Have you ever been in a situation that was so tragically comedic the thought that dances through your mind is: “Where did they put the hidden camera?”
New Year’s Eve and I have never really been buddies. I used to hate it with a white-hot passion, I won’t get into the reasons why, none of you is getting paid to be my shrink. Suffice it to say it is amateur night in so many ways. But something happened a few years ago, and I turned a corner and it’s no longer a “thing.” It ceased to have any meaning. Gigging would have been my preference this year.
My choices were: stay home, party at a dear friend’s home an hour away with horrible parking, or dinner out with a new “friend” and her friends. Proximity and ease of parking made the third option sound the best.
This new “friend” is a vegan. Unless you live in Los Angeles you are probably still trying to figure out why parking in a residential area is a problem, so let me give your brain another LA factoid, the different variations of some of our native’s eating habits. Vegetarians eat many things but don’t eat any animal flesh. They will however eat things that come from an animal like milk, eggs, and cheese. That gives those who dine with them an ease of existence. I mean within this definition you all can break pizza together. Vegans eat only vegetation. Nothing else. Still, a nice stir fry never killed anyone, right?
The restaurant the new “friend” picked after I vetoed an overpriced fixed price restaurant was her favorite Japanese vegan restaurant. She knew financially I was watching my pennies because of my first veto. She warned me it was a bit pricey but I could order off the menu. Okay, an appetizer it will be. Her excitement at my joining them at her favorite place was so very flattering. She was elated because I was to meet one of her best male friends and he is a pianist: “You two are going to get along so great!”
She wanted to control not only the food but also the transportation: we were all to go together. He was picking her up, and he would also be bringing her other friend who happened to live near him. At the very last minute my spidey sense kicked in hard and I opted to meet them at the restaurant. Parking would not be an issue and we were in the midst of a series of rainstorms. For southern Californians, no matter how much money they spent on an event or how much they plan for a big holiday party, rain cancels all. They might leave the house on a normal night with influenza but let it drizzle and they turn into the Wicked Witch of the West.
The restaurant was a storefront in a block of things like liquor and hardware stores. It was shotgun in lay out and the antithesis of “no expense sparred.” Tiny tables lined up so close to each other that the very thin Asian servers had to walk at an angle to get through. The entryway before the actual restaurant proper was about four feet by three feet. I opened the door and the three of them were waiting there for me. We were very, very close to each other because if we moved any farther into the restaurant we would be intimate with other diners. My “friend” (the one that invited me) says a quick “Hello” and jumps over to her male friend and says, “This is ……” Before I can say “Hello” she says, “He plays piano—you two should get together” and he is grinning and looking at me like a ham sandwich or I should say a mushroom sandwich since I will soon learn he is also Vegan. Actually, he sometimes has fish (those people call themselves “Pescatarians”).
Ignoring the new “friend’s” glee with us meeting, (Clue 1 is this a set up?…. Naaaaa) we talk about music. The thing about singing the type of trad jazz or swing music I sing is that not many piano players play it. They play straight ahead jazz or bebop. And that is the case with this guy but that won’t come out till later. At this point he is telling me how he is very good at keeping time and playing a version of stride. I smile and try to mask my desire to run far away from my new vegan friends into the arms of a cheeseburger.
The ambiance felt oddly reverential given our humdrum location. You could cut the quiet with a knife but there are no knives because you don’t need a knife for squash. The place is tacky and decorated from the Pier One Imports clearance section. If we are proper enough, the serving of only the finest farm to table, organic vegetation, and garbanzo flour will make up for all of it. In short (too late) it’s pretentious, dull and it’s New Year’s Eve. And this gal right here is screaming internally that the Emperor is Naked.
When we are seated, I realize that 90% of the menu has a (*) next to it announcing that these items are prepared with no onion or garlic. I ask about this and my “friend” says so many vegans have stomach issues they don’t want these things in their food. These things …aka the building blocks of cuisine are verboten. Got it. I’ll order the appetizer of “pot stickers” These are true to title. The inside and the outside all stuck together and formed one texture and taste in your mouth. My new friend orders these and a few other items. She loved hers and said to me, “Aren’t these just amazing?” I answered honestly. She looked at me the same way I look at someone who thinks Velveeta is cheese.
To liven up the evening I turned into the court jester. The $20 dollar vegan moosh will not ruin a nice fun evening out with new people. So I asked the other female in our party questions about herself. Turns out her daughter was coming in from Europe the next day which was a real source of joy, because since she was taken away from her they don’t spend much time together. Years ago she had run away with her daughter to the US (the court called it kidnapping). She apparently had been away from an abusive husband with whom she had already had two kids. They were separated for five years; they had a brief reuniting; she got pregnant with that girl. Out of fear of his abusive habits she grabbed the kid and ran to the US.
Yup. Happy New Year!
The check came and I reached for my wallet and the male in our party picked up both my appetizer and the other gals salad. He said we ate so little it didn’t pay for us to contribute. I noticed his dear friend the one that invited me never reached for her wallet and though this is just conjecture I got the feeling from her smug relaxed attitude she never paid when they went out.
I was so happy that I didn’t have to pay for my “meal” I said, “Well that makes the evening perfect—couldn’t get better than that. Thank you so much.” To which my “friend” said “It could if you had sex.” The table was very quiet and I thanked her for acting as my pimp. (Clue #2 set up?)
Because of my light meal I am fleet of foot and almost to my car when my “friend” says you two must exchange numbers I stop he gives me his card. Air hugs all around and I am gone. (Clue #3?) I am happy to say I was in the supermarket on New Years Eve by 11 p.m. to buy some dinner. And either the “friend” picked up on my disinterest or my inability to lie about the quality of the food, because I have never heard from her again.
I am single and picky. Chemistry is a tricky thing and though I have been attracted to a variety of “types,” there is no one physical trait that is a deal breaker. There can be several things that in combination that make a man either appealing or not and the only one consistent thing that can override almost all physical traits is brilliance. Brilliance being rare I need some physical attraction to make it work. I myself am not a skinny gal and living in LA, I am rarely the flavor de jour. I have not yet settled for anything that wasn’t to my liking. Preferring to be alone, I don’t have a type and the only thing that the men that have been in my life have had in common was extreme intelligence. I have also come to realize that along with my body shape come some other things someone might one day find value in: smarts, wicked humor, talent, and a pretty punim.
This kind gentleman was a law clerk, vegan, and animal rights activist and if he were to have entrance music it would be “Mr. Five by Five.” In the end, the take away is simply this: two rounds don’t make a right.
Randi Cee is a bandleader and a swing and hot jazz vocalist living in LA. Her CD, Any Kind of Man, is available via cdbaby.com or via randiceemusic.com. For booking information, write: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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