Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Ladies' Lunch

Not-Kathy's mom and I went to lunch today. She's back in town after fleeing Maine's wintry weather and I haven't seen her so I emailed an invitation to visit the new Janos restaurant downtown.  Her response arrived in my inbox almost before I hit send.  She was delighted with the invitation and with the experience and to see me and to get out of the house and I was overwhelmed by her joy.  I like to be reminded that the simplest things are often the most important.  I love that this time of year provides so many opportunities for them to happen.

I thought I'd be arriving at her house after my class on the Nibelungenlied was over at noon.  Unfortunately for the expansion of my literary horizons, I stopped to say good morning to G'ma on my way to the U and I fell asleep on her couch.  For 3 hours.  In my clothes.... including cowboy boots.  No blanket, just her flattened out couch pillows to support my head, but I was out.  The worker bees come through every 40 minutes or so in the morning, to be sure that G'ma takes her pills on time and that her breakfast tray doesn't arrive before she gets out of bed, and to remind her to shower and eat and prepare for the day.  Apparently, they walked past me for 3 hours and I didn't know it.  Was I snoring? I asked when G'ma made rise-and-shine-noises and I rolled over and saw where I was and what I was doing.  The aide just laughed.  But, as I tell the Cuters, my body was talking to me and it's probably a good thing that I listened.  I had energy and enthusiasm for the day which had been missing before my nap.

Having slept through the class, I hustled The Schnozz down the highway to Bert and Ernie's Sam Hughes Neighborhood home.  Bordering the University, 2 blocks from the stadium and 3/4 of a mile from the major auditorium, it's a city dweller's dream.  Some houses are rented to students and left to go to seed, but her block is filled with homeowner occupied dwellings, meticulously maintained and cared for.  There are block parties and political events and everyone knows everyone else's name.  It's a good place for two 70-somethings to spend their winters.  They bring Not-Kathy and Dr. K's dog, Buddy, in the car with them because the little bichon just hates those Chicago winters.  Buddy's bark is louder than he is large, and it is incessant.  "C'mon humans!  I'm down here! Notice me!"  I do, he shushes and I admire the most creative Christmas tree I've ever seen - a wooden trellis with striped ribbon running to a point at the top, with hand-crafted bells and hearts attached to the cross bars.  There are mini-lights and a fern or two but mostly it's an homage to the notion of a real live tree without much of the hassle.  I may consider switching,..... it sure looks like a lot less work.

Bert had 3 near-death experiences this summer, following the prior winter's near death experience in South America.  Septic Shock is not something you want to hear as your diagnosis - it can start anywhere and recur anytime and the treatment has to be specific to your sepsis and involves iv-antibiotics as well as pills.  They became quite familiar with the EMT's in their little Maine town in their cabin on the lake at the end of a narrow dirt road which dead ends at their property.  15 minutes is making good time from call to arrival; for Ernie, it was a lifetime.  But Bert's healthy now and back to running 6 miles and there's a glow in his cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes which had been overshadowed when last we saw him by the remaining terror of nearly dying in a foreign land.  He's regained confidence as well as strength, and he's now able to explain finances and bill paying and where things are to Ernie in the event that he should not wake up one morning.  Watching her tell me this story, I was struck by how close to disaster they had been, and how unshaken they appeared in the living room.  Once again, I am impressed by the inner strength of my elders.

We left Bert and Buddy to bond as we headed downtown for lunch.  I've been to Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails twice before and each time I sat at the same table.  Today I dropped Ernie off at the door because parking was in short supply.  When I returned after depositing The Schnozz I found her occupying my usual spot.  Janos was there, and I commented that I seem to have become enough of a regular to have a special table all my own.  His smile said it all - I was in with the in-crowd!  Long time readers will know how happy that kind of thing makes me.  For the rest of you - it felt great!

Yam and pineapple soup with little bitty peanuts floating around was followed by Laotian Chicken Salad with papaya and thinly sliced cucumbers and beans and other delicacies sliced razor thin and stacked in a presentation worthy of the cover of a magazine.  The ice tea - plain, brewed, caffeinated and not trying to compete with the flavors of the food by adding mango or peach or honeysuckle - kept coming and the food just kept getting better and better.  Our conversation covered Bert's sepsis and Dr. K and Not-Kathy's lives and their kids and his mother and work and college and Tucson and Rio Nuevo (our downtown renewal program which has funded the retirements of several consultants but hasn't really brought much to the area) and Gabby Giffords and Barack Obama and the state of social security and raising the retirement age and Americans' reluctance to save on their own and then we passed on dessert, split the check and drove over to Antigone Books.

I've written before (tho I can't find them easily enough to include them here) about how difficult it is to negotiate through the downtown area.  There are underpasses and overpasses and train tracks and vacant plots of land.  There are alleys and one way streets suddenly morphing into two way streets and then there is the construction of the new Tucson Electric Power office building right across from where we were parked.  My limited knowledge of how to get from here to there was useless.  All my roads were blocked.  But Ernie was a trouper, and we got to the bookstore and the parking lot and she laughed as I entered the exit and took the last spot.  Bert would never let her do that... and TBG would be screaming his head off if I tried it with him in the car, but the two of us just laughed, parked and shopped.  I do love women so.

Antigone has a feminist slant to itself, but it's also true to its namesake.  Antigone, Creon's niece, wanted to bury her brother according to religious rites.  Creon forbade it.  Antigone did it.  There's a sense of power and steadfastness and certainty to the play which somehow comes to life in the store.  There are Steig Larsson titles and Andrew McCall Smith and then there are feminist tracts and guides to widowhood (Ernie was in that section -- wanting to be prepared) and divorce and children and there were tchotchkes.  Lots and lots of tchotchkes.  My $99 bill included books for friends and myself, ornaments for the women I love, and free gift wrapping for La's Orchestra Saves the World, which I handed to Ernie to put under her very fabulous tree.

Ernie spent no money.  It's no wonder Not-Kathy is the most frugal person I know.  The acorn didn't fall far from the oak in that family.


We arrived at Ernie's front door and neither of us wanted her to get out of the car.  We were having such a good time.  We're a generation apart, I'm her children's friend, we are dealing with totally different life issues, and yet we are pals.  On our own terms, in our own way, we like each other unconnected to any of the ties which might bind us.

The sun was shining, the windows were down, and we were hugging and smiling and making plans to do it again and again and again.  We have become Ladies Who Lunch.

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