Herewith, scattered notes and photos from the beloved’s and my anniversary date (a la the Baba’s Day pictorial), because the main dealie sitting on my shoulders these days still defies direct address, and yet squashes close to flat so much of everything else. Thus making truthful personal narrative somewhat challenging. The “main dealie” to which I refer still being the weighty, utterly unexpected early passing of a dear old friend. Her hometown memorial will be just this Saturday. My dear dear friend, her beloved, was on planes and in rental cars all day today in a long, long journey to go speak at it.
Emily Dickinson said “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” and she’s right. “Too bright for our infirm Delight/The Truth’s superb surprise,” says she, and I’m telling you I still need sunglasses to make out my morning eggs and toast. ‘Til I can even get to the point of telling that truth slant — “The Truth must dazzle gradually/Or every man be blind–” — best I can do is gather up a breezy narrative of my beloved and me celebrating many happy years together. Because there it is, sitting there alongside the eggs and toast, irony and all.
We secured an unprecedented twelve hours of childcare and were shocked — shocked! — at the number of distinct conversations that could be initiated and completed during this time, when no toddlers or children under five were present. (Note to other parents of young: DO IT! Quarterly at least! It’s so worth it! And I’m not talking date, I’m talking extendo-date, several hours past the length of your ordinary night out.)
After a delightful conversation-filled subway ride, we strolled on impulse to… tea at the Palace Hotel! Preceded by champagne! Sure, it cost an arm and a leg. Sure, we’re living on borrowed time. Whatever. It was grand, and I’d do it again in another week if given half the chance. Fortunately for our family budget, the beloved doesn’t even give me a quarter the chance. Or an eighth. How do you think we made it fifteen years without being impounded?
The pianist at the Garden Court — where they serve tea at the Palace — may as well have been a potted palm or a ficus benjaminus. One or two folks posed by him for photos, but rarely was he directly addressed. Â He was part of the pretty, pretty scenery. I wanted to applaud after each song (“S’wonderful,” “You Are So Beautiful,” and a respectful rendition of “Never Can Say Goodbye”) but the beloved told me It’s Just Not Done. Since she’s a theater professional/musician and a vet of the food service industry, I believe her. (The two terms are nearly redundant, don’t you think? Theater professional, food service industry worker.)
Incidentally, I am so not kidding about her vet status in the food service industry. Nary a block would pass by, as we toodled around her native Minneapolis in our courtship those many years ago, during which she wouldn’t find a restaurant and causually intone, “Worked there. And there. Got fired Â from there for being a spy. Totally not true. Worked there. Quit there.” And so on. The life of an actor.
At the table to our right were two debutantes in matching peach-colored mini skirts and matching white three-quarter length coats, whom the beloved and I both felt sure signed their checks (separate!) with their parents’ money. We, on the other hand, signed our check (together!) with what should have been our kids‘ money. We both felt okay with that.
Further on past the spendthrift debutantes was what the beloved dubbed the “Ladies Who Lunch” table (for the musically inclined, here, from the 2006 revival). Who are we to judge. Some of them might have thought the same of us, except we were a party of two, only one of whom could reasonably be accused of being a lady. The other of whom, if you accused her of being a lady, would remove her pocket square from her jacket and slap you with it. In as gentlemanly-like a fashion as could be mustered.
The ceiling of the Garden Court is gorgeous, but not the kind of thing you want to be under in an earthquake. Just a guess. While we nibbled our tea sandwiches, I told the typical exaggerations about Enrico Caruso’s experience here at the Palace during the 1906 earthquake — that he exited the hotel in nothing but a towel, vowing never to sing in the city again, and so on. He did stay at the Palace, and had sung in Carmen at the opera house the night before the earthquake. And he did skedaddle as soon as he could — took a ferry to Oakland and hopped the nearest train to New York and thence off to la bella Italia (his account here). But the towel part was a bit of an exaggeration. By now, the beloved is fairly used to them, and rolled with this one with characteristic aplomb.
Full-bellied from the tea, we were off to a side alley pedicure! For her, not for me. I had never been into a nail emporium, and it was an education. Slash kinda creepy. Several of the gals there asked me more than once whether I’d like one too, and I kept having to find gracious ways to say NO WAY ARE YOU KIDDING ALLOW A PERFECT STRANGER TO HAVE AT MY CUTICLES WITH SHARP OBJECTS?!!
