Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tom's Diner

Walking into work again this morning, I had some weird spring in my step. Might have been the music, might have been that it wasn't so damn warm (NB: warm to me is over 60 degrees when I am walking to and from work), might have been a good night's sleep. My condo is about 3.5 miles from my building and I am utterly incapable of walking in a normal fashion. I have only met one person who walks faster than me, or at least, she did this one time in Vegas when I found myself actually having to keep up with someone. In any event, I am a Manhattan walker, through and through, which, combined with my need to push any physical activity to my personal limits, means I end up trucking the whole way there. And getting sweaty in the process.

Random aside - I love to sweat. I love the feeling, post-workout, of being physically drained and sweaty. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and that I flushed out what needed flushing. This is ideal at the gym or after a good run. This is less than desirable when you are expected to change into work clothes and sit in an air conditioned office all day. This week, I got a pass for the gym across the street from my office, where I showered and changed, but I am thinking that I am not going to walk in anymore. At least, not the whole way. I'll save the power walk for the commute home.

In any event, I was bouncing right along, powering down Fourth Avenue, about the final mile to my building, when I approached Lola's. That entire intersection is Tom Douglas Central, as Dahlia, Dahlia Bakery, Serious Pie, Lola's and Palace Kitchen are all within a block of each other. Tom Douglas is a metaphor for all that I love about Seattle. His food is amazing, the presentation tantalizing, the atmosphere perfect at each joint and he is just a great guy. He recently competed on the Iron Chef and kicked ass with the secret ingredient of wild salmon. Had he lost, I would have been crushed.

I have met Tom several times, almost always in the context of B's job (he is friends with B's boss). I would hardly call him a friend, just a semi-regular acquaintance. Truthfully, he never seemed to remember me specifically, just that I am a fan of his and his Seattle restaurant empire. Anyway, as I was striding past Lola's, music blaring on the ipod (American Girl, Tom Petty), I saw Tom sitting outside, laptop on the table, talking with a few staffers. We made eye contact and I smiled and said "hey Tom" and kept walking. About two paces later, I heard this loud "HEY!" I turned around and Tom was standing up, waving to me.

Did I mention the sweaty? Because yes, I had sprinted a couple of blocks and was unusually peppy. Also, Tom never remembers me specifically and the fact that he didn't yell my name confirmed the routine. I pulled the ipod out of my ears and smiled and said "Good morning, Tom." He extended his hand and said "long time,no see. You haven't been walking to work in months. Missed seeing you." I was surprised, to say the least, although I did used to see him once a week when I was walking to work every day. I stammered something about shedding bad habits and resuming simple pleasures and then introduced myself (or, better said, reminded him of my name).

He said "Even though I don't always remember your name, I always remember your face. You have a really memorable face." I could have taken that as a backhanded slam, but I scored it as a compliment, smiled widely and said "so do you, Tom." He invited me to sit down and we chatted for a bit about the developments in his mini-empire and his wife and daughter. I told him about my recent experiences at his restaurants and we had a pleasant conversation about random things. Then, out of nowhere, he says "Jackie [his wife] and I are having a dinner party and I would love it if you would come."

I about died. Holy shit, yes. Fuck yes. I smiled even more broadly and told him I would love that. He told me the date and asked if B and I were available. Fuck. Shit. Here we go again. I am sure my face fell a bit at this inquiry, but I manned up and said "well, I don't speak for B anymore, as our marriage came to a successful conclusion, but I think I am going to be in town that night." Tom threw his head back, laughed and said "yeah, I know, K, I just wanted to see if you were okay and over it. Clearly, you are. Great answer - you always could think on your feet. We would love to have you."

A different person would have been pissed. I loved him for the test and the directness of his approach. God, I love direct. Fuck, I hate passive aggressive, chickenshit. I laughed hard and said "well, I'd love to be there. Please let me arrive an hour or so before anyone else so I can watch the cooking." [I love watching people cook. That is how I learned how to do it myself. I would give my nonexistent right nut to watch him and Jackie cook.]

