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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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Vive la Anniversaire!

Last night, the missus and I went out for a fancy anniversary dinner.

(Say it with me, now: ‘OFF THE HOOK! OFF THE HOOK!“)

Now, I don’t get let out into gentrified proper company very often. This is by mutual arrangement between me and the aforesaid gentrified proper company. They don’t appreciate the ratty jeans and rugby shirts I wear to their box socials and formal balls. And I don’t like them not serving beer at those shindigs, and not appreciating any dirty jokes about ‘formal balls’ or ‘box socials’. Fancy people are from Mars, and I’m from some backwards filthy ghetto on Venus, apparently. And I’m okay with that.

But occasionally, like last night, I’m exposed — but never exposing myself; my wife is very clear on that point — to polite company. And for a kid who grew up on the mean uncultured streets in the metaphorical foothills of Gula Mons, it’s pretty fascinating.

“It’s been reputed all over town. The place practically drips with repute. You could repute your fancy balls off in there.”

Take our anniversary dinner. We — or, as you married guys may appreciate, “we” — picked out a local French restaurant of some significant repute. It’s been reputed all over town. The place practically drips with repute. You could repute your fancy balls off in there.

(See, and that’s just the sort of coarse wordplay they’d frown down their nose about. If it’s possible to frown down your nose at someone without some significant facial surgery of some kind. Like an auxiliary nose implant, or a radical mouth liftening.

The logistics aren’t especially important. Some people will find a way to huff at you, regardless of how their faces are arranged.)

Anyway, I was on my best behavior. I wore a jacket and tie, as requested — and added pants and shoes, too. That’s “value added” stuff, right there. I kept my fly zipped the entire time, never snapped my fingers for the waiter, and refrained — with supreme effort — from ordering ‘Frahnch bread’, ‘Frahnch fries’ or ‘Frahnch dressing‘. I was very proud of me. Obviously.

In appreciation, perhaps, the staff at the restaurant took very good care of us. Very good care. This was one of those places that most of us only see in the movies sometimes, with people on the payroll assigned to handle every conceivable little task pertinent to the dining l’experience. We got a taste of this right away when we walked in the door and immediately faced two things — an elevator door and a professionally gracious European lady who asked for the name on our reservation. I’m not sure what sort of withering scorn she was capable of oozing, had we been sans reservation information. But luckily, we were not sans. We were avec. And so, with a slight smile and a flourish, she pressed the button for us to call the elevator.

(She had company, too. A man in a natty vest stood beside her during our exchange. I assumed at first that he was a valet — but looking back, it’s equally likely he was some sort of elevator-button-pusher assistant. Like if the woman breaks a nail or goes hoarse or has to shoo the riff-raff out of the vestibule, he’d take over for all of the patrons’ elevator-button-pushing needs.

I’m sure his parents are tres proud.)

The elevator delivered us to the main floor, where we were greeted by an impossibly spritely young girl whose sole job, as far as I could tell, was to greet people delivered from the elevator in as spritely a manner as possible. Or impossible, if at all possible. She cheerily informed us that she’d fetch the ‘maitre’d to further our dining adventure.

In other words, ‘seat us’. Loosely translated from impossibly spritelish.

That was just the beginning of a whirlwind of servers we encountered throughout the evening. The place had a sommelier. Also, a resident fromagier. I’m pretty sure we also ran into a water-pourier, a silverware-swappier and a what-you’re-eating-describerier, in addition to a half-dozen other nattily attired and articulate folks who brought food, cleared plates, folded napkins, explained menus and gently swept crumbs from the table. It takes a village to raise a kid, I hear — but it takes the entire city of Boston to run a proper French restaurant, apparently. I’d love to make an actual joke about the service — but good god, they were just so startlingly efficient.

(I suppose with a waitcast of thousands, that’s to be expected. I just don’t get that at the local dive bar ‘n’ burger watering holes. You ask the bartender for a soup spoon, he’ll probably cut you with it. Whole different ball game, I’m saying.)

The food was quite good, as well. We didn’t go entirely ‘whole-hog’ — we didn’t have our mortgage papers and credit score verification with us, for starters — but we did put our taste buds in the hands of the chef for an anniversary multi-course extravaganza. And that came with some over-the-top service, as well. There was an unlisted ‘pre-dessert dessert’ course, which was small but tasty, as well as an ‘amuse-bouche’ before the first course.

(I thought that was something you’d request from the right sort of Parisian hooker. Turns out it involves a spoonful of roasted duck meat with a creamy sauce and a sprig of herbs.

It’s probably a good thing I’ve never met a Parisian hooker. I’d have probably embarrassed myself.

Though not as badly as the time I asked the waiter at our last French restaurant for the menage a trois — medium rare, and with a side of fingerling potatoes. That’s tough to come back from. I couldn’t even make eye contact when he ran down the souffles. Hawkward.)

Overall, it was a fantastic experience, with as little anxiety as possible during an evening where I had absolutely zero idea what the hell I was doing. It was a little like having sex for the first time. There were utensils that I’d never seen before, and didn’t know in what order to use them. When something new showed up, I put it in my mouth and thanked whoever brought it. And I knew better than to ask afterward, ‘So… how much is this costing me?

(Don’t make me describe parallels with the cheese course. Nobody wants that. Trust me.)

For three full hours, they threw food — and paired wines — at us, which led to my favorite part of the evening. The missus and I waddled back to the car, and as I was driving us home, we chatted about the meal and the service and the fancy elevator-button jockeys. And an odd confluence struck me, a relationship between our anniversary meal splurge and our marriage. So I said:

Hey, do you realize — we were just at dinner one minute for every month we’ve been married. Pretty cool, eh?

Now, if this had been some artsy French film — to go with the French dinner — then she’d have done something dramatic. Thrown herself out the door, or cried black-and-white tears over a handwritten ‘Fin‘ valet tag on the window, or puffed a long cigarette and clicked, ‘Oui. And I stopped loving you during the foie gras.

But our life isn’t a French art film, and so she did none of those things. Instead, she looked over at me with bordeaux-soaked eyes and said, ‘Yeh… cool, hon.‘ And then passed out in a food-and-wine coma until we pulled into our parking spot. Greatly preferable, from where I was sitting.

So we had a pretty great time, and it was nice — tie and all, I have to admit — to see how the other half eat in style. Maybe we’ll return there in a few years for our next big anniversary date.

Or maybe we’ll be happy to eat from the burrito stand by then. They’ve got no button-pushers on the payroll, and only got two guys to wait on us, but the ‘amuse-refried-beansche‘ are outstanding. Burrito appetit, mon cheri!

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Vive la Anniversaire!”

  1. ema says:

    nice! the only request is now…..picture picture picture picture picture picture …… of you in tie and jacket!!! you should swap it with the one in the blog and call yourself ‘mon Scharlie’

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