Thursday, November 15, 2018

It Had Better Be Tonight

I may be a complicated woman, but I have simple needs.

Sometimes, nothing suits me better than dinner and a movie, especially when the restaurant is a personal favorite, the film is from the '60s and the company is hilarious. I'll even do the driving for a change, which right away tells you I wasn't with Mac or Pru, both of whom prefer to be in control the driver's seat.

Since I was collecting Mr. Wright from the East End, it only made sense to drive directly to Nota Bene for dinner, where we were early enough to score the bar stools with the best prospect and refuge and the music wasn't yet drowned out by people talking.

That darkness was already falling was just another reminder of how much I detest this time of year. And don't get me started on tomorrow's rainy cold front.

But at Note Bene, everything was warm and good (wood fired ovens are reliable that way), from the bartender's favorite salad, a Brussels Caesar of shaved Brussels sprouts, oil-cured olives, pickled radish, the fermented fish sauce garum, white anchovies and the always delicious cheese Grana Padano, to a crispy pizza singing with the sweet/salty balance of wild mushrooms, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, Parmesan and Fontina.

My only regret was how quickly we demolished both while Mr. Wright patiently explained to me how well I was coming along in celebrating my (according to him) new-found shallowness and open-armed embrace of his suggestion that selfishness should guide what we do in this relationship. He argued that both qualities had long existed in me but I'd tamped them down, while I believe that both are learned behaviors since this whole shebang began.

Since he thinks both qualities are a good thing - or a "good bad thing," as he phrased it - I don't know why I'm resisting getting on board with it. Then again, if you listen to him, I hopped that shallow/selfish train a while back, somewhere after the week in Chicago or around the time of the two weeks at the beach, but most certainly after Dubrovnik and Athens.

Go ahead and ask, who am I?

Well, for one thing, I'm a dessert lover and Note Bene has one of my favorites, a fig crostada made obscene with Pineau des Charentes cream, although it's the figs and rustic glazed crust that speak to me more than the cream. Plain and simple, it's a fancy pants Fig Newton and I mean that in the most complimentary way because who else has such a way with figs?

After lingering so long, we barely made it to the Byrd in time for "The Pink Panther," taking our seats while a Pink Panther cartoon played on the screen, a prelude to manager Todd explaining that the reason "The Pink Panther" film had an animated panther in its credits was because United Artists, then at the height of its creative powers, had just formed an animation department and wanted to show off.

Just as importantly, he pointed out that this was the film where Peter Sellers essentially developed the iconic Inspector Clouseau character and took it to the bank, so we were watching its creation.

Billed as "a madcap frolic of crime and fun," I was enchanted by the movie from the credits - "Clothing by Yves St. Laurent" - right on through the opening scene, which began with, "Once upon a time," as all truly great stories should. Eye candy was everywhere since the movie was set in Rome, Paris and Cortina d'Ampezzo, a ski resort in the Alps, making for a gorgeous travelogue, if nothing else.

But the movie had plenty else, from Sellers' brilliant physical comedy (the scene where everyone's dancing and then stops, except Clouseau, who continue to do the Jerk) and deadpan delivery to a glimpse at 1963 Europe. I may hate cold weather, but I could get used to covering myself with a thick lap blanket for a horse-drawn sleigh ride to my destination in Italy.

Those sleigh bells are nothing if not festive.

For that matter, I'd also love to attend a party like those thrown by the mindless social-climbing doyenne Mrs. Dunning because I've always wanted to go to a party where the dancing involved doing the Twist, the Frug and, yes, the Jerk. I didn't see anyone doing the Pony, but it was  crowded party, so I might have missed it.

Not to mention that every movie should have a scene that starts with a close-up of a woman's behind, followed by her singing and dancing as she moves through the seated party guests, clapping and grooving along.

Fact: we have lost something in party-throwing since the '60s.

YSL's clothes were fabulous, especially the brightly-colored tunic and skinny pants ensembles worn by several female characters. all of whom, by the way, wore massive beehive up-dos. Had the film been in Smell-o-Vision, we'd have been choking on the scent of Aqua Net.

And, man, oh, man, I'd forgotten how drop dead gorgeous Robert Wagner was back then. Almost too pretty boy, but not quite. Even more exquisite was Claudia Cardinale, who was new to me but who possessed such astonishing beauty that just ogling her was enough. I don't know how a straight guy could even follow the story for gawking at her.

But that's not my problem. I've got enough on my plate taking Shallow 101 and Selfishness 101, in addition to my usual non-stop cultural calendar. Tonight, it was all I could do to do dinner and a movie while discussing my progress in the courses.

Mr. Wright likes to say that it takes a lot of thinking and talking to keep up with me. I don't know why. I'm a simple woman.

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