Merhav puts his fingers over my guitar strings. "Haven't the Jewish people suffered enough?" he asks.
"Turn the music back on, and I'll stop." I reply. He is, after all, the authority: a part time controversial poet, part time waiter at the "Little Prince" cafe, and full time cynic. In truth, the Jewish and non-Jewish people present don't seem to be suffering too much from my music. It drew into the book-filled room at the back of the cafe a wild croud of night owls: Two Israeli girls out for a cup of Chai, two Jewish-Italian immigrants who have just found out they rear from the same street in Rome, a beautiful black Frenchwoman and her friend, an overtanned blond with huge hoop earrings. These two are asking for music by Serge Gainsbourg, and somebody instantly yells: "Couleur Cafe"! I look hesitantly at the black girl. Never before have I played a song that alludes directly to my audience's skin color. She happens to be begging for "Couleur Cafe". we set off.
I like your Coffee color,
Your Coffee hair
Your Coffee neck,
I like it when you dance for me,
Then I hear the murmur
Of your many bracelets,
The balance against your feet.
"Coffeeeee coloooor" the room forms a choir, "How I like your coffee color!"
Merhav lets us be done, then walks away with a comment about my "bordello" and turns the recorded music back up. No complaints. It's two in the morning and we are all in the best nighthole in Tel-Aviv, a literary haunt during the day, an all night light burning down the pretty "Simta Plonit" alleyway, a nicely equipped second-hand bookshop and a home of sorts to more than one of my friends. most notably Carmelli, Vizan, Theo and Olivier. The atmosphere can become stagnant at times, which is why I'm not on the list of constant residents, but hey, you've got to respect a place that's so deeply loved. The Little Prince closes only once during the week, on Friday nights. When it reopens on Saturday evenings these guys sprawl over the back room couches, saying things like:
"I couldn't take it, weekends are so hard."
"Same here, I need the Prince."
They remain spraweled until the party begins, forcing them to make room for others. Today the party is in Honor of Yehuda Vizan's birthday. Vizan is part time controversial poet, part time basketball instructor and full time "Little Prince" dweller. There he is, a bouquet of flowers before him, his glass of wine full. a pretty girl in his arms, speaking pidgin French an Italian to the international crowd. There's some very real Italian being exchanged as well. The Romans found all three volumes of "The Divine Comedy" on the shelves and they are reminicing about school days that were dedicated to them.
"Would you say that this place is the Tel-Aviv version of 'Tmol Shilshom'"? one of them asks me, referring to Jerusalem's renowned cafe of literati.
"You know, I love them both," I reply, "but there's something telling about the position in which I'm sitting right now. At Tmol Shilshom you'd always face the table. here, before sitting down, you'd pull the chair to face the room and keep an eye on the enterence, you never know who might step in."
It is Merhav who is stepping in at the moment. "Why don't you sing something for us?" he asks with a smile.
"I thought just a minute ago you were being protective of Jewish ears."
"I thought so too, but then I heard you talk."