Posts Tagged ‘adulthood’

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“Nick, this is the special occasion.”

March 2, 2015

An hour before I asked Alex to marry me, she was explaining to me that she might have to go back to Group Health later that evening for additional tests. The doctors were pretty sure that she had her second ovarian cyst in six months but were waiting on some blood work to confirm their suspicion.

I told Alex that should be fine since our dinner reservations were at eight. This was of course a lie. There were no dinner reservations at eight. In fact, I was freaking out because our closest friends were gathering in 45 minutes at Quinn’s, where I had planned to surprise Alex on the night our “anniversary” and ask her to marry me in front of them. And one rogue ovarian cyst was about to ruin the best laid plans.

We met at Quinn’s in Capitol Hill three years ago. It was a Friday night. The rain pissed down from the dark February sky. From my hazy memory of that evening, I remember we sat at the table by the window. I remember the flickering candle light that was illuminating our cocktails. I ordered something with whiskey. Alex ordered something with gin. We had two drinks each. I wore jeans with the suit coat I bought with my Fantasy Football winnings a month before. At the end of happy hour, neither of us wanted the night to end. So we walked to Smith. Almost a mile uphill. The rain picked up and our umbrellas provided the only respite from the cold February rain.

I remember there was a wait. Alex ordered the fish. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich with either an Olympia or a Rainier. I thought the pulled pork presented me less as a carnivore than the Smith burger would have (Alex was a pescetarian at the time). Despite only knowing each other for a couple of hours, I knew I had stumbled upon something special. And I hoped for the best as we parted for the first time.

Within a year, we moved in together. After two years together, we spent three weeks in France. Soon after we got back from abroad, we had a joint banking account. And we knew were going to get married. We settled on a ring. All that there was left to do was simply ask her.

I asked Paul if he had any Champagne that I could buy from him. He didn’t. He asked me if I had some. I said I had a couple of bottles that I was saving for a special occasion. “Nick, this is the special occasion,” Paul quipped.

I lied to Alex and told her we had reservations at Westward. I told her that the restaurant had a random buyout on that Tuesday and the earliest reservation was at 8:00 p.m. I did this so I could suggest casually a drink at Quinn’s. Meanwhile, I had asked our closest friends to come to Quinn’s for dinner without Alex knowing. I wanted to propose in front of them. That afternoon, I had dropped off the wines for dinner. Now, I just needed to her to get to Quinn’s.

Around 5:30 the lab results came back clear. No additional tests needed. Alex was relieved for obvious reasons. I was relieved for obvious reasons. I suggested that we go to Quinn’s for a drink before Westward. She agreed. I packed two more wines into my messenger bag.

As it was a Tuesday night, Quinn’s was relatively quiet. The hostess had left her stand and I suggested to Alex that we go find a seat. We headed upstairs to the communal table and we saw everyone there. They quieted down. I said the following:

For the last year or so I knew I wanted to do this in front of our closest friends. Such a life event should not be just for the participants involved but also for the witnesses that have helped carry this journey forward. Especially, as someone who has kept their dating life as public as I have.

These past three years have been a blur. And it is hard to remember the life I had before meeting you. Often when I recall going to a particular restaurant, I always think it was you by my side. Not one of the random numbers that came before. And while we may have known that we are going to spend the rest of our lives together for some time, we both know it is time to make it official.

On this day three years ago, in this very gastropub, we met on a rainy Friday evening. We talked about the meaning of life. Death. Purpose. Existence. In these three years, I don’t think we have figured out the answers to these topics. But I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you trying. Alex, will you marry me?

She of course, said yes.

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My First Lie in Paris OR The Couple Next to Me Were Having an Affair

April 11, 2012

Becky and I stopped in at the University Bookstore after lunch (we were working on a Saturday a few weeks back in the U-District, it doesn’t get better than that, right?), when I saw a 2009 Michelin Guide for Germany for a $1. I got excited. Because if Germany was on discount, there was a good chance that the Paris or France version was too — For those who don’t know, the Michelin guide is the guide for restaurants (if you want to read more, there is a fantastic New Yorker article on the subject. In fact Michelin is so important in the restaurant world that a chef committed suicide on the rumor that his restaurant was going to be downgraded from three stars to two stars).

Sure enough, after a few minutes of pawing through all of the unwanted books, I found the 2009 Paris guide. At home I flipped to the section about the Marais (the neighborhood I stayed in my first leg in Paris) and started googling all of the restaurants.

