18 October 2008

When the world is running down

We have entered a very social time period: cocktail parties, dinner tonight in Newport Beach, and yet another celebratory meal tomorrow.


Usually, I'm reasonably social, but right now I'd like to take to my bed with a good book.

(At the moment, I'm reading Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News? How prescient that title! Her books tend to be violent and unbearably sad, but there is something about her writing style that appeals to me. I suppose I shouldn't admit that I can definitely relate to some of her female characters.)

I never did get to the cocktail celebration I was supposed to attend last night for a friend and former colleague who was just voted into the National Academy of Sciences, a huge honor for him. I have guilt, but it's been a very long week.

The daughter gave me a little test from her health textbook last weekend, and while I'd readily admit I wasn't paying much attention while she was asking me questions, and while I'd certainly acknowledge that the answers I was allowed to choose were not the responses I'd have in real life, I was really annoyed when the daughter pronounced me "a serious pessimist."

Because I'm not.

There's plenty to be pessimistic about, no doubt. The world financial situation, the presidential election (really, imagine a world where Sarah Palin is the first female president of the U.S. Completely appalling, and a completely different appalling from Hillary Clinton as the first female president of the U.S.), the increase in crime (violent crime, you bet, but the daughter's snack was stolen two days ago, at a school where none of the student body is exactly going hungry).

If anything, my attitude toward all of the above has been rather awfully optimistic (except for the theft of the daughter's snack. The thief also stole the skip from her step, which to me is unforgivable), and I'm starting to feel guilty--or perhaps slightly insane--that I am actually fairly happy, when I'm not raving in ecstasies of rage at the infernal idiots who got the world into its current mess. So the combination of guilt and irrational exuberance is weighing on me as well.

I dropped the idea for Dallas altogether (guilt, mainly, but also the hassle suddenly seemed unbearable, which was probably fed by the guilt), though Coldplay is on. So there.

So, dinner tonight...

Living in Southern California, I'm no stranger to heavily hyped restaurants. More often than not, the food is mediocre and the service is dreadful and after a brief time in the limelight said restaurant mercifully sinks into oblivion. Periodically, of course, you find a gem. Tonight's restaurant wasn't quite a gem, but it wasn't mediocre, either.

It wasn't promising that the person who more or less greeted us at the door, kept telling me in a vacuous way that we'd be seated shortly, using a tone of voice that indicated "I told you!" although the only thing I'd said was the name under which we had a reservation.

Fortunately, once we were seated, our waiter appeared quite promptly to offer cocktails. He was roughly the shape of Jack Black, with something of the same deadpan mien, and a haircut straight out of my high school yearbook.

I got a bit nervous when I ordered the house martini and he started listing the ingredients, using the word "essence."

By the time I had three sips of my martini (it was really very good, essence or no), and Jack was back to make menu suggestions, I was actually giggling every time he said "essence." There was lamb essence (ewwww!) and lobster essence (a somewhat more palatable idea in the context of the dish). My salad (baby greens with pears and goat cheese and...stuff...sans essence) was nice, though ultimately I wished I'd gone for the micro Iceberg (if only to see what micro Iceberg looked like) with buttermilk dressing and and bleu cheese. My scallops (with lobster essence) were a bit rubbery, though the risotto had a very fresh taste. The chocolate souffle was perfect. Unfortunately, the peaches in the peach cobbler were unripe, which wasn't very nice.

Then there were our fellow diners. An interesting lot. Definitely some mutton attempting essence of lamb. A wanna-be George McFly yapping on his Blackberry. A group behind us holding hands and singing "Kumbaya." Me, giggling helplessly into my martini.

It was all very entertaining.

Go listen to some good music: "When the World is Running Down" from the album Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police.

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