill bonus to go to Paris.  She said she was going to try out for the Crazy Horse. Some idiot told her she could make it in entertainment. What a waste.” Woody called Paris.  The manager at Crazy Horse remembered her, “Beautiful girl, but ‘too tall’ for dancing, if you know what I mean.” Frantically, Woody emailed, Twittered and Facebooked but Clio had disappeared, no sign of her.  With her French, her credentials and looks, Woody knew she would be fine in Paris, but where was she?

After a few weeks, Woody stopped trying to find Clio and reluctantly got back to work.  At his monthly lunch with his producer the perennial subject of his next movie came up.  “I have this idea,” mused Woody, “about a writer who goes to Paris and each night goes back in time to the mid-1920s where he meets Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  He meets a girl and the rest is history/comedy/tragedy.  I was thinking of calling it Midnight In Montmartre.  We could shoot it in Paris.” “Sounds great,” said the producer, “we can work on the title later. But will it be ready by the holidays?”