But I was immediately drawn to one restaurant in the guide. Benoit. It was on the same street as my hotel. It was reasonably priced (compared to a 500€ pre-fixe menu I saw that during my research). The guide called it a timeless classic and a throwback to a Paris long ago. The internets rumored that it is the only brasserie in Paris with a Michelin star. I was sold — I went online and made a reservation for my birthday.

When I arrived at Benoit, I knew I was going to have to lie. And lie in English. And hope that they understood me. See they didn’t take reservations online for ‘un.’ On the reservation form I said it was for two. I lied to the host and said, “My partner is sick,” while putting my two hands together and doing the international sign for sleeping. He translated to the hostess who seated me and I heard something like, “La mademoiselle est malade.” She removed the extra place setting and pulled my table out so I could squeeze into the seat.

I had spent a couple of hours in Seattle translating the menu. There were some items that were obvious — even with my non existent French language skills — Escargots. Filet de Bœuf. Foie Gras.

I was seated next to another table of two. A man sat to my diagonal and a woman to my immediate right. He was British and when speaking to the wait staff he spoke in exaggerated, but not over the top, French. The woman, named Tara, had a huge rock on her finger. She was from California. And for the life of me, I could not figure out their relationship. After I placed my order, I came to the only logical conclusion — that they were having an affair in Paris.

Anyway, when I was seated, I was handed a tome of French wines. And had this been given to me two years ago instead of today, I would have been overwhelmed, confused, and would have no idea on how to interpret the wine list. I narrowed it down to two Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s. And went with the older one — a 2006 Andre Brunel “Les Cailloux.” It was quite simply an amazing wine.

For dinner I ordered the Foie Gras and the Cassoulet. But I ended up with the Pot of Vegetables and the Cassoulet. The Second in Command Host/Order Taker (see below) took my order, walked about three feet, turned back at me and said something in French and I realized that he had immediately forgot my order. I said, “Cassoulet.” That bit in French that I didn’t understand — I would later realize it was him confirming my pot of vegetables. I am guessing that this interplay was only realized by the Brit next to me.

The first course was three little gougères – cheese pastries. These were placed on my Benoit fine china. Yeah, Benoit has their own dishes and the silverware is made with actual silver. All of the silverware and plates were cleared and another set of silverware and plates appeared with the second course — a beef, carrot, and vermicelli soup.

Now, I want to take a minute to describe all of the people serving me that evening:

  • Main Host — Greeted me; Explained to the rest of the team that the ‘mademoiselle was sick.’
  • Second in Command Host/Order Taker — Took pity on my sick partner and offered me a French newspaper (I declined his offer). After a couple of glasses of wine I was in a quite happy place and needed no additional entertainment.
  • Wine Steward — She showed, opened, and poured my wine and assisted in all wine related matters. She also took a little sip of my CDP before she poured it to me. Which she was either impressed with my wine ordering that she took a little for herself, or had a hard day a needed a little nip to get by, or most likely, she was tasting to see if there were flaws.
  • Waitress — She knew English, brought me my dishes, and was very friendly.

Why I deduced the couple next to me was having an affair, it seemed like they were catching up on things — important things. Tara, had just gotten done being in a wedding. A wedding where the hotel did not have their reservations for either the hotel rooms or the banquet rooms — note to self, always confirm the hotel rooms, (regarding my eavesdropping, remember the tables were very close together and I was alone, that is why I remember every detail of their conversation). So the question is, why was she at the wedding and not him? He also told her a story that happened to him recently. How come they don’t know these details already if they are together? They were also very acted very romantic to each and that ruled out the friend zone for me.

Anyway, the next course was the pot of vegetables. And it was perfectly fine that I got vegetables instead. Carrot, celery, potato, artichoke, pear (I know it is not a vegetable, but there was a braised pear in there — and it was good), and some lentils, all in this delicate broth — which I sopped up with some bread.

There are two things I like in a nice restaurant. One, I love a slow and paced meal. Two, I love it when it is dark. Like, really dark. So dark that Boomers/my parent’s generation have to use their cellphone to read the menu. At Benoit, the pacing was perfect, impeccable in fact. But it was as bright as day. Literally, day. Like you could get tanned if you stayed there long enough. And my dinner in Chablis, a few nights later, the exact same way. Must be a European thing. Or maybe in the U.S. we like to gorge ourselves in the shadows and between flickers of candlelight in order to not reveal our greed to others.

