Saturday, July 31, 2010

Silent Lucidity

I haven’t written anything since I returned from vacation.  There has just been too many things to do, taekwondo, laundry, summer camp for the boys, and reading, categorizing and responding to the 1,495 work emails in my inbox that I received during my hiatus.  After a busy week, things are starting to slow down and return to their normal rhythm.  I spent the morning doing much needed lawn care and my wife packed up the boys for a week long visit to my in-laws.  The boys were shipped out by 1 PM today and it left the house eerily silent.  When the baby took at a nap at 3, my wife and I both passed out on different sofas for an hour.  That sort of thing is not normally possible in our house.

Today is also our eleventh wedding anniversary.  We headed down to Fells Point in Baltimore for some dinner.  We selected Meli to have dinner.  I don’t get out much, and when I do, I usually opt for a place where you order standing up and carry your food away in paper containers, but that does not mean that I don’t like fine dining.  I love the opportunity to try new foods, especially when they are prepared by professional chefs.  My wife and I had planned to arrive early before the place got too crowded, before the baby got too hungry and possibly have a peaceful meal with some fine food and light conversation.

The plan did not go as expected.  We ran into heavy traffic caused by a bad accident on the way to Baltimore.  That put us forty minutes behind schedule.  Securing parking is never easy in downtown B-more, but luckily nice restaurants like Meli offer valet parking.  We hustled out the car with only the baby and a diaper bag.  Once inside the restaurant, the impeccably dressed maître d’ informed us that they did not have highchairs.  Um, what?  Do you have booster seats?  No.  I almost expected him to say, “we don’t serve your kind here.”  The über-convenient fold up booster seat was at home and I watched the van drive away containing the stroller.  My wife and I conferred for a few seconds.  We can handle this.  We have three kids, we have been through every child rearing situation there is.  We agreed that we could just hold the baby.  Let the fine dining begin. 

We were shown to our seats and we sat pondering the menu.  The baby sat on a cushioned bench in between my wife and a wall.  She could see above the table and was sitting rather still, but every few minutes squealed or whined as babies often do to let you know they are still there and they want your attention.  Apparently the other diners in the restaurant have never seen nor heard a child before and offered us a few dirty looks.  I had my back to the rest of the dining room, so I missed most of them.  My wife, on the other hand, took the full brunt of the other patrons’ disapproving stares.  While the other diners may or may not have seen a baby before, albeit an especially well behaved baby that acted with a level of decorum well beyond her fourteen months of age sitting unassisted better than her older brothers would have, eating bread and fruit snacks, I know that they have never borne witness to one of my wife’s scowls.   

In our nineteen year relationship and eleven year marriage, I have found happiness and love.  In every relationship, especially after such a long time, you learn the mannerisms, likes and dislikes, and traits of your partner.  I love everything about my wife.  In these past nineteen years, I have learned how to tell when she is happy or sad or angry, and I have also learned to fear one thing, the Look.  There are few things on the planet that bear such malevolence and threat of violence as one of my wife’s Looks.  I have had the displeasure of being on the receiving end of the Look a few times.  I will show you the scars over drinks sometime if you are interested in such horror stories, just like Quint telling his tale of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.  With this one look, you immediately understand that your ass is grass and that my wife is starting the lawn mower.  You hear the rolling thunder of an approaching storm, you smell the brimstone of Hell’s fires, and you see your death, slow and painful, mirrored in her eyes.

I didn’t even have to look up from the menu to realize that the Look was ready to be unleashed.  The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I felt the heat on my shoulder as it passed over, directed at some middle-aged woman who couldn’t keep her bobble head pointed in the right direction.  There is no defusing the situation once the Look has been summoned, the trigger has been pulled, just hope you are not looking down the barrel.  Luckily for them, they quickly paid their check and vacated the restaurant before my wife tore their still beating hearts from their chests and ordered the kitchen pan-sear and serve them on a bed of lettuce.

The rest of the meal went quickly and without incident.  I think the staff realized that this was a less than optimal situation as much as my wife and I wanted to just eat and run.  Aside from the bad atmosphere caused by the other patrons and the lack of child-friendliness of the restaurant, the meal was excellent.  I order the Duo of Duck and my wife ordered the Tuna Burger with sweet potato fries.  For dessert, we opted for Pitango Gelato around the corner.  I had apricot sorbet and Bourbon vanilla gelato.

Overall, we had a good time.  Nothing is ever easy when you have a small child, but being a parent for eight years, you learn how to deal with anything that comes your way.  My wife is the expert and I just help out when she needs an extra set of hands.  What you don’t expect is when other people can’t deal with having a small human being around, especially a public place like a restaurant.

Meli’s rating:

  • Taste: 5 – The braised duck confit and the duck bread pudding were outstanding.
  • Prep Time: 4 – the food arrived very quickly, again, this could have been because they wanted us out quickly.
  • Health: 3 – not exactly sure, but seriously, who cares when it tastes that good.
  • Cost: 2 – Two entrees and no drinks were $60.
  • Kid Friendliness: 0 – If I had included negative numbers in my rating plan, this would definitely have gotten one.  Aside from not having a highchair or booster seat, they didn’t even have a kid’s menu.  If you are going here, don’t bring the kids.
  • Overall: 2.8

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