Six Misfits Walk Into a Nice Restaurant…
Updated: Feb 1
I couldn’t remember if dinner was at 6:00 or 6:30 so I decided to get there around 6:00. I also did not know what the dress code was, so I put on my black cotton pants that are too long for me, a dark grey batman shirt, and one of three short sleeve plaid shirts I own. I thought I would get fancy by wearing a pair of black Vans instead of the shoes I just ran 5 miles in. I normally wear shorts 364 days a year, but since this was a special occasion, I put long pants on. This was my usual “dress up” outfit, similar to that of a seven-year-old attending a party for grown-ups.
When I met my friends at the front of the waterfront restaurant, I remembered why I shouldn’t have worried for a second about my outfit. Matt, the 39-year-old birthday boy, arrived in a pair of shorts and his finest Star Wars T-shirt. Cathie (wife of Matt) and Julie (sister of Matt) wore pretty much the same outfit as each other– some nice jean type pants and the same swooshing blouse, just different colors. Then there was Monica (youngest sister of Matt and Julie). She had on a white and blue dress that rode quite a bit higher than her knees and had a nice chunk of material missing from the shoulders. She topped it off with a pair of very bright pink, very high heeled shoes. She has bright eyes that actually do sparkle and a matching big smile that lives on her face almost the entirety of every day. Did I mention she is blonde? She endured her share of shit from the rest of us simpletons as we stood in front of the restaurant and compared our outfits.
The six of us entered the restaurant and Julie promptly announced she was headed to the ladies room. Simultaneously, eight people moaned, “What else is new”. I swear Julie has the tiniest bladder any fully grown woman has ever owned. While waiting for Julie to pee and admiring the nifty nautical decorations of the restaurant lobby, out of the corner of my eye I see Matt point at me and say to the maître d’, “There she is. That’s our friend.” Tonight’s dinner was to be a food and beer pairing special event. Since I cannot eat gluten, this is like a diabetic going to a cake and soda pairing. I planned on doing my usual ‘just make do and pick out what I can eat’ and maybe go a little crazy and have a Coke. My purpose of being here was to hang out with some of my most favorite people on Earth and celebrate Matt’s birthday, not to experience fine cuisine and drink delicious beer. Both of which I used to thoroughly enjoy before I found out that it was the Gluten that was causing me all kinds of problems.
I think Matt just outted me as being gluten free. Or maybe he let them know I am indeed a woman, not a twelve-year-old boy. So there is no need to call the police if you find her using the women’s bathroom.
Once Julie finally emerged from the restroom, we all walked to our table begging Monica to please let us take turns and try to walk her pink high heels. I can’t remember exactly why she would not let us, but I think it was something about not wanting any of us to break our necks…. or maybe it was our collar bones she was worried about. I sat down and seriously contemplated whether it was appropriate to put my napkin on my lap or wait, for what, I really didn’t know. But I obviously felt somewhat out of place. I could see from all the beer paraphernalia and many different sized forks and spoons that this evening was going to be another “it sucks to be me” but “I love these people so it’s ok” evening. I really do love food with gluten, and I really do love beer. Or I should say I used to really love the gluten food and I really used to love beer. Don’t ever do one of those “cleanse” diets. You will lose 10 pounds, but it will ruin your life. Trust me. I did a cleanse diet and now I can’t drink beer or eat bread and now I constantly must declare that I cannot eat gluten but explain that I am not a hippy gluten-free weirdo that is into the latest fad. The truth is I really cannot eat gluten. I do go to yoga twice a week and eat kale by choice, but eating gluten ruins me.
I am constantly dragged to brewery tasting by these guys. Once at the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston, I simply mentioned how much I would like to have a beer. Julie screamed, “DON’T DRINK THAT CHRISTY, YOU WILL DIE. I DON’T WANT YOU TO DIE”. Which of course garnered several looks of concern from the 21-year-old hosts whom I am sure all their names were ‘Dude’. It was possible one guy’s name was Greg. Anyways, at this dinner and beer event I decided to not announce I cannot eat gluten as I did not want any special treatment. I would just eat what I can and most likely survive the evening on water and rice.
