When she walked into Buddakhan bar and restaurant downtown on New Year’s Eve afternoon, I wasn’t paying attention. Sitting at the far end of the bar, I was busy sulking while drinking a vodka and cranberry.
I was thinking of my therapist, who tells me I shouldn’t let other people’s negative energy or behavior affect my mood. His words weren’t sinking into my head at that point.
Earlier that afternoon, a grumpy bus driver got pissed at me. Heading downtown, he almost forgot to stop and pick me up. When he finally did stop, the look on his face told me I was a total pain in his ass.
Once downtown, I decided to go to the Main Public Library. I could see people going in and out, but when I reached the library door a large, stone-faced security guard blocked my entrance.
He silently pointed to the sign taped to the door: The library was closing at 5 o’clock. The look on his face told me I should have known that already.
Now, at Buddakhan, my intent was to have a few drinks, stay the hell out of everyone’s way and then go home. Happy New Year? Whatever.
I looked down at the other end of the bar and saw Dan, the owner, talking to the young woman who’d just walked in. She had a bit of an accent, French I was guessing.
I ordered a second drink from Ashley the bartender and then went to the restroom. When I returned, the woman who was sitting at the other end of the bar was now sitting on the stool next to mine.
Listening to her talk with Dan and Ashley, I determined that the accent was indeed French. Still eavesdropping, I heard her say that when it reached 6 p.m. it would be midnight in France.
When I didn’t think she was looking at me, I was looking at her.
I decided, what the hell, I’d ask her if she was from France. When I did, I got to know Julie Rizzitelli.
She’s indeed from France. She’s 28 and has lived in Cincinnati only since the summer.
Julie’s lived all over: Italy for a while as well as England. Here in the U.S., she’s lived in New York, Florida and Louisville among other places. I asked her if she considers herself a gypsy. Julie said no.
She has a rather famous father. Roger “Bunny” Rizzitelli is a well-established drummer in France. He was a member of the electronic music group Space Art in the late 1970s and is known for his studio work, having recorded with many artists, including the Stray Cats.
Julie told me she lives downtown and works in the catering department at Garfield Suites. While she told me about herself — in her happy, excited French voice — I couldn’t help but notice that her cheery demeanor was rubbing off on me. I wondered what my therapist would say about that.
As it started to approach 6, Dan and Ashley put out champagne glasses for those of us sitting at the bar and filled the glasses with champagne. We then raised our glasses in a toast to the New Year. As we clicked glasses, I couldn’t help but notice the big smile on Julie’s face.
Shortly after the toast, Julie’s cell phone rang. It was her parents in France wishing her a Happy New Year. I got a kick out of listening to her excitedly speaking French to her parents. It was a voice full of love.
In the early evening, I decided to head on home. Before leaving, Julie gave me hug, I think with both of us knowing that a new friendship had been formed.
Feeling good while walking to the bus stop, oddly enough, I passed that security guard from the library on the sidewalk. I smiled at him. He didn’t smile back.
When I reached the bus stop, the bus was already there. As I stepped on, oddly enough, I encountered the same bus driver from the afternoon.
I decided to smile and wish him a Happy New Year. He acted like he didn’t hear me.
After I got home, I had a few more drinks, listened to some music and wrote in my journal. I wrote about Julie and her positive energy. I also wrote about the bus driver and the security guard.
Positive behavior and energy — like that flowing from Julie — is contiguous. I’m going to let that influence me in 2009.
Negative behavior and energy — like that from the bus driver and the security guard — can also be contiguous, but not in a good way. I don’t need a therapist to tell me that.
I went to bed early on New Year’s Eve. It was already midnight in France, and I’d already toasted in 2009 with a new friend. It felt good. Bonne anne, Julie.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: email@example.com