Miracle on 46th Street

Last Wednesday the sun was going down on the groovy little intersection at 46th and Grand Avenue, home to the reliably delicious Café Ena; the soon-to-be-large Patisserie 46; and Kings, the amazing wine-bar-restaurant-man-woman-cave I’m lucky enough to host-bus-serve at a couple nights a week.

I’ve heard many great stories and met many thoughtful, smart, cool folks since we opened in August, and the colorful alchemy of people that regularly forges itself there can be illustrated by something that happened on the sidewalk café that night.

I think of Kings as a neighborhood pub, and it was all that this night, with people eating good food, drinking good wine and beer (try the Fulton Lonely Blonde), and engaging in plenty of lazy-to-lecherous beautiful people-watching. A steady parade of mopeds, scooters, convertibles, trucks, minivans, motorcycles and cars of every make and stripe, all muffled sound systems and cell phones, wound its way down West 46th Street to the lakes, Lyndale Avenue, or 35W.

The under-moan of it all was straight out of Henry Miller’s “Quiet Days In Clichy,” which I just read, about a starving virile young American artist in 1928 Paris.

It was 6:30. Jennifer Prill was cracking people up behind the bar. In the corner near the back lounge, the sun made a silhouette on the back wall out of the Kings’ logo on the front door window, and bathed the Buddha statue at the back door in gold.

My buddy Pete Christensen procured the Buddha as a parting gift from the good folks at Bali, who we met last summer while playing music at the Music Box Theater.

Around the corner from the Buddha, sitting at a sidewalk table near the front door, was Target employee Katie Bly and her dog Louis (a 13-week-old black Shih Tzu Poodle), who was introduced to me a week earlier as, “freshly neutered Louis.” They were sitting next to Emily Bendson, an Abbott-Northwestern nurse who hung in the shade with her eight-week-old golden retriever, Ripley.

Freshly neutered Louis made his move. Ripley, fluffy and adorable beyond belief, was a tiger. Almost twice as big as Louis. Pawed at him mercilessly, and played peek-a-boo. He never had a chance. She had her way with him. She played with him like he was a sock puppet. She loved him, danced at him, licked him, wore him out, and all concerned, an entire street of strangers in fact, agreed that this was the anti-oil spill, and worth reporting in some fashion and so: Puppy Love Discovered in Minneapolis Pub.

Maynard, a 70-something Korean War vet who served on a destroyer in the Pacific for four years, sat at the inside corner table with his wife and daughter and his daughter’s girlfriend. Across the way, a kid with dreadlocks and a baseball cap sat at the corner of the bar and had a cup of coffee. He told me he was an aspiring rapper, and that he liked to play basketball.

I told him to get something to eat. He said he thought he might do that because he was “trying to stay out of trouble tonight.” I asked him to define trouble. He shook his head and said, “Just… trouble.” He ordered the BLT, took a few nibbles, asked me for a to-go carton, paid his bill, slugged down his coffee, and bounced out into the street. “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll be back again. I live just up the street.”  

Ripley and Louis continued their painfully cute lovefest. Choruses of “where’s a camera when you need it” accompanied a couple of pugs walking sideways past the scene. Ripley finally tore herself away from Louis and, sated, sauntered over to the daily newspaper single-copy sale rack. She put her nose on the green plastic, sniffed at the end-of-the-world headlines, plopped her belly down on the egg fry-hot cement, and let her tongue flop out.

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.