Before I decided it was time to put my napkin in my lap, the beer started to arrive, and I got to pick who my favorite person was at the moment to hand over my portion of beer to. I think Monica, the pretty lady in the pink high heels, just took it but then gave it to Julie but it then ended up in front of Matt. All I know is that I did not get to pour any beer into my face. I was going to be good not have any alcohol, but I could not overcome the beer’s incredible tractor beam of charismatic properties. I put my napkin in my lap, and I asked our waiter Chad if we could converse in secret. I whispered in his ear, “I cannot eat gluten and looking at all this beer is slowly eroding my happiness. Would it be sacrilegious to ask if your fine restaurant has any gluten free beer?” Chad stood up straight, grinned from ear to ear and said, “Why yes we do, I will bring you an Omission.” Oh, my gawd not only do they have gluten free beer but they have my favorite kind. Chad quickly returned with my beer and an ice-cold glass as the centerpiece of a small round tray held above his head. As he poured ice cold beer into my ice-cold glass he stated, “We are so sorry you cannot partake in the beer tasting of this evening. I have been directed to keep a full glass of Omission beer in front of you at all times.” I had no clue as what I did to deserve this. I hastily began looking for another way home after dinner. My beer loving friends poured their hearts into figuring out a way for me to get home that did not involve me driving. There were many offers to sleep on a variety of people’s couches. I think one option left me sleeping in my car in Livermore somewhere. I even pulled out my phone looking for one of those services that drive you and your car home. For $135 dollars I could drink $10 worth of beer. I sadly decided to slowly relish only two beers instead.
We had an amazing table seating as those on my side of the table faced the tall windows and had a gorgeous view of the San Leandro harbor. As Julie pointed out, those on the other side of the table, the one’s with their backs against the window, had views of the amazing Ray, Julie, me and the blonde lady in the short dress and pink shoes. As I looked out onto the harbor, I realized the last time I was at this harbor was almost exactly a year ago. Armed with a bottle of 12-year-old Jameson, three wonderful people and myself climbed aboard Mike Fulford’s trawler, the Snappy Ray, for a cruise around the bay. That day was incredible. I adored Mike. He was smart, witty and almost as sarcastic as me. He could bullshit a giant pile of bullshit. I refer to him as Mr. Fulford and he calls me Krusty. He doesn’t even have the courtesy to spell it with a ‘C’. That day a year ago on the Snappy Ray we cruised the bay and joked and talked and I learned everything a person would want to know about the Bay’s fascinating anatomy and currents. I had recently been diagnosed with PTSD. I was struggling with it and ashamed as all fuck. But Mr. Fulford really understood and thought nothing less of me. He was incredibly supportive, and I could tell him anything. My excitement of never-ending beer quickly changed to reflection of my pal Mr. Fulford, who a month after that boat ride, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He never made it back to the Snappy Ray.
The first course of food and beer pairing began to arrive. The executive chef in his executive chef outfit and the master brewer in a black shirt came out and said a few words. I could hardly hear a single thing they had to say. I instead heard so many people in the restaurant continuing to talk and I was just searching to give someone the evil eye. I was trying to figure out if it was coming from the special food and beer paring section but then realized it was the rest of the restaurant that carried on with their conversations. For some reason I felt I had to make sure each of this the six times they came out to talk….just in case someone needed a shushing – I was ready to deliver it. As my plate was placed in front of me, Chad simply stated, “100% gluten free.” I was finally a normal person as I got to eat the same salad everyone else was eating. In fact, the sexy lady in the dress and pink shoes did not want her salad so I ate hers too, just to feel extra normal. In return, I gave her my gluten laden beer. Not sure how it was that the thinnest person at the table drank extra beer and ate everything except her salad. I must be doing it all wrong. None the less, the arugula salad with grilled watermelon (there were no grill marks to be found. I am sure of this as I looked very carefully) was delicious. I purposely left a large piece of arugula on top of my front teeth and asked Julie, “Hey do I have anything in my teeth?” She laughed and then said, “No.” I then saw she had a chunk of greenery her front teeth and said, “Well, you do.” Apparently, I had even more crap in my teeth. We spent the next ten minutes making buck teeth horse faces at each other trying to help the other on locate the offending leaf.
Pork that had been smoked, cooked and cared for the span of like an entire week (according to what little I heard the executive Chef say), wrapped in a gorgeous fluffy white bun with Hoisin sauce and some other beer I couldn’t drink was the next course. I love Hoisin sauce. I wanted to stick my fingers in everyone’s little side dish of Hoisin sauce. But for the gluten free non hippy that I am, it is ‘poison’ sauce. I received several looks of “so sorry you cannot eat this amazing food we are eating.”
As I began to feel sorry for myself, “A plate of steak medallions glazed with a homemade teriyaki sauce, atop a bed of soft rice with sprouts gently arranged over both for you Christy” was elegantly delivered by Chad. Suddenly the rest of the table’s sorry for me looks changed to “I want to be you” looks.
