Truth in Waitressing

January 29, 2010

I was out for a family lunch recently and my mom ordered coleslaw with her sandwich. The waitress came back a few minutes later and reported that the “cole slaw’s just, uh, not looking too good.” She let this hang for a second before offering my mom her choice of a different side – it was almost as if she was hoping Mom would jump in, Clint Eastwood style, and announce she was feeling lucky.

This would not be unprecedented in my family. My brother once made a tuna salad sandwich with mayonnaise so expired that it was both runny and extra-tangy. He ate half the sandwich, suffering no ill effects, and put the rest away for later. After his wife came home and deep-sixed the rest of the mayo – she was, incidentally, horrified – Dan actually considered eating the rest of the sandwich. “I figured the first half didn’t get to me, so why not eat the second half?”

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We have friends coming in from out of town tonight, and I’ve just finished baking a lasagna and a batch of cookies. We haven’t yet decided whether we’ll stay in or go out for dinner, but they’re coming a long ways and I know they might be tired – it’s nice to have a viable option for staying in if that’s what we decide to do.

My friends Doris and Mike used to be so good at this – Mike would always have a fun new drink for us to try, as well as something delicious simmering away in the kitchen, and Doris was a great stage setter. Candles, soft pillows and throws, a skillfully selected playlist coming through the iPod speakers, and those little Martha Stewart touches like seasonally appropriate table greenery and pewter napkin rings that I’ve never quite been able to pull off in my own untucked-and-cat-hair-covered life (if there’s not a cat actually sitting on one of the dinner plates before the end of the meal I consider the evening a success).

Our cozy evenings à quatre came to an abrupt end when Doris ran off with my first husband – which, as it turns out, was the most thoughtful thing she ever could have done for me (I know who got the raw end of that deal, and it’s not me and Mike).

In any event, I’ve been thinking that it’s nice to be able to find little bits of inspiration from even the most unlikely people in our lives – even if, in hindsight, we should have told them precisely where they could stick that pewter napkin ring.

Happy Together

May 4, 2009

There is a red jeep with California plates in my driveway. A Fender Stratocaster in my living room. Boy clothes in my hamper. My fiancé, Eric, has officially moved in.

I was thrilled when he announced that he was willing to pack up his whole life and move to New Hampshire from Los Angeles to be with me. I was less thrilled with the idea of all of Eric’s things moving in with me. My house is small, and I’m pretty set in my ways, and I had everything just the way I liked it.

Eric hasn’t “manned up” the place as my friend Lisa feared he might (Lisa’s husband, Sam, has a staggeringly large collection of Simpsons memorabilia; she is not what you might call an impartial observer). He didn’t bring a painting of dogs playing poker, or a mounted moose head, or a lamp fashioned from an empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s. But there have been changes nonetheless.

For starters, we now have all the TV channels. Before Eric moved in, my found-by-the-side-of-the-road 26-incher was equipped with basic cable, which consisted of the major networks, three PBS channels (more Nova than any one person needs), two Spanish-language channels, two shopping channels, two God channels, and a local public access channel that, thrillingly, broadcasts Portsmouth planning board meetings 24/7.

Eric, like most red-blooded men within a hundred miles of Boston, wanted to be able to watch the Red Sox. This required an upgrade to digital cable. When I called Comcast, the operator (a guy, of course) snarkily noted that “What you’re upgrading to is what most people consider basic cable.” The found-by-the-side-of-the-road 26-incher has also been cast aside in favor of a flat screen. (I know it’s only a matter of time before it finds a new home in our bedroom.)

Speaking of the bedroom, I’m learning that one of the biggest joys—and challenges—of cohabitation is sleeping next to your sweetie every night. Neither of us has been getting much shut-eye, due to the wide array of things that can go wrong when two staunchly independent sleepers try to find common ground in the same bed. So far we’ve been flummoxed by various maneuvers, including:

1. The Starfish: One of us goes to bed early and splays out across the entire bed, leaving the latecomer the option of disturbing the starfish (at risk of great personal peril) or attempting to squeeze into one of the microscopically small remaining spaces. This position is usually accompanied by copious amounts of pillow drool.

2. The Chicken Wing: This is a specialty of Eric’s—he rolls over on his side but leaves a deadly elbow poking out behind that nearly always remains undiscovered until it’s too late, when I attempt to spoon him and wind up with two badly bruised ribs.

3. The Accomplice: One of our two cats settles into a tiny but strategically critical region of the bed, taking up more space than any one cat should and becoming as stubbornly immobile as a slab of granite.

4. The Steamroller (aka The Burrito): I’m told this is a favorite of mine. Apparently I slowly yet steadily roll across the bed over the course of the night, accumulating both territory and bedding. By morning Eric is clinging to the very edge by his fingernails—shivering. He’s threatened to line up both cats down the middle of the bed as a kind of furry DMZ.

All in all, we’re doing pretty well. Thank God for caffeine.