About A Boy; About A Girl

I had dinner with my senior citizens last week. I still do that every month in case you were wondering. Our normal pattern is while we eat, we discuss other restaurants we’d like to try on another outing, and I make a running list of places so that choosing a new one every month is easy. Jan, the woman who is me in 30 years, piped up from the end of the table. “I’d like to go to Big Bang. I heard it was fun.”

I was conveying a piece of potato to my mouth with a fork and this revelation rendered me unable to hold onto my utensils. I dropped potato and fork into my lap and then snapped my open mouth shut.

“Jan, Big Bang is a bar. A rowdy bar. Downtown. With drunk people. You want to go there?”

“Yes,” she said adamantly. “I think it would be fun.”

So I put Big Bang on the list. I once spent a lovely evening there watching my friend Miguel kill it on the dance floor to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Seriously, he knew every move and did them all for the whole song. I’ve never particularly seen him as a ladies man but it seems that the ladies really like a man who can dance every move of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Miguel got a lot of numbers that night. I guess I’ll be teaching our two single men at the senior center how to dance now. Turn them into lady magnets. I’m pretty sure that’s why they come to these dinners, to find themselves a lady friend.

Speaking of single men, we had a new attendee at the dinner this month. Jack was the lone male that signed up to ride the supper van full of women. He was the last to arrive at the center and as he walked up the stairs to the front door, all the single ladies pressed their faces to the glass to watch him. I don’t know if that is a common occurrence for him or what, but once he realized he had an audience he threw both arms out to the side and puffed his chest out as if to say, “Drink it in broads! I have arrived.”

I fought my way through the crowd to introduce myself and explained that he was the single exception to our hen party. “How many women are on the bus,” he asked, looking around with some glee.

“Thirteen,” I replied and then he did a fist pump victory motion whilst exclaiming, “YES!” My kinda dude.

Remember ages ago when I told you about Jim and Jane, the couple who found each other late in life? Jim is the sort who swaggers into a restaurant with his tabbed-waist pants and his pinky ring, kind of smoothing his mane of white hair in a fluid motion. Jack is nothing like that.   Jack had on his rock star jeans with the designs on the pockets, his Daniel Cremiux shirt and his hipster glasses. He’d shaved his head into a shiny Bruce Willis dome and he expertly rolled his pant legs up into a look so trendy it hurts. He told us later that he’s 90 and a World War II vet. Went to a middle school last week to talk about his experience as a soldier and the kids ate it up. I think he did, too. I know I ate it up. Man, I hope he comes back. He was a treat. I’m anxious to see which lady friend he settles on, or perhaps more accurately, how many lady friends he settles on.

We also had another new person this month, Heather. I’d heard she was coming long before I ever got to the center, because Heather is what you’d call a “handful.” The schedulers wanted me to be aware from the get go that she would be there as she is legally blind, speaks extra loudly to make up for her lack of vision, and doesn’t get along with Jan at all. I mean at all.

Heather has had a pretty rough life but she’s not one to shy away from talking about it. Five bypass surgeries, sixteen eye surgeries, something in her kidney area and all the complications from a severe case of diabetes. She will tell you all about it and even show you her scars, but the whole time she’s talking she’s got the most upbeat attitude.

“I just figure that you only get one life,” she pontificates, “and you might as well like it. I take the bus anywhere I need to go and I get along. No need to complain.” She’s right but she’s also annoying in that no one around her is allowed to have a regret or a complaint or a question that might imply even a borderline problem.

For example, at the dinner one of our ladies, Beth, asked if her steak could be put on the grill for another few minutes as it was cold and little too raw for her liking. The waitress happily obliged but Beth was given such a tongue lashing from Heather over not being grateful that Margaret, another lady whose steak wasn’t done, ate her cold, raw meat in silence so as not to draw attention to herself for her own verbal tongue lashing. I don’t want any meek mice at our dinners so I had a talk with Heather afterwards who then hugged me and told me I was fantastic. Even put her head on my shoulder to rest on the ride home.

I am so lucky. I love these people. I sure do meet all kinds.

Because I’ve been remiss in writing about this lately, below are some of the places we’ve been for dinner and my review of them:

Butchertown Hall, Germantown area – a Texo-German place which means lots of meat. Yes, go. It’s painfully trendy, just annoyingly so, and it’s easy to get scared by the reviews on Yelp. It seems that the staff finds it excruciating to wait on you, the customer, and they run out of brisket later in the day. However, we had a delightful experience. It’s almost as if the wait staff got skewered by somebody higher up over the Yelp reviews and straightened out their act. We had Andrew as a server, and let me tell you, he hustled the whole night. He patiently answered every question we had about the menu, made thoughtful suggestions and kept the food and water coming. You’ll enjoy this place if you can get a table. Well worth it. The food was delicious, and I highly recommend the brussels sprouts. Mmmmm

Woody’s Steak House, Madison – old school steak house. When I say old school, I’m talking 1980’s wood paneling with heavy maroon trim, mood lighting in the form of wall sconces made to look like gas lanterns, and baked potatoes the size of your head. If you want atmosphere, this is not your place. If you want a side of beef, it is.

Cajun Steamer, Franklin – a total dive bar. It looks like nothing special inside or out. It’s in a strip mall for Pete’s sake. But when you go, order the tuna dip. That face you are making right now? Yeah, I made it, too, but then I tried the tuna dip and it changed my life. At the very least it changed my thinking about tuna dip. Trust me on this one.

Mere Bulles, Brentwood – a Nashville institution. When it was downtown it featured a painting of Madre on her horse, Louie. That painting is long gone now, sadly. But go there. The food is outstanding and the service, too.