The third course was a scallop and shrimp ceviche on a taro root chip. So happy was I to have something I could eat just like everyone else. I think it was so delicious just because it was something I could eat. The white and purple taro chip was sliced amazingly thin and was about the width of a small tortilla. Julie, one of the smartest people I know, asks, very loudly “Did they just smash a bunch of taro root together or is it really this size??” I placed another beer given to me that I couldn’t drink in front of her and said, “It’s not baloney Julie.”
Next, an adorable little golf ball sized scoop of blood orange sorbet on top of a thin orange slice was our third course or what they called ‘the intermezzo’. Which we figured it meant ‘intermission’ and thus perfect timing as Julie stood up and said, “I have to go to the bathroom.” As did I. And since I closely resemble a filled out 12-year-old boy, I prefer to walk into public women’s room with other women who don’t look like 12-year-old boys. I told the hot blonde in the pink shoes to get up, you’re coming with us.
Upon walking back to the table from the restroom, I stood behind my chair gazing out at the harbor. The pink and blue sky pulled at my brain’s attention. I then walked right up to the window, never taking my eyes off the boats. I could see the Snappy Ray in her covered slip all tucked and put to bed with her pajamas on. Mike made those pjs so they would be custom fit for Snappy. He took incredible care of that wooden boat. Everything was pristine and perfect. It broke my heart to see her just bobbing in the water, empty and tied to the dock. It broke my heart even more that Mike couldn’t walk well enough to climb aboard because of his brain tumor. My thoughts were broken by Chad asking, “Is it time for another Omission Christy?” I turn to see Chad’s grinning face and answer, “Why yes, it is dear Chad.” I returned to my chair I feeling like I wore a tiara and glass slippers rather than spiked gray hair and Vans.
Another round of fancy food on white plates began to arrive. Kobe beef Sliders with spicy cucumber salad and shoestring fries cooked in duck fat. The dish looked amazing although the cucumber salad was one slice of cucumber with some carrot slices. The entire room was beside themselves with the mention of duck fat. They started to applaud when the Chef said, “Duck fat.” You probably could have brought out a bowl of warm duck fat for everyone to lick off their fingers and they would have been happy. As I looked down and my empty space of white tablecloth while everyone ooo’d over their duck fat fries, I thought, here I am again. Different from everyone else. Chad arrived and bowed saying to me, “Your dinner will be here shortly. I continued to stare at my friend’s meal while shaking my head. Then, it arrived. “For me?!” I said to Chad. “Why yes. YOU are the lucky one tonight,” Chad replied. I took one bite of my smoked sirloin steak and declared out loud to my table mates, “IT SUCKS TO BE YOU.” I let the jealousy wash over them for a while before I shared. I believe that to be the best piece of meat I have ever put in my mouth. I declared, “I think this is the best night of my life!” Julie says, “Don’t tell your wife that!” I replied, “We were married in the afternoon, so it’s all good.” That piece of meat and Omission beer was so much better than those tiny balls of Kobe beef and whatever beer that smelled like pee that they just served.
I can rarely eat restaurant dessert (because of the gluten problem), but tonight – it was all up my GF alley. Chocolate flour-less tort with peanut butter mousse and some crazy bedazzled whipped cream. My table when even crazier over the dessert than they did the duck fat. What a treat to partake in sharing the experience with them instead of the usual, “Oh my gawd this is so good…. oooo I am so sorry you can’t have any Christy.” As everyone lovingly placed spoonfuls of tort and mousse in their mouths, the declaration of its goodness became a tad bit ridiculous. I covered the back of a spoon with chocolate sauce and lathered my face with chocolate. I closed my eyes and stood up and proclaimed, “This really is the best night of my life.” Everyone at the table let out a rather hearty laugh. There I was, their GF, gay friend who dresses like a 12-year-old boy. Even though it wasn’t my birthday, the birthday guy made sure I was taken care of. These friends always make sure I am taken care of.
When we headed out, I took a last heartfelt look at the Snappy Ray and pictured Krusty and Mr. Fulford sipping fine Irish whiskey while out on the San Francisco Bay. The six of us then exited into the comfortable evening air and slowly walked towards our cars. We saw the handsome, young executive chef as he walked out of the restaurant. He had a six pack of beer tucked under his arm. He got to his car and a handful of nicely dressed and heavily made-up women stood waiting for him. As he walked by us, the chef handed the blonde lady in the sexy dress and pink shoes a bottle of beer in a way that a six grade boy hands a note to a girl in class, asking her if she will go steady with him. We laughed or asses off all the way to our cars. Monica’s face couldn’t decide whether to be embarrassed or proud. But she knew she could be both because the love for each other in this group is unconditional. In this group you will absolutely get laughed at, but you will be loved even more for the very thing they laughed at you for.