He said that was fine and asked if I would be bringing a date. I lightheartedly told him "oh, I am not dating until next year and besides, I will be watching you two and playing with Loretta [daughter]." Tom got this odd look on his face and asked "why aren't you dating?" Fair question and one for which I didn't have a pithy answer. I just told him that I had no interest in getting involved in another relationship and was enjoying the alone time, blah blah, blah. He kept that quizzical dog look and said "K, there is a difference between dating and getting in a relationship. You should be dating. You are beautiful, smart, funny and you appreciate good food. Date like minded people. Have fun. You don't have to get into a serious relationship, just have fun."

I sort of dismissed that and we had a few more minutes of pleasant talk, after which I gave him a business card and told him to email me with the details. As I walked the final mile to my office, however, I thought about what he said. And realized something. Fuck, I am starting to sound like a fortune cookie,but truthfully, I don't know how to date. I am a serial monogamist. I have never dated more than one person at a time. I have never accepted a second date with someone I wasn't really interested in. I am the same way with books. I don't have two going at a time. When I start a book, I usually finish it in one sitting. I don't do a few chapters a night. All or nothing. I go up to eleven in my reading and relationships.

When I meet someone I like, I want to know everything about them and am pretty quick to reveal my innards as well. That is just how I roll. I am certain there are scores of books out there that caution otherwise, but fuck it, that is how I am. When I meet someone who stirs that indescribable thing inside me, I want to know it all. I want to finish the book and start the sequel. I cannot imagine starting the same process with someone else. And to me, that is what dating multiple people is all about. Having several books going, some of lesser interest than others, and trying to remember the plot lines in each. I am just not built that way.

All that said (and fuck, this is a long ass entry), there is something to be said for pacing yourself. When you speed read, you miss a few important details and plot suggestions. You start pre-supposing the outcome, to some degree. Maybe there is something to pacing yourself and just letting things unfold in a more natural timeframe. Maybe you shouldn't assign attributes to your characters and let them unfold in a more natural way. Maybe you should just let the story evolve.

Not thinking of dating, but I did get an email from Tom this afternoon:

"Dinner at 8. You should arrive at 6 to catch up with [wife and daughter]. The menu, as well as your dinner date, will remain a mystery until you get here."


Talix said...

So funny how people are just different. Had someone tested me like that, I'd've laughed politely to their face thinking "Fuck you" really loudly the whole time. I'm also not particularly quick on my feet, but I'm not sure that matters.

As far as the dating thing goes, I don't. I relationship. Generally way too quickly. I'd rather spend the evening at home with a book (of which I'm reading at least four at all times) than with someone I don't really know.

Which is good, since being in a long-distance, long-term relationship, I spend lots of evenings alone.

Talix said...

Can't wait to hear about the food!

Norm said...

Hah! How fun. Tom sounds like a great guy.

And his advice on dating, oddly enough, sounds a lot like what I've been telling my girls. "Dating" != "relationship," (I tell them) and they mustn't be pressured into thinking that way. It's to have fun and enjoy the company of someone who's not a family member or one of your usual crowd of friends.

(I also tell them to keep their phones charged, bring money, tell me where they're going, stay in a group, don't get into a car if they're at all uncomfortable they should call and I'll come get them no questions asked). *chortle*

And oh yeah, please do tell us about the food! :D

cornutt said...

As weird as this sounds, Tal, what he did is fairly common in the post-divorce social ritual. What the person is trying to figure out is how bitter and jaded you are and whether, by inviting you to a social engagement, the inviter is knowingly getting himself in the middle of a nasty social war being waged by former spouses.

Had I called B a ratfucker or indicated any tension with him, Tom would have known that it was best to stay away from both of us. By being breezy, I signaled that I wouldn't get drunk and bitch about my ex-husband. It is all such a well choreographed dance.

I have seen it done much, much worse - the testing of the social waters between former spouses. Tom was just blunt and direct about it, which I less than three.