Monday, April 03, 2006

III. Throwing Wishes To the Sea

Part I.
Part II.

All in all, it's a great day for screaming and yelling. We meet Ivan in the parking lot of a strip mall called the Pacific Pavilion and the most "Pacific" thing about it is the California Tanning Salon. It is the kind of place swearing in traffic was invented for. Paulie and I drove there last time in his 1960 Catalina and we thought we were late for dinner so Paulie was extra creative with traffic rules. Suddenly, we both realized we were about to pass the one and only entrance, so he spun the wheel to the right, launched the giant Pontiac at the strip mall and slammed it into Park. We sat there, panting, for a few seconds, unable to truly believe we weren't in a smoldering heap, until I said, "Well, then, should we start searching for the transmission?"

Tonight, Siobhan parks and we bounce out to stretch our legs. Ivan bounds the length of the parking lot to meet us. He is more than a foot taller than me so it's nice seeing his thorax again. I'm shivering so we climb back into Siobhan's Ford Excoriator which is full of other people's stuff so Siobhan sits in the driver's seat, Ivan sits in the passenger seat and I fold in thirds and sit upside down between them, hoping it's not flattening my hair. We sit this way until Lisa yanks open the passenger seat and uses my right leg like a first-class lever.

Diners at the Moroccan restaurant arrive in parties of two or more and are seated in sections that challenge Western notions of personal space. Though Mila is still en route, we are seated in a section with two tables and the other party in our section is young women and an older couple. We make every effort to avoid eye contact with the other party; when Lisa and I overhear someone say, " was like that time I had my uvula removed..." we glance at each other but not at them.

Ivan hands around packs of pictures. One is a roll of his kids, who are beautiful. I have photos of them in my living room. Another pack is from a costume party everyone at the table went to but me. They're all members of the SCA, and I used to hang out with them for fun and know half the people so I take the pictures and three pictures into the pile I get a bad feeling, and five pictures later, there's Morgan. Ivan can be such a bitch sometimes. I hand the pack to Siobhan and look away. Just as I mention to Lisa there's a whole empty section a party of more than twenty twenty-year-olds piles in like they're one giant organism.

Half a dozen waiters circulate around the room, bringing water to pour over our hands, and napkins. Soon, appetizers arrive along with glasses of water. Warm, fresh pita and pickled carrots share plates with savory hummus and an eggplant pickle so delicious I take bites and do the Happy Delicious Thing Dance. Siobhan calls Mila twice before she resorts to going outside for better cell reception. Mila is adorable, always lost, and hopelessly late. When she finally arrives, she sits and rests a hand on Ivan's knee. At the front of the restaurant, a handsome man in a fez switches on a synthesizer and from now on, everyone's shouting over dance music and ululation. And then there's the belly dancer swishing all over the place. For about twenty minutes, waiters dodge swirling fabric and awkward diners the belly dancer pulls to their feet. Soon the narrow restaurant aisle is packed with writhing bodies and mysteriously unspilled trays. The pack of twenty-year-olds are wriggling without the slightest hint of self-consciousness in a homoerotic frenzy.


A waiter leans against our booth, shakes his head and mutters, "Egyptians," on his way back to the kitchen. I have no idea what this means but he is smiling. Our entrees arrive. The only way to eat on the minimal table surfaces is family style, so we each take spoonfuls of flavored rice, fish, lamb and chicken. By now I'm very close to full so I stick to rice and grilled vegetables with dollops of gravy. Everything is nicely spiced but it's 11 p.m. and I'm tired now, and this is three and a half hours already of extreme togetherness and I'm looking at two more, so Mila and I get up and dance with the majority of diners. The twenty-year-olds are tanked and the guys are all over each other in a way I see is hypermacho. But it's still gay, and I can't stop laughing.

Dessert is served, after which we pay the check. We get the hell out. Siobhan drives home for an hour. I love Lisa dearly but if I have to do that again I'm moving to Borneo. There's one more thing:
1 April Lisa
2 April my brother Todd
5 April Scout
7 April Sharkey
8 April Miss Sasha
9 April Lupe
And I'm pretty sure at least one someone's going to email me a "Doofus, you forgot my birthday" greeting.

I predict more delicious dinners, shiny shiny gifts and utter exhaustion. It'll be fun!


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