Little Cash But Enough of Attraction To Move To New York

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HAPPY HOUR
by Marlowe Granados

“Charm,” a professor once told me, “is nothing.” I was 21 at the time, hoping to write and about to move to New York: I now see this as practical advice. Isa, the protagonist of Marlowe Granados’ first novel, “Happy Hour,” needs no such advice. Twenty-one-year-old and new to New York, Isa is equipped with little cash, but with added charm. That’s his stake in the trade – more than the 60-odd summer clothes he packs and plans to wear or sell. Glamor is the magic that will lift the summer, and while 21 is a “non-serious age,” she certainly knows the value of charm, as she puts it. So is its creator. Confident, charismatic and lively to observe, the sound Granados creates in “Happy Hour” is a testament to the power of the page appeal.

Isa’s plans for the summer of 2013 brought her from London to a lower flat in Bed-Stuy, where they agreed to share a room and a bed with an old friend named Gala. Employment prospects are somewhat limited, as they lack the necessary paperwork for suitable government jobs. By selling used clothing from a stall at a weekend market, Isa and Gala develop a “shopping experience” if not a bustling trade. They make $50 a day for the week they spend as a member of the TV audience in the studio, and $100 a night for the two weeks they spend bringing “Downtown Flavor” to a Meatpacking District club. They’re into life modeling, babysitting, and book selling jobs on the Strand. They seize an opportunity as foot fetish models but avoid the upfront investment in pedicures. As a couple they are frugal, stylish and agile; they choose their go-to outfits with an eye to allow them to get over a fence. Their dishes are hot dogs and eggs or caviar-stuffed hors d’oeuvres from the Throop Food Market.

“Everybody kept asking us what we were doing in New York, what we were working on, and what our overall story was,” Isa says. “When Gala told them ‘we did absolutely nothing’, eyebrows went up. ‘Do you have internships in magazines?’ they would add.”

“Absolutely nothing” is wrong – Isa and Gala face the ongoing challenge of killing time without spending money – nor exactly right. After all, “I anytime learning,” explains Jesus, and keeps a complete record of that training in his diary. He writes of a night with drunken intellectuals in a filthy bar: “These guys talked as if a revolution was going to start right out of that bar—as if that’s what they were doing. necessary and vital to the Earth. I’m having a hard time understanding how they think that way. From what I’ve gathered, they write articles in small-circulation magazines and publish them twice a year.” It is in Jesus’ interest to be taken lightly. “I can safely say that I didn’t do anything because that way people always surprise me.”

Jesus of Granados evokes old women in the making, such as Elaine Dundy’s Sally Jay Gorce in “The Dud Avocado.” Somehow, though, the sound that came to my mind as I read, by Kay Thompson eloise While this figure has now been sold commercially and relegated to franchise oblivion, the original character was a minor comic masterpiece: resourceful, rebellious, simultaneously earthy and innocent, given a certain loneliness at times. Jesus is a worthy heir to his anarchic spirit (he who prefers pupusas and halo-halo in Queens to gugelhopfen in Palm Court). At the end of her summer in the city, she has a keen sense of where glamor might take her – where she might want to go and how she can get there. “You can’t buy charm, but you can certainly spend it,” he observes as the book nears its end. “You can certainly keep it, too.”

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