Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Two by Two

What's with the sudden urge to pair up?

Before the night was over, I had one friend telling me the lengths her ex went to for her birthday - calls, a dinner invitation, flowers, a book of photographs of their relationship before he dumped her in a text -  and another friend laying out the series of steps required before he marries his main squeeze.

Did Noah send out another ark memo that didn't get to me?

We made the bartender at Acacia our fourth because we were the sole occupants of the bar and he was loquacious and witty. The only problem was he couldn't join us in enjoying Chateau Langlois Cremant de Loire, but at least he had a fat tip in his future.

During a discussion of the pleasure of eating duck, my friend asks him if he likes garlic butter. With a roll of his eyes, the barkeep responds, "I like oxygen, too." In other words, duh.

That kind of witty.

They must have been kindred souls, I'm thinking, because it takes a certain kind of man to offer a new acquaintance a pocket protector. And not even one that he had with him, just one that he had languishing at home somewhere, left over from college. Granted, the bartender did have four pens neatly lined up in his shirt pocket, a disaster waiting to happen. Not improbably, a conservation about pens spewing ink into white pockets ensued, complete with the barkeep's memories of a leaky pen ruining his R.O.T.C. uniform shirt in high school.

Some traumas you never get over.

They bonded over Russel Crowe and Denzel Washington movies, which pretty much left the womenfolk out of the conversation entirely. I tried to stay relevant by mentioning "BlackkKlansman" so we could talk about Denzel's son's talent, but they merely acknowledged me and moved on

Because we had the bartender's undivided attention, we could be as nosy as we liked. Talking about the benefits - wine at cost - and drawbacks - little playtime - of working every night the restaurant is open, he regaled us with his off-duty antics. Seems this past Sunday, that meant starting with bourbon and ginger upon waking up, a miscalculation that landed him back in bed by 8:30 that evening.

It's a marathon, not a sprint, son. Like the t-shirt I saw on the pot-bellied guy at the grocery store yesterday, "You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning." That's some Confucius wisdom right there.

But he was also kind enough to share his current favorite wine, Riebeek Cellars Cape Rose, a ridiculously easy drinking pink that made our brains default to sunny days and porch afternoons. After pouring us glasses to taste, he acknowledged, "I never buy fewer than five bottles at a time," showing wisdom beyond his years.

Nor could our newfound friend join us in eating through the menu, although conversation revealed that he'd already done as much on his own. Now it was our turn.

So. Much. Food.

Crab fritters, fried oysters, white anchovies with Fourme d'Ambert. A salad of greens, apples, golden raisins and cashews in celery vinaigrette, just so I could live with myself. Entrees of rockfish, mahi mahi with roasted cauliflower and crispy potatoes and, my choice, rockfish collar with Brussels sprouts and mushrooms in a cilantro sauce, all nodded to the chef's talent with the bounty of the sea.

The manager stopped by to say hello and her outfit caught the attention of those of us who like retro fashion. A tan suede jumper over a cream turtleneck with dark brown suede boots was not only mod and Fall-like, but reminded my friend of an outfit she'd had in 1967. For me, it looked like something I'd aspired to in junior high.

Either way, we sent her off with effusive compliments about the look, even if Fall dressing does depress me.

So. Many. Layers. And it's only October.

Once we got the bartender dishing on problematic customers. we heard about those who order outrageous cocktails ("I'll have a Grateful Dead") and then when the bartender asks what's in it, have no idea. "You don't know and you're ordering it?" he asks them incredulously. Nope.

Our most serious discussion involved the differences for his generation versus ours in terms of what's attainable, a conversation that included debating trade schools versus college and how out of reach what his parents strove for was for him as an adult. I was feeling his pain right up until he said he and his girlfriend make $95K between them and after that I just had to question their budgeting skills.

Let's put it this way, when I told him how much I make, his eyes about bugged out of his head.

But nibbling on chocolate cremeux, sipping Cremant from a second bottle and listening to techno music, I couldn't help but acknowledge that life, especially mine, is good.

One highlight of the evening came not from the bartender but from my girlfriend, who pulled out a Baggie with a selection of old photographs from her 1987 group trip to Paris that showed her as a young woman, along with her best friend and the art professor she was secretly pining for.

But personal history aside, what caught my eye was how arresting her photographs were simply because she has such an artistic eye. One taken from her room at the Hotel de Lima shows a neatly parked street, the quaint old buildings receding into the distance. The composition is so perfect it would sell as a postcard.

All I could see, though, was how very different the Paris of 1987 was from the Paris I saw for the first time in 2016. Her Paris had only a fraction of the cars and people and none of them were looking at phones.

Another showed the nearby skyline through the leaded outlines of a rose window at Notre Dame. But my favorite showed her on the roof of a building as she stood behind a massive stone gargoyle "scratching" its back, the city spread out before her with the Eiffel Tower looming in the distance. She's smiling optimistically like she's having the time of her life.

Little did she know it would be another 25 years before she found the love of her life. Fortunately, there's wine, garlic butter and oxygen to keep a girl occupied until that finally happens and she qualifies to board the Ark.

In the meantime, whatever works.

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