Blue Moon Waterfront Grill, East Nashville-ish (I’m good with directions) – a marina bar and grill. It was pretty good. Go when it’s not so hot, though. And if you really want a marina bar and grill but you only get one shot at it, go to the one in Lakewood. It’s better.

Okay, that’s it. If any of you want to meet us at the next location, let me know. I’ll include you in our reservations. Single men more than welcome. You can have your pick of the ladies. They’ll treat you real nice.

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Rite of Passage

At the house where Martie and Coach now live is a creek that we used to play in as kids. All of us, Brother Bear, Brother Boo, Martie and I, spent countless hours in that creek, boating, fishing, swimming, bathing, frog gigging. Yes, bathing, even though the cows peeing in the water upstream likely rendered our shiny clean hair less clean. That’s how life in the country works, and if that means we can’t be friends, just remember that you have eaten insect legs and rat hairs (it’s in your chocolate – true story – www.FDA.gov).

Creek

Creek

While we all spent countless hours in that water, the boys were always far more adventurous than the girls when it came to creek swimming. Martie and I climbed down the dock steps to tentatively feel around in the icy water before committing to a full dunk, but the boys took turns swinging off the rope tied to the tree and jumping off the abandoned bridge that covers the water. The wimpy boys jumped from the bridge itself and the brave boys jumped from the top railing, over and over again, never really swimming more than the few strokes it took to reach the bank and start all over again. I don’t remember any wimpy boys, they were all brave, and I certainly don’t remember any wimpy or brave girls. We girls liked our dock steps just fine, thank you very much, and our floats and our tentative full dunks.

Cuzz, Brother Bear, & Brother Boo jumping backwards off the bridge

Cuz, Brother Bear, & Brother Boo jumping backwards off the bridge

Actually, we liked it just fine until one day Martie got a raging wild jealous hair and decided that she was coming off that rope swing, just like the boys. Not the bridge, mind you, but the rope swing which was just as scary because if you didn’t let go of the rope in time, you’d come back to shore and smack into the tree. Plus it was kind of high above the water and you were in full swing and letting go was the hardest part because you couldn’t see what you were falling into. Martie set her mind to it, though, and expressed her intentions and Brother Bear was all in. “I’ll help you,” he said, “whenever you are ready.”

“I’m ready now,” she said, and then marched down to the creek, swimmy suit on, creek shoes tied, chin set determinedly. She clamped her hands on the rope, stepped back to get a good swing, and then faltered. For forty-five minutes. Brother Boo and I were in the creek already waiting for her to leap in. I mean, we were waiting but then we got bored so we got out and then got back in and then Brother Boo jumped off the bridge a few times and then we had a snack. Brother Bear never left Martie’s side despite the temptation of the bridge jumping and the snack having. He never walked away from encouraging her. He stood there the whole 45 minutes until Martie finally said, “screw it” and swung in. (She didn’t really say “screw it” because in our house you didn’t say words like “screw it.” You also didn’t say “shut up” or “yeah” because “shut up” got you a mouthful of soap and “yeah” instead of “yes” got you ignored.) She came barreling up out of that water with her eyes shining and pride just blazing out of her. Actually she cried for a minute when she came out of that water but after that she was a total peacock.

Bridge and rail

Bridge and rail

That rope swing is no longer there as the tree is no longer there. It died and got swept away or cut down after we all left home. The dock remains, though, as does the bridge, and this year when Brother Bear and his family came for a visit, the whole family crew built a zip line. There’s a bicycle handlebar and lot of steel cable and more bravery than I’ve ever possessed to take you from the top of the bridge to the middle of the creek.   (I still like the dock steps and the tentative full dunk, thank you very much.) Brother Bear’s kids were all over the zip line, all over the bridge both top and bottom, back and forth, drop in, get out, do it again, and Martie’s kids watched from the side lines on the dock steps as they tentatively full dunked. They were just fine with that, thank you very much.

Rigging the zip line

Rigging the zip line

Until they weren’t. Tigger, having watched all the fun for the better part of the day and getting a raging wild jealous hair, expressed her intention of riding that zip line and jumping off that bridge, just like everyone else. “I’m ready now,” she stated and then marched over to the bridge, swimmy suit on, creek shoes secure, chin set determinedly. She was in; we were in; everyone was in. Tigger’s daddy, Coach, jumped in first to wait for her at the bottom. Martie waded into the water from the dock steps and waited for her at the far end of the creek. The family and friends we’d invited over crowded around on the bridge, everyone encouraging with anticipation.

Zip line

Zip line

Tigger stepped to the edge of the bridge, clamped her nose shut and faltered. I sat down next to her, dangling my feet over the edge, and we waited. Tigger put her hand on my shoulder, clamped her nose shut, and again faltered. This will not surprise you, but Brother Bear never left her side. He and his lovely wife Shell stood next to her the whole time she wavered, camera sitting on go, just waiting for her to let go. We all waited. For thirty minutes. (Poor Coach – do you know how cold that water is? One other word we are not allowed to say in that house: “shrinkage.”)

I was looking off down the creek at Martie when I felt Tigger’s hand leave my shoulder. She didn’t make a peep. Just let go of my shoulder, held her nose, and stepped off the edge, easy as you please. The hollers and whoops from those of us on the bridge were deafening, and I have to be honest, I got all choked up. Tigger came barreling up out of that water with her eyes shining and pride just blazing out of her. Actually she cried for a minute when she came out of that water but after that she was a total peacock. Shell captured it, and its just gorgeous. See for yourselves.

IMG_5125

Don’t wish you were that brave? To just stand on the edge of your fear, look it full in the depths and let go? I want that. I think I’m going to try it.