Losing Your Lunch

Yesterday I thought I’d take a much needed break from the un-pack-a-thon to hang with one of my all-time favorite people.  Ever have one of those people that just makes your brain feel good?  Very rarely do I analyze a logo, layout, or writing approach without pondering what Jess’s take would be.  I respect her opinions both personally and professionally — and I can only think of about four other people that would fall into that category, not including Justin Timberlake of course.

For starters, this gal is smart as a frickin’ whip.  (That saying makes absolutely no sense.  I’ve never met a smart whip.  Not that you even meet whips as they’re inanimate objects and all.  I never met a telephone either.  As my Carolina kin say, “That don’t make no sense.”)  I am in awe of the way her mind works and clarity with which she expresses herself.

Even more enjoyable though is the way she makes my brain work.  That sounds wrong.  It’s not about a brain work-out exactly.  She just has a way of reflecting a puzzle back to you so that the answer is crystal clear and achievable.  She makes feats you’d think were impossibly beyond your wildest capabilities a breeze.  Couple all that with her wicked sense of humor and creative flair, and I can’t think of a more pleasant way to work out chemo brain kinks.

So with all the clear headed decisions I’ve been making the past couple of weeks (ordering a dish washer, organizing my ball point pens by color, trying to move a dresser by myself and ruining the floor, eating buffalo wings for breakfast, etc), I was giddy to have a little sanity check with my grrrl.  I woke up all enthused and even showered in anticipation…shampoo and everything!  I didn’t even mind the monsoon ‘cause rainy, cold, and miserable weather would only foster our discussion of all things Cullen.  (Holy Lederhosen, I feel so much better knowing that smart, sane, perfectly well-balanced Jess is as obsessed with Twilight as this crack whore.

As she’s the pickier eater, I let her choose the restaurant — some cool trendy joint in the west village called Garage.  She’s so much hipper than me it’s actually physically painful.  Rocco’s dental drilling took less time than anticipated, so he was able to join us as well.

The place had a nice vibe and cozy booths…and a certifiable waiter.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED this dude.  Clearly he’d selected the background music which floated out of the speakers…all rat pack, all the time.  He was rockin’ Dean’s hair and Frank’s swagger as he glided over to our table.  “Hiya Boss,” he said to Rocco. “What can I get you kids?”

I don’t know what possessed Rocco but he responded, “Coffee — and can I call you Zippy?”   Sidebar: Rocco has a tendency to take on the qualities of tofu on occasion.  Much like bean curd, which absorbs whatever flavors it’s cooked with; Rocco absorbs whatever situation he’s in.  At a BBQ in Virginia, his drawl is thicker than Barbara Bush’s ankles.  At Yankees Stadium, he sounds like the missing member of the Sopranos.  Apparently in a swing-style restaurant he turns into Rocco Davis, Jr.

Surprisingly the waiter responded, “I dig your style.  Back with the coffee in a jiffy.”  Jess and I looked at each other dumbfounded.  I’m so glad she was there, otherwise I would have convinced myself I made the whole thing up.  Then I debated ordering a sidecar.

As seems to always be the case when we haven’t seen each other in far too long, we jumped right into conversation without even glancing at the menu.  Zippy was fortunately a good sport and didn’t seem to mind cruising over every ten minutes or so to refill Rocco’s coffee and have us tell him, yet again, that we had still not decided what we wanted.  Of course we apologized for being so indecisive, but as there were a whopping two other people in the restaurant, I think it’s safe to say we weren’t really hogging the table.  “It’s all buttons to me,” was Zippy’s response to the apologies.  OK, Daddy-o.  I’m a little surprised he didn’t call us dames.

After at least forty-five minutes we forced ourselves to come up from the conversation for a brief gasp of air, and to look at the menu.  Zippy could barely contain his excitement, “Any questions about the menu?”  We peppered him with many and settled on our selections.  With the particulars taken care of, we dove back into our frantic attempts to catch up on the five million things we’d missed in the past month or so.  I was distracted more than once by some fairly odd odors.

Sadly, smell is my one sense worth a damn – I’m deaf from too many years of going to painfully loud rock shows, I still need glasses even after that silly laser eye surgery, my palate is about as sophisticated as a three year old’s, and I’m still a little numb in the fingertips from chemotherapy caused neuropathy.  But smell?  I can tell you if there’s a gas leak anywhere on our block from inside our apartment.  Smell is certainly the best possible sense to have in spades when you live in one of the smelliest places ever.  NYC can get pretty darn pungent in the hot sweaty summer.  It only gets better during a garbage strike. Also nothing is quite as memorable as the sweet swell of Jersey at low tide.  Yum.  And then there’s Rocco after a full day at an un-airconditioned load-in, a cheeseburger with onion rings, and a cigar.  Yay for a sense of smell.

I couldn’t identify any of the smells that were hitting me, I just knew they weren’t proper food smells.  I peeked around a little to see if maybe someone was wiping down a table, dusting something, or maybe repairing the cappuccino maker.  The smells would dissipate and I was immediately drawn back into the amusing conversation.

Suddenly a loud bell started ringing.  It didn’t stop.  Blue lights in the corners started flashing.  Our eyes all bugged out, including Zippy’s.

Then the horrendous chirping started. Some whole other alarm was now going off.  Amusingly, all five patrons and the wait staff made absolutely no movement to the door.  Who says New Yorkers are jaded?  I wonder if any of us would have taken the situation more seriously if huge orange flames had been erupting from the kitchen.  Then again, I doubt it.

Suddenly my nose crinkled with distaste – the restaurant was filled with a white haze and overwhelming chemical smell.  The chirping seemed to have stopped but the bell rang on and on as the lights strobed.  We decided that we could probably ignore the bell after a cocktail…just so long as the chirping didn’t start again.  I mean, we’d already invested an hour in getting some food.

Zippy sauntered over somewhat sheepishly.  “I’m not going to charge you for the coffee, boss.”  We looked at each other blankly, then back at Zippy.

“About your food…it seems the ventilation system was broken in the kitchen so all the alarms went off.”  More blank looks.

I’ve never worked in a real restaurant.  We certainly didn’t have a ventilation system in the busted ass pizza joint I worked in briefly back in Virginia.  Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to learn we didn’t even have a fire alarm.  Somehow we all assumed they would just flip the breaker or something and all would be resolved in a matter of minutes.  I reached for the wine list.

“No, see, the food…” Zippy broke off, clearly disappointed in our swingin’ booth for not following his train of thought.  “The extinguisher dumped the fire retardant right onto the cook top…onto the food.  We’re going to have to close for a while.”

Oh.  Well.  That’s a whole other story.

“I’d be happy to suggest other restaurants in the area,” Zippy offered as a concession.

As we left the restaurant, five or so fire trucks descended from all angles, completely blocking off Seventh Avenue South.  As we stumbled defeated through the pouring rain in search of another dining option, we took a poll.  None of us had ever experienced such a thing.  Just goes to show you never know what’s going to happen when you leave the house…hell, not even when you stay in it.


  1. Dude, are you in my marriage or what?!? I especially appreciate the part about how you’re in the shower or in another room on top of a ladder and can’t HEAR him when he starts demanding that you find things for him. I laughed so hard I cried!

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