If Pez spit out square pieces and not rectangular, if it were concrete and not candy, and large and heavy …… not tiny and light, you would think a giant Pez dispenser laid the sidewalk along my street. 4′ x 4′, the concrete squares parade in frozen formation down my perfect road. But.. wait a minute….hold on now– they are not quite perfect and not, really, frozen.
Just before 7:00 PM. I’m hungry. Too tired to think much about where to eat. I know just the place. It’s the kind of place you would choose only when you didn’t think too much about it, a place where nobody knows your name unless you are Dutch. Russes restaurants– Holland Michigan— where the menu always stays the same– in fact– the menu, specifically, the one that you are holding, is the same. A nine year old kid flips through the menu and says, “Hey, I remember leaving this ketchup stain here when I was little.”
Mom and Dad think back wistfully, “That’s right, you were about two and half when you left that.” Ewww.
I walk through the door. The sign warns, “Soup and salad bar close at 7:00.”
It’s 6:57. The old guy that is hosting is more interested in impressing the teen waitress than seating customers so he ignores me. A waitress motions me to the booth just inside the dining area. “I’ll be right back to get your drink order in a bit.”
In a “bit” the soup and salad bar would be closed, so I ask as she speeds by me, “Can I get the bar?”
Just as I knew she would, she looks at her watch and says, “It’s going to be closing soon.” Anywhere else in the world they would leave it open for a last minute customer— not Russes.
“Look,” I beg, “I will run over and get my soup and salad and then you can get my drink order.”
Graciously, she says, “Oh, go ahead.”
I groveled to get to this soup bar to choose from their four mediocre varieties all of which were, possibly, life-threatening. Remember the bar had been going since 11:00 AM (not a minute earlier). Two of the soups were too disgusting to remember, but I knew I could make something that I could choke down if I combined the two other, Chicken corn chowder and Chicken with rice. Combine them about 50-50 and they weren’t half-good but better than combining the split pea with anything.
My waitress was waiting for me when I got back to the table with my 50-50 soup and a salad of translucent slimy iceberg lettuce with a hint of carrot. The toppings were palpitating so I passed on them but the French dressing didn’t let me down. I could, showing how I classy I am, sucked that dressing down with a straw.
She shoved a glass of lukewarm water with three dice sized pieces of ice and disappeared until I would later, once again, beg her for something else.
Now, it was time to dine and enjoy the stolen ambiance that I could gain by listening to the conversations in the booths in front of me and behind me. Eavesdropping in Russes– an old Holland tradition.
Front booth– a sixty year old man and his eighty year old mom were holding a consult on skin cancer. He was reading all the different kinds of skin diseases displayed on his smart phone. He read in great detail of lesions, bleeding, itchiness and pus while turning his phone around so mom could enjoy the pictures too. I couldn’t clearly see the pictures on phone but one looked a lot like my lettuce.
Behind me, the foursome was expressing great concern over an acquaintance that had cancer. They never mentioned her in the very audible prayer for the food that was set before them. I couldn’t decide if it was more shocking that they could give thanks for the Russes’ food or that they ignored their dying friend in prayer.
The best was yet to come when they began guessing when she would die. It would have been like an NCAA basketball tourney pool but no money was mentioned.
There was a lot going for this meal. Lettuce that looked like skin cancer. Soup made palatable only by my alchemy. Conversation to the front and to the back that was worthy of adolescent boys.
So the waitress comes and says, “Do you want any dessert.” Anyone in his right mind would have said, “No, just the bill,”
I said, “Got any apple pie?”
She said, “No, here’s your bill.”
This grandpa was sitting in the row behind me at the Whitecaps baseball game. I discerned his grandpa-ness because the three year old girl sitting on his left, on his right and in his lap kept calling him that. She was very talkative, very active and very in to being a granddaughter.
First came the tri-colored ( pink, yellow and blue) cotton candy. This was the first course on the belly ache special. Apparently, this is what Grandpas do. Buy junk.
Grandpa: “You aren’t eating any pink.”
Kid: “I don’t like the pink.”
GP: “Did you try it?”
GP “It tastes just like the others. How do you know you don’t like it?”
K. “I just know”
GP. “I will try it. Mmmmmm. Tastes good– just like yellow and the blue. Wanna try it?”
They put the lonely pink cotton candy back in the bag and sat it in the empty seat next to me. I asked, “Can I try it?” Gramps, seeing my plan, says, “Sure.”
I, who hate this spun fiberglass insulation like concoction, take a bite. In complete honesty, I smile and say, “It does taste just like the yellow and the blue. Do you want to try it before it is all gone?” My mind is worried about swallowing a fiberglass product.
The little girl says— what else– “No.”
I turn around….defeated and watch the ball game. The little girl taps me on the shoulder and says, “You can have the rest.”
This is what it is like to grandparent. My stomach hurts too much right now to tell you about her adventures with caramel corn and peanuts but I will get around to that in the next couple days.
I like poetry and baseball and seldom get the two confused.
There are few things better than Pecan Pie.
There is no “new 40.” ……. or “50”…. or “60” for that matter.
Confusion doesn’t bother me. I kind of like it.
Of all the places I have ever lived, my favorite is waiting for me in the future
I often look forward to forgetting.