Thursday, January 01, 2009

Off to a great start

You can't open a new chapter without closing the old one. When I wrote that sentence, all of 15 seconds ago, something clicked and I had to pause. I really only meant to write it as a cliché opener to describe how I spent New Year's Eve, but I realize now that I have to make good on it.

My traditional New Year's Eve has been to have dinner at the same restaurant at which my wife and I used to have NYE dinner. It's a cute little pub in the midtown area that serves British food (bangers & mash, shepherd's pie, fish & chips, etc.) so there's no reason to go there more than once a year. Being a creature of habit, I continued the tradition even after the divorce, except of course for the year that I was inappropriately groping my then-girlfriend in public. (2006- good times, good times)

I tried to go there last night, but having had a large lunch, I wasn't hungry until kind of late. I got there just before 9pm and was told they were closed. This was crushing, since it occurred to me that if this place was closing, just about everything else would be closed too. I burned-rubber across town to a Mex-Mex favorite of mine (not to be confused with Tex-Mex) and was similarly turned-away. The situation was growing desperate, since the Cuban place I then drove by was not only closed, but completely dark as well. One last chance before I settled for IHOP (how come I never feel like hopping when I leave there?), I drove over to a Spanish place that still had the lights on.

"Is it too late to get a table?" I asked of the gentleman who got up from one of the tables to greet me at the door. "No, no señor. Come in. Where would you like to sit? Is it just you?"

I don't know that I can adequately describe this place. It's in a strip-mall center that is at least 40 years old, off of the main street, and has never been renovated on the outside. If I said it was a dive, you'd think it was a dump on the inside, which it isn't. There's modern art on the walls and it's well-lit and clean. Whether it is or not, it just makes me think of what a very hard-working immigrant family would turn into a very successful word-of-mouth business. But bear in mind, the Spanish do not rush through their meals. I knew I'd be sitting alone for a while. I ordered tapas variedad, cordero jardín, y un vaso de vino roja - that is, an appetizer of sausage, serrano ham, and manchego cheese, a braised lamb shank with vegetables, and a glass of red wine.

It was, of course (claro) fantastic. I especially enjoyed the waiter who spoke only Spanish to me after I ordered in Spanish. I didn't understand a quarter of the shit he said to me, but he ended nearly every visit to my table with es todo bien? (is everything ok?) so all I had to do was pick that out, then smile and answer in the affirmative (sí, sí. bien.) with a patient, knowing nod. I left them a generous tip and wished them un feliz año on the way out, comfortable with the thought of having found a new tradition entirely my own.


At 2:49 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Two posts in a row!

At 3:45 PM, Blogger tinyhands said...

I know, it's crazy, right!? (Just you wait, funny man)


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