We saw the moon, full and hanging low as we crept onto the island in a long single file line of cars with everyone else.
The Starving Artist Cafe & Gallery is small, intimate, and family run, with a neighborhood coffeehouse vibe and charm that a corner Starbucks can never conjure up. Everyone seemed to know each other and the musicians, Brian Conigliaro and Gus Wieland of Two Guitars engaged the audience in a kind of name that tune. The musical selections weren’t quite what I’d call jazz (Come on people now smile on your brother and a song called “The Wind” by Circus Maximus), but their version of Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” filled that famous intro with fingerpicking and fret work that flowed very nicely on acoustic guitar.
We met Ellen Ruth Topol, a poet and City Island resident, who was painting to the music from a complete watercolor set splayed out all over her table. Ellen brought us up to speed on the happenings at the cafe (game nite, open mic, Japanese gypsy rock). She has recited poetry there (on the cafe’s 5th anniversary).
I’ve meet very few people in New York who call City Island home, maybe three. I asked Ellen what do City Islanders do on summer weekends with all the traffic? How do you get around? She said you either stay at home, on the island, the entire weekend or leave on Friday and come back on Sunday, there’s no travelling back and forth anywhere.
We told her we’d come back to the cafe. The price is right, five bucks per person minimum and a “pay what you wish” music cover. But next time we will bike on to the island.
When we were leaving the cafe, Ellen told us that Sunday (June 7th) was Buddha’s Enlightenment Day, a day for prayer when the moon is full. It was a lovely send off as we stepped back onto City Island Avenue weaving in and around people queued up for shrimp and fish and others toting white plastic bags full of what they couldn’t eat.