Now the Cassoulet at Cafe Campagne in Seattle is a great challenge to finish. And it is one of my favorites anywhere. Throughout the night I had observed these petite silver pots being brought to various tables. I figured that it was the Cassoulet. And it looked manageable. But when my waitress brought out a pot, about the size of my grandmothers 5 quart cast iron pan, I almost fainted. It was huge. The waitress simply smiled and said, “You have to finish it.” She removed the lid. Delicately spooned out a plate’s worth — being sure to fish out pieces of duck, sausage, and pork — and said, “bon appetit.”

Benoit Cassoulet

I ate heroically for as long as I could. I didn’t finish.

Meanwhile, Tara couldn’t finish her Foie Gras. She spoke more about the wedding she went to and all of the bad speeches. She spoke how the father of the bride had unexpectedly passed away a few months prior and one of the sons gave a speech based on what he thought the deceased father might say on the occasion. It was not well received. The Brit, laughed with delight.

I needed water. And tap water is not encouraged at these nicer places in France. They want you to drink (or rather, people prefer to drink) mineral or sparkling water. I ordered a ‘petit’ bottle of sparkling water and a glass of 2009 Château Haut-Bergeron Sauternes (dessert wine from Bordeaux). Along with my dessert wine, I was offered a menagerie of baked/candied treats with my coffee and one final course consisting of a baked lemon cake.

Dessert

The Brit offered Tara a rough plan on how they would handle their speeches. And that is when it hit me. They are engaged. And they are getting married. I almost dropped my coffee cup on the floor as the pieces of their dinner conversation illuminated in new light. On my way out, I asked them if they were getting married. And Tara said yes. The Brit chimed in and said in October. Tara asked me if I was in Paris for a special occasion. I said tonight is my 30th Birthday. The waitress, listening to our conversation was crushed. She would have given anything to have known that piece of information before that moment.

I walked out and Tara and the Brit followed me. They smiled at me and walked arm-in-arm as we parted in different directions. The night was clear. The air was crisp. And the moon was out. The lights of Paris sparkled in a way I had never seen before. I straightened my jacket and I stepped forward into my second act.

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She Went to Kiss Me on the Cheek and I Wasn’t Ready

September 12, 2010

A woman, let’s call her Jane, is about the age of my mother and is on our Development Committee. Jane is married to a doctor and I have known her for about a year or so. When Jane saw me during the reception at our annual fundraiser, she walked over to greet me. And I panicked with fear as she leaned in to kiss on the cheek.

When it comes to greeting Board or Committee members, during social settings like our annual fundraiser, for example, a fine line exists. Men it’s always easy, a hearty handshake will suffice. Maybe, if they are younger, I will do the handshake that transitions into what I call, the “Bro Hug.” The handshake to a half-side-hug, while still grasping the original handshake – it is quick and affectionate, but it remains very manly.

But with women, what the hell are you supposed to do? With some women it has developed into a hug. Because they feel like family to me. I have known them long enough, some of them over four years. Even though our relationship is strictly professional, on occasions that are grand or mundane, I hug them. But I wasn’t ready when Jane from the Development Committee transitioned from the hug to the kiss on the cheek.

I went for the hug with Jane because I knew I couldn’t do the handshake. Shaking her hand was out of the question, we are way past that. So I figured the hug was safe. But then all of the sudden she is placing her head next to mine and we were standing cheek to cheek. Then… Smooch. Thoughts flooded through my mind. “Oh my God, she is kissing me.” “What the fuck do I do?” “Should I kiss her back?” “Wow her skin is soft.” “Are we ready for this step in our relationship?” “Do I have to greet her this way at every committee meeting?” I end up not kissing her back and let Jane do all the work. It was very awkward. It was over in seconds. Her perfume remained on my cheek for hours.

I have always believed that kissing on the cheek is reserved for Europeans and adults. I know I am not European but I didn’t think of myself as an adult either. All through my life whenever I have reached the next stage, there has been some indicator that the previous stage was completed and I was moving on to the next. My diploma after high school, college, and graduate school. A certificate of completion after a training session. My license to drive after passing the test. A ribbon after winning the relay in elementary school. A trophy at the end of the soccer season. Every stage of my life has had an official mark of completion.

But when did my adulthood begin? After graduate school? When I moved to Seattle? When I moved out of the dorms? At 18? And what I realized as Jane was kissing me, there is no formal beginning to adulthood. And no formal end to our youth. Transitions to adulthood happen in moments like cheek-to-cheek kissing; in the random evenings when I realize that I am no longer the kid I once was. As I become married, have kids, and buy a house, I suspect that adulthood will feel more like the norm. But in the meantime, I am going to try to savor my youth for as long as possible and not worry about finding the beginning to adulthood. It will come soon enough.