The Bay Bistro shines like a topaz against the black velvet jungle. It is nestled high in the hills, the sound of clinking glasses and relaxed laughter floating from its open dining room out across the water.
We arrived, hot and sweaty, and walked into a roomful of manicured, beautiful people. They threw back their heads in laughter and whispered in each others’ ears. The women had long, painted nails, and the men’s shirts were open at the collar. I didn’t feel like I was on a tiny beach in Thailand- I felt like I was in New York City.
I scanned the room for familiar faces and saw a few, but in this setting, everyone was too cool for hellos. Walking into the posh Bay Bistro, we had encountered an impenetrable wall of ego. The bartender was a sleek black woman wearing a silk halter top with a shockingly low neckline, and a pair of “shorts” that may have been underwear. Despite her extremely skimpy attire, or perhaps because of it, I instantly thought, This place is classy.
Cooks ran up from the kitchen to deliver steaming plates of food, their tanned chests bare. Guests rolled spliffs at the bar and puffed stylishly. The baby-faced hostess, an Australian girl with sleek blonde hair, looked like an ingenue off the cover of Vogue. My dining companion and I looked around, our conversation suddenly dried up. This place was a scene.
A little later, enjoying a glass of red wine, I heard the familiar strains of a song. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, a simple tune plucked out on the chords of Issac Kamakawiwo’ole’s guitar, is simply, breathtakingly beautiful.
“I love this song,” I murmured.
Several minutes later, I noticed that the restaurant had gotten very quiet. We looked around.
The tables that had been previously engaged in gossiping, sizing one another up, and looking beautiful, had gone quiet. People gazed into space, the words of the song on their lips. Half-smiles lit up some faces, and dreamy expressions danced in other people’s eyes. I saw a couple take hands and kiss.
We looked in wonder at the breakdown of the rigid social structure. No one was trying to be cool anymore. Even the ebony bartender was waving a lighter in the air and singing. Soon everyone took up lighters or cell phones, and held them up as if we were at some grand outdoor concert. I met eyes with an uber-cool dreadlocked guy at the next table, and he flashed me a gorgeous smile. At another table, the entire group linked arms and was swaying back and forth, singing out loud.
By the end of the song, we were all singing, smiling, and laughing together. Egos abandoned, the entire place joined in, brought together by a simple song. Sometimes that’s all it takes.