Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Despite the title, this is actually the third part of a series. You can read the first part here. Or you can read the second part here. Or you can remain blissfully ignorant, which is an option I often choose. Or you might be a regular reader of Suldog-O-Rama, in which case you already know what's going on and you just want me to get on with it. Well, alrighty then.
I prepared for my date with MFW by showering, shaving, dressing up in my best suit and tie, and using enough mouthwash to drown a small cat. I knew she didn't smoke and, since I did, I wanted to give myself at least half a chance of not grossing her out if and when we had a smooch. I then drove on over to her place on Beacon Hill.
When I say that she lived on Beacon Hill, many of you no doubt picture some lah-de-dah mansion populated by Boston Brahmins, noses in the air, speaking in condescending tones to the servants. Not quite. There are two sides to Beacon Hill. The Boston Common side, and then on up to the top, is the ritzy part. MFW lived on the other side in a one-room fourth-floor walk-up, and it's not easy to get that many hyphens into a place that small. Not that it wasn't nice being there with her; it was. I have many fond memories of that place. However, it wasn't opulent and she wasn't rich.
(The same type of misunderstanding occurs when she tells people that she grew up in Duxbury. If you're from Massachusetts, when you think Duxbury you think "rich". Not always so. Her folks were hard workers, and they didn't live in a dump, but they weren't even in the same area code as "rich". However, it is kind of hard to say "Beacon Hill" and "Duxbury" in reference to one person's living quarters and not think about big bucks, I'll grant that.)
Anyway, I drive up her street and there she is waiting for me in front of her building. She's dressed nicely, still smiling and still has a heckuva rack. She gets into the car (if I was a real gentleman, I would have parked the car and walked around to open the door for her, but there's no place to park on Beacon Hill, you know) and we drive off towards...
Well, the thing is, we had only the vaguest of plans. Movie, dinner, whatever.
After a bit of discussion, I asked her if she liked Italian food since I knew a decent place over in Roslindale called the Pleasant Cafe that had really good pizza and spaghetti. She said, sure, she liked Italian OK, so off we went.
(The Pleasant Cafe, by the way, has the best pizza in Boston. They also serve a fine spaghetti with meat sauce. As to whatever else they have on the menu, I can't give an opinion. As MY WIFE will tell you, once I've gone someplace and gotten something good to eat, I very rarely deviate from that menu choice at that particular restaurant. I've been going to the Pleasant for some 40 years now and I have never had anything other than their pizza and their spaghetti. The rest of their food might be putrid. However, I've heard no complaints from anyone I've taken there.)
(Another thing about the Pleasant. They seem to have an inexhaustible supply of a certain type of waitress. I don't think I've had the same waitress more than three or four times in the forty years I've been going there, but they're all cut from the same cloth, so it's hard to tell. Very homey; always calls you "dear" or "hon"; and looks as though she'd enjoy a glass of beer and a Pall Mall.)
(One more thing: The photo above is the cover of a CD by a group called Is This Bob. I've never heard of them before, but if they have a picture of the Pleasant Cafe on their CD cover, they must be alright. I'm going to buy that CD next time I see it for sale. Just for the cover. If the music is any good, that'll be a plus. As a matter of fact, I could buy it here, and so could you!)
Now, I have one idiosyncrasy.
(SHUT UP! I know I've got more than one. It's just a good figure of speech to start a paragraph, OK?)
I only know how to get to a place by feel. Streets? Directions? Maps? Those are for girly men! If I've been there once, I can find my way again. However, if I begin from a different starting point? I'm utterly lost. When we set out for the Pleasant, it was from downtown Boston. The only way I knew how to get there was from Dorchester. So, I drove us back to Dorchester and then over to Roslindale. If you're unfamiliar with Boston, I'll tell you that I made what should have been about a fifteen minute drive into one that took about forty minutes. MFW was bemused by the whole thing - another point in her favor.
We finally got to the restaurant and went inside. One of the waitresses seated us in a booth and gave us menus. Giving me a menu at the Pleasant, as I've already mentioned, is a waste of time. However, so I wouldn't look like some weirdsmobile, I pretended to look it over before deciding on the spaghetti with meat sauce and a pizza. The waitress came to take our orders. MFW ordered shish-kebob.
WTF? Shish-kebob? I ask her if she likes Italian food; she says yes, and we go to someplace I know has decent Italian food; and she orders... shish-kebob. Ooooookay.
We sip our drinks and get to know each other better while waiting for the food. I tell her that I knew about this place because my grandfather lived in the Beech Street projects just up the block and I'd come here with my parents ever since I was a little kid. She tells me that she actually grew up in some projects in Roslindale off of Hyde Park Avenue - her family moved to Duxbury when she was about 12 - so it turns out she probably knew a much better route to take here but she was too polite to say anything. I tell her that my grandparents and a couple of aunts and uncles used to live on Hyde Park Avenue just a block or so from those projects. She tells me that she used to take the Mattapan trolley to visit an aunt in Milton, just a couple of blocks from where I grew up. Then we find out that her father and my father both grew up in Forest Hills, not too far from each other. And they were both born on September 30th of 1931.
As we keep talking, we realize that our paths must have crossed many times in our lives; on playgrounds, in neighborhood stores, on public transportation, and many other places. She had independently become friends with my mother years before I knew her. You add all of this up and it seems like we were meant to run into each other at some point, but not until we were both ready to like the other one. For instance, if we had met at my mother's wedding eight years ago, which we had both attended, we never would have gotten along. She wasn't what I was looking for (I was looking for drunken sluts) and I wasn't what she was looking for (I was a drunken slut.) The same applied to the (possibly) hundreds of times our paths had crossed throughout the years; we would have dismissed each other out of hand. But here we were now, enjoying the hell out of each other. Kismet!
The food arrived. The pizza and spaghetti were as they always are - yummy. Her shish-kebob came on a skewer resting on a bed of rice pilaf. I dug into the pizza and spaghetti while she struggled to remove the shish-kebob from its skewer. I saw a chance to score points as a gentleman.
I said, "Here, let me help you with that."
I took the skewer in one hand and a fork in the other, with the point of the skewer resting on her plate in the middle of the rice. I placed the fork at the top of the skewer against the meat and vegetables. I pushed down on the fork, to slide the shish-kebob off. It didn't want to budge. I pushed a little harder. Still no go. I leaned into it and pushed really hard.
(What is the sound of shish-kebob flying off of a skewer at the speed of light, thus propelling upward and onto your date's dress a spray of warm, wet rice? If I knew, that's the sound effect I'd put here, because that's exactly what happened.)
I was what you might call a tiny bit embarrassed.
(OK, I was mortified.)
"Oh my God! I'm so sorry! Shit! Shit!"
And then, with a smile, she said, "Well, I've always wanted to have rice thrown at me, but I expected the circumstances to be different."
It was at this point that I knew I had struck gold. There was no way in hell I was ever going to let this woman get away. It was all I could do to keep from proposing on the spot.
And that's how I met, and fell in love with, MY WIFE.
We still go to the Pleasant Cafe every so often, even though we now live in Watertown and I had to learn how to get there a whole new way. As a matter of fact, we were there this past Sunday along with my sister-in-law Luann, brother-in-law Charlie, and my Godson, Joseph. I had the pizza and spaghetti. MY WIFE did NOT have the shish-kebob. She never has had the shish-kebob since that first date. I can't imagine why not.