Tom’s Diner

I am sitting in the morning at the diner on the corner

There’s a woman on the outside looking inside, does she see me?

No she does not really see me cause she sees her own reflection

Once upon a time before the rain began…I finish up my coffee. It’s time to catch the train.

Incase you didn’t figure this out already, these are the lyrics of the famous song ‘Tom’s Diner’ by Suzanne Vega , one of the greatest songwriters & singers alive today. This song is undoubtedly her best work till date; originally released as an acapella but later remixed to gain widespread commercial success (was infact featured innumerable times on MTV in the ’90s ).

This song basically is an account of a person who stops at a place called Tom’s diner for a cup of coffee. This place is very much real and is on the corner of 112th St-Broadway in New York City now as Tom’s Restaurant. It is very famous as the exterior of the Monk’s Cafe in the long running sitcom Seinfeld. Now, what is the reason I am writing a post on this place or song ? Two big reasons actually !!

It is an amazing coincidence that I got to watch Suzanne Vega perform yesterday just a week after I had stopped at Tom’s Diner for pancakes & a pistachio shake at 4 AM on a very rainy morning (just like the song except for the coffee instead of the shake 🙂 ). Tom’s Diner is 3 streets away from my friend’s apartment in Manhattan and in all my three trips previously to the city, I have always walked past it but this time my curiosity got the better of me & I finally visited this place. Not once but twice. And needless to say,both the times were amazing.Infact here is a picture I took of this place in September ’10.

People generally have to say this about Tom’s Diner- a warm and pleasant ambience which not only makes you feel very comfortable and settled-in but gets your mind thinking about distant, profound subjects while sipping over a coffee or relishing a good bagel. I couldn’t agree more when I walked in the first time one chilly winter evening all alone tired from a walk with my camera in Central Park. There was definitely something about this place. Something I could not describe in words justifiably.

Whatever the reason was, it certainly was not because it was the subject of Suzanne Vega’s hit song or because of Seinfeld.  I only regret not having heard Vega’s song then because when I finally did hear her sing the same song yesterday, it eerily felt awesome that I had literally ‘lived’ the song. Besides this song, she performed a musical play she composed with Kay Matschullat for Broadway this coming April named ‘Carson McCullers talks about love’. The setting was perfect for such a performance. In a small, ‘intimate’ theater in Troy where she enraptured the audience with a story of love, hatred and deceit magically expressed in the form of a conversation between a couple with interjecting musical layers. This was my first experience of musical theater and the fact that I was on a seat 3 rows away from Suzanne Vega, the pianist and the guitarist only made it better.

With a voice like raw honey and beauty which was supremely graceful, she absolutely swept me off my feet. For an hour when she sang, I could feel an inner silence overwhelm my mind and I forgot every worry, every sorrow  instead to absorb the music and the feelings wrapped within it streaming outward from a radiant Suzanne onstage. In my own words she has both Audrey Hepburn’s grace & Regina Spektor’s eclectic ‘folksy’ music going for her 🙂 . If my post even got you slightly curious about Vega check her out on Youtube on the following links.

“Caramel” : Vega’s sensuous best & my fav. of the lot  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-1mIOBbKi0

“Tom’s Diner” original version : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z66rDVkaK4w&feature=related

As for a Suzanne-smitten me, I shall try my best to catch her next in April on Broadway.

Cheers

Nikhil B.

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Roots

Here I was, returning from a tight 2 day sojourn to Madras combining work and pleasure like I always do :P. But something felt different this time around.

Having been raised as a Tamil Brahmin in the grand city of Bombay with a rather infamous distinction of having visited my native state of Tamil Nadu only about thrice in my 21 years of existence and with an impaired knowledge of the Tamil language, such visits to Madras always raised the risk of arousing my curiosity in tracing back my roots. This is the dilemma I found myself in constantly this time around as I waded through a swarm of my Tamil brothers and sisters in Chennai Central station while imbuing the aroma of fresh filtered coffee and savoring the spicy Sambar rice minutes before I boarded my train back to Nagpur.

For the first time, I truly felt a lost connection with the Tamil way of life often wondering about so many things I saw around me in Madras which ideally should be very obvious to me. My good friends are aware about the special significance that Madras holds for me for it has always been the uncanny residence of my most cherished social priorities. By saying this offcourse, I am not in the slightest way undermining Bombay and all that it has given me. Bombay will always be my home but an odd feeling likened to that of a refugee (in a place that I had so long perceived as my home) has set in me which has helped me conclude that I need to trace back my roots, get in touch with my birth-culture , my true ethnicity. Especially considering my immediate future plans of pursuing higher studies abroad, I truly feel there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to reaffirm my roots before I spread my wings and fly off to a far away land.

Cheers !