Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Comedy of Dining

So we went out to dinner in T-Town, to one of the "districts." Tacoma's quite good with districts--several blocks of shops, restaurants, and cafes in a distinct neighborhood, a good alternative to strip-mall syndrome.

We went to a genuINE (as they used to say in the west) bistro, run by a native of Italy who sings arias as he cooks. The host is Italian, too, and we got there so early that there was no wait-staff, so the host waited table. 'Trouble is, the CD player went nuts, so every CD he played skipped. When it first occurred, the chef/owner/aria-singer shouted, "He fell offa the stage!"--referring to the recorded performer. ("The 'offa' was not feigned; he really talks that way.)

The host is a linear thinker, not a multi-tasker, so he forgot about our drinks while he toiled on the CD player. At a nearby table sat two people who had left their enormous, mellow (and yellow, as it happens) dog outside. The dog stared at them and us, for we were all seated near the window. They had given him some food from the restaurant in a little box, it looked like. Everything was fine until the dog threw up on the sidewalk--really gooey white vomit, which he barfed patiently in puddles that made a wide arc. Two at our table couldn't watch, but for some reason, I was fascinated. One of the dog's owners said, "Oh, my," but did not otherwise show concern, go outside to check on the dog, or offer to clean up the barf. There may be an emblematic difference here between dog-owners and cat-owners. Cat-owners are often ashamed of their cat's behavior, and the cat is almost always ashamed of his or her owners' behavior. Also, I have yet to meet a cat who would wait on the sidewalk while his or her owners dined. The cat would be long gone--or would make such a scene that he or she would be admitted into the restaurant, look at the menu, and sniff disappointment.

Finally we got the host's attention and mentioned the drinks. Mortified, he cried, "I so sorry!" The absence of a verb was charming. The chef yelled at him to turn off the skipping CD player. The host then disappeared behind a curtain in back and appeared to text-message someone--no doubt a waiter or waitress who was late to work. Finally our drinks arrived, and the food was great--I had halibut in a white wine/lemon/caper sauce, on top of fresh, sauteed spinach.

Outside, the dog lay down, his shiny coat just inches from the vomit-arc. Children walking by were, like me, fascinated by the barf. Their parents were alarmed. The dog's owners finally got up and left and took the dog away.

Our check came, and two of us had an extended, confused, farcical "argument" about which credit card to use--like Lucy and Ricky, or is it Rickey? The third in our party looked at us in mildly embarrassed amazement.

As we left, the wine-vendor backed into the place with a hand-truck full of wine-cases, and one of us almost got run over. At that moment, the waiter showed up, squeezing through the doorway. The host and chef yelled their good-byes to us, laughing.

--Dinner out, in T-Town. There's a poem or two in there, no doubt.
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