I’ve been “under the weather” this week, and considered canceling my Sunday morning brunch date with my husband. The relentless pouring rain and dizzying side effects from some new massive vitamins my doctor prescribed tried to lull me back to bed and a nap. But I was in NYC last Sunday and missed our date, so I said sure, let’s go.
Plus, I was hungry. Really hungry.
I usually wear a dress on these Sunday brunch dates, and brush my hair, to make the whole thing seem a little more special, and to show my husband he’s important. Wearing lipstick at home unexpectedly is another trick I use rarely but effectively, as needed.
I’m sure hardcore women’s libbers would object to me objectifying myself, but seriously, it doesn’t take much to keep a man happy. Last week, in fact, I wore a tight, scoop neck t-shirt for the whole day, and he stared at me a lot, and told me I was cute, and then he did the dishes.
See what I’m saying? It’s not rocket science, ladies.
Anyway, it seemed too wet and miserable outside to wear a dress, but I wore one anyway, and I let him zip up the back. But I went for the red cowboy boots instead of heels, and my comfortable tweed coat over the top of everything, instead of the shimmery or feathery thing I considered.
Marriage is about compromise.
We got in the car and headed toward Cornucopia, a fun little neighborhood restaurant that’s really grown up since I was a kid back in the 1970’s. And I didn’t let Jane, the GPS lady who lives on our dashboard, piss me off today. Because I am better than her, in a mature sort of way, and she’s a machine.
Just so we’re clear, I know there’s no real reason for me to be jealous of Jane. But I know my husband likes her. She’s calm, and even though it seems like she’s bossing him around when she tells him where to turn in her sexy, yet professional British accent, he calls it “navigating.” Also, she doesn’t bite her tongue and roll her eyes when he makes a wrong turn or ignores her directions. She just re-calibrates, or whatever the hell it is she does, and tells him how to get to his final destination, from this exact point where we are now, this moment, no questions asked.
He can’t help smiling when she says “You have reached your destination.” Every time she says it he smiles. I have to admit, it makes me smile too, when I’m in the mood to not let her get to me.
So anyway, about the breakfast.
Cornucopia used to be a funky little neighborhood market where we’d go buy pop and candy in the summer when we were out riding our bikes and needed a…destination. I remember it was a bit run down and, well, a tiny bit seedy, in a way even a kid notices, so we didn’t go there all the time. Sometimes run-down men would stand outside smoking and drinking things out of brown paper bags.
I also remember talking to a guy, years later, who installed the cable in the studio apartment that was above the store. He said there were two women in the bed sort of, you know, making out, while he was drilling holes and threading cable, which made him very uncomfortable. He kept trying to leave, saying he could come back later, but they said, hey, we waited all day for you to show up, just do your job. He was young, and trying to be professional, and they were not cute at all, if you know what I mean, he said. It’s not that he had anything against lesbians, he insisted, it was just so embarrassing and inappropriate, you know. Seems like a cable guy’s dream, but really, if you’re just a guy trying to do your job? Awkward. He left the cable business shortly after that. Those poor guys get no respect.
But back to breakfast. The place is now completely, 100%, a restaurant and bar. No creepy, smoke-hazed candy counters to be found. It’s all spruced up, with delightful murals painted on the walls and a great patio with strings and strings of white twinkle lights for perfect summer evenings. The staff was energetic and professional, and our waiter even asked us how we wanted our bacon cooked, which totally stumped me at first.
“You know, do you like it crispy? Extra crispy? Or just sort of regular and slightly bendable?”
Crispy, but not too crispy, I said, and he wrote it down.
The food was good and fresh. At first I thought the $9.95 was a bit high for eggs, bacon and french toast, but holy cow, when they brought the plate, I was overwhelmed. They give you a lot of food for $9.95. So much food, that I couldn’t even eat half of it. And I was hungry. I could have easily split the whole breakfast with someone and still had leftovers.
My husband and I talked about life and our kids, their friends, and what we were like at their age. We thought we were quite self-aware back then but were we really? We both hung out with a vast assortment of kids from all different social groups, just because we thought they were interesting. We never got too caught up in what other people thought of who we hung out with.
I think we were always after the good stories, even then, and knew the value of an eccentric. We also knew it was important to know what made the popular kids tick. We both stood on the edge of many circles, a toe dipped in here or there. I was in drama, band, student government, sports, choir, debate, French Club, youth group…I’m sure I’m forgetting something. I was not a cheerleader. Didn’t have the legs for it.
I was not in National Honor Society. He was, and he hung out in the computer lab, teaching himself and the other kids how to program on machines that seem like ancient relics now, but were the building blocks to all the stuff we take for granted today. Funny how the iPhone is a distant relative of the Commodore 64. Probably. I’m sure he’ll correct me if I’m wrong here.
I was not a nerd, even then, I just hung out with them, even then. One nerd we all liked, because he really was a nice kid despite being almost smarter than God, turned out to be an astronaut. Good thing we liked him and didn’t torture him. You’d hate for a nerd to go all postal on you from the Space Station, right?
There are very few people I don’t like, I said. Even if my other friends don’t like them, I still do. People are so interesting. I can’t help but want to get to know most of them.
You expect a lot from your friends though, he said. And you are so disappointed when they let you down. You have very high standards. Almost impossible standards, sometimes. Especially with your family.
Yeah, I said. I know. But it doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Because I do.
Yeah, he said. I know.
And then we asked for a box for all my leftover food, and got in the car and let Jane lead us back to our house and our kids.
He turned up the radio when he finally found a good station playing the classic rock and roll we like. Okay, it’s the Oldies station, which is ridiculous, but true. And then he tried to get me to tell him the names of all the bands that were playing, like he always does.
I recognized all the songs, and could sing along to them (except I forget half the words, but I’ve always been that way…even “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” can trip me up in the middle sometimes) but of course I can’t remember the names. He knows this, yet still, for some reason, after all these years, tries to get me to name them.
I used to get mad at this game, like he was trying to prove his smartness and calling me out on my ignorance, but now I know that’s not it at all. Music is his hobby, he likes to talk about it the way boys talked about baseball cards a generation ago. He knows who produced which albums, which bass guitarists played with certain bands before they switched to other bands. He even knows about composing and the specifics of how music evolved over the centuries. Very nerdy stuff.
“Come on,” he coached, “I know you know this one,” he turned it up a bit, as if the volume would help me remember.
“Of course I know it,” I said, “it’s on the tip of the front part of my brain…”
And then he started giving me little hints, as if we’re playing Twenty Questions or remembering how to do the Quadratic Equation, another thing I’m sure is locked safely away in my brain, somewhere, behind things like his social security number and the year my grandmother was born.
“He was in the Eagles,” he coaxed.
“Wait!” I said in true confusion with a glimmer of hope, “Was Eric Clapton in the Eagles?”
“No,” he sighed, and finally gave up. “It’s Joe Walsh.”
“Oh,” I said. I recognized the name. I could not picture his face. “Is this the Eagles?” I was hopeless. Truly.
“No,” he said patiently, “this is from one of Joe Walsh’s solo albums,” he knew there was no point in educating me any more. I’d forget it all soon enough anyway.
And then he took a wrong turn and Jane re-calibrated.
“Uh, honey…” I said nicely, not bossy at all, “where ya going?” We were just 3 blocks from the house. I knew he wasn’t lost.
“Turn around, when possible,” Jane soothed.
“I don’t know,” he said, “I guess I’m just not ready to go home yet.”