I’ve got a coupla Achilles’ Heels. Two things that I just can’t seem to control.
First, I can’t pay attention. Seriously.
If you’ve ever been to a dude ranch and rented a horse, you know the experience of sitting on a nag that just u-turns back to the barn. You walk the mare a few feet and she does a 180. You’re sitting there in front of a hay bale going nowhere.
That’s me – one minute staring at Gmail on my phone, the next minute attention fixed on Gmail on my laptop, and the next minute responding to chatter from my wife with a fake “Uh, huh,” while I check on the latest post on one of five sites that my mouse-hand gets pulled to…every 7 minutes or so. Oh, and then there’s Gmail on my iPad.
She’s starts testing me:
“What did I just say?”
“I’m working, I didn’t hear you. You can’t keep disturbing me. I’m very busy. My life is hard. I have to bring home the bacon,” I say.
“Bacon? Wait a minute. You’ve been checking Rotten Tomatoes for the last 45 minutes. How difficult is that?”
“Sylvester Stallone has a new movie. I’m watching a promo video of him making pasta. I’m Italian and that’s important. You wouldn’t understand.”
“You’re correct – I don’t understand. What you missed was that your kids are coming over tonight!”
“Why didn’t you tell me!?” I say.
The computer screens are sort of like Richard Pryor’s crack pipe – he could never get too far away without it issuing soothing appeals to light up. It was like Ulysses and the Sirens of Lesbos – they had to tie him to the mast to keep him from steering onto the rocks.
So, my wife tells me that my cousin, a Manhattan 911 firefighter, is getting married in Brooklyn and we’re invited. I’m struck with fear because my three screens don’t want to leave L.A. for the unfamiliar – New York. I know because the cell phone whispers this to me.
After an impressive two-month sales job (mostly she pounded away at me), I finally agreed to go.
New York is cold and wonderful and we’re walking everywhere, occasionally taking a subway and trying to act cool like locals.
But wait, what’s my second obsession?
While most men covet 6-pack abs and a concrete chest, I wanna look like Twiggy – super heroin-chic.
All my friends are into organic food-combining sans dairy and gluten. I, on the other hand, skip everything on the label but the calorie count…and the number of servings – because now those bastards are trying to disguise the calories by doubling up on the servings. A soft drink says “60 calories per serving,” but there’s 4 servings in the can!
Normally laissez-faire, I strongly backed Mayor Bloomberg when he enforced the 16-ounce soda rule in New York City.
And I love the fact that restaurant chains have to stick calorie estimates on their menus. It makes you think twice when you realize your “short” latte is a whopping 780 calories long.
With these two neuroses converging on a Brooklyn Italian Wedding banquet, surely I was headed for the perfect storm.
To complicate matters my sister and her husband join us. Not content to see a few Broadway shows and Christmas with the Radio City Rockettes, she tracks down a massive Manhattan clothing sale and loads up on bargains…all stuff she’s going to have to cart back to California. Then she starts her full court press for a ride to the wedding in our sub-compact rental car.
Event day, we have to drive to Brooklyn in a Ford Focus filled to the ceiling with our own suitcases, and my sister hoping for a ride. (Of course, my wife is all about, “Why take a suitcase when you can take three?”)
We pull up to their hotel and I show my brother-in-law the backseat and offer to lie down on the luggage, even though I’ll only have 3 inches of breathing room.
They end up renting a van, and we caravan to the heartland: Brooklyn, NYC.
The wedding is wonderful. Really heartfelt. Lots of firefighters, lots of Italians. Lots of Brooklyn.
The Reception is where it all fell apart. As we hiked up the long-terraced entryway and entered the first ballroom, we cast our eyes on 20 servers standing at attention, one every 3 tables. Chafing dishes full of Italian delicacies flowed as far as the eye could see. The first item on my plate was the Beef Bragiole, or Bra-jole if you’re a fan of Silver Linings Playbook. It’s a steak with ricotta cheese and other goodies rolled in.
One of these was a meal.
There were 60 more dishes waiting for me…on the west wall, with even more on the north and east walls. My girlish figure was toast.
After the Bragiole, there was the Chicken Scarpariello, the Veal Spiedini, the Eggplant Rollatini, the Chicken Rafael and the Broccoli Rabe. Then the stuffed pork with prosciutto bread crumbs.
I even tried some of the Tripa al Romana – cow stomach.
Then, musta been a tribute to Marco Polo, we had a Chinese table with ginger pork and spare ribs, followed by clams, mussels and calamari.
Turn the corner and you had twenty feet of antipasto bar with giardiniera (pickled vegetables), bruschetta, and some glorious caponata (sort of vegetables in tomato sauce), and escarole with canole beans.
Turn right, and we had a custom pasta bar: they’re making any style of noodle or gnocchi right in front of you.
Finally, the piece de resistance, a caviar table.
I embarrassed myself apologizing to all the servers pleading for “just a tiny piece” of this and a smidge of that. Still I’m standing there holding up two full plates.
It was like a trek through catering heaven that took 20 minutes to finally get back to the table.
In spite of pacing myself, I’m full after about 4 bites, but manners and mommy dictate I must clean my plate.
I look around the room and men’s belts are being loosened. Women are fanning themselves. The place is stuffed.
There’s talk of a jumpin’ dance band, but who can get out of their seats, weighed down by so much wonderful food.
Then, like a scene from a horror film where you’re lulled into a false sense of security only to find yourself trapped in a closet with the chainsaw dude…the door to the main ballroom swings open and a maitre d’-looking-guy-from-hell-appears. Out of his mouth comes those 3 deadly words:
“Dinner is served.”