(A gal quoted in this ditty on la vie butchÂ opines that the Butch of Today submits to mani/pedis with a casualness with which our kind once approached auto repair and hating men. I have clearly not received the email, neither about the mani/pedis nor the mani/haties.)
My discomfort over the notion of a pedicure was difficult to convey gracefully, but I tried. I might have slipped a bit and mentioned something about the sharp objects and cuticles in earshot of a woman whose every extremity was being ministered to by the nail emporium staff, and thus was unable to move. I might have attempted to apologize to her. It might or might not have worked. Still, the beloved left very, very happy, with shiny red toenails. I mean burnt sienna toenails. I mean burnt cabernet toenails. Whatever. They shined.
From pedi to the SF Museum of Modern Art! And the Avedon exhibit! Scrumtious. I adjusted my pocket square in the reflection of his über-famous photo of Davinia with elephants (above), thoroughly appreciating how apropos such a gesture was, in the room of the exhibit dedicated to his fashion photography.
En route to our dinner (below): doesn’t she look like a movie star? I trotted next to her for half a block taking paparazzi-like pictures, just because. Ah, young love.
We dined at a swank, much-Yelped & –Chowhounded restaurant! Whose matire d’ had the good sense to consult his notes about our reservation and wish us “Happy Anniversary” upon our entry! A card bearing the same wishes greeted us at our nifty corner table. Nice touches, and befitting a restaurant in a city that prides itself on being the nation’s gay mecca. I noted when I made the online reservation that it was our 15 year relationship anniversary and our one-year legal gay-married anniversary.
One day, people, one day, this kind of gracious and courteous support of our seasoned love will not be notable, even in other towns. One day. Just who knows when. Â Meanwhile, I appreciated it. When our love began to sprout, back in the mid-1990s, this sort of graciousness would have been even more notable. Fifteen years before that, I wouldn’t have even been comfortable being evidently lovey-dovey with my partner in a restaurant. Alright I was still a coupla years shy of coming out thirty years ago. But still.
At first, I wanted to spank our waitron for being too perky and brash (“ladies”!! she kept traipsing up to the table and addressing us as “ladies”!!), but after enough of the perky and brash Pinot Noir I was willing simply to talk about spanking it instead of the waitron. But over time I got used to her.
Not more than a few minutes into the meal, the hetero couple nearby us had complaints about their wine. I stifled the impulse to offer ours up for a spanking, since it deserved one probably more than theirs did. Then another hetero couple sat down between us and the wine-complaining hetero couple, and the two couples traded stories about various vacation spots and fancy restaurants and such-like. The beloved noted a perfect criss-cross man-to-man convo, with the gals offering demure, occasional, decidedly minor side chit-chat. I thought stuff like that only happened in movies. Of the 1930s.
If we weren’t so busy having fun, we would have listened in some more and learned a bit about how the other 9/10ths live. Geezum peezum, though. I mean, we were digging into our kids’ lunch money for this dinner, and the folks next to us just thought, on a lark, they’d pop into the city and stay the night. You know, at a hotel. Which notion had occurred to us as a way to celebrate our 15th anniversary, but, you know, it would have cost us our kids’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner money, so nope.
As I say, though, no neighboring snootery could squelch the enjoyment of two harried parents out to dinner at a place that served food accompanied by sauces. On the food. That took time and skill to cook. O lordy lord do I look forward to the time either or both of the kids’ palates can bear anything close to a sauce, since I rather like cooking them. Meanwhile, we slog through the culinary wilderness, hacking away at the underbrush of kid-friendly fish sticks and pasta-with-parmensan and peas-with-butter.
Incidentally: one of the many things I love about my beloved is that, in full view of the snooty couples, she ran her finger down the side of her steak knife to pick up the dripping juices. And popped the finger into her mouth to suck ’em off with a satisfying smack. I’m just saying.
Another thing I love about her is how very different she is than me in oh so many ways. We had been recollecting memorable moments of the past fifteen years, and had seguéd into quizzing one another on the random, rare factoids we either of us might not know about one another. You know, old couple hi-jinx. I had just won a string of three quiz questions, and she eagerly pressed me to quiz her.
So I did: What activity filled my summers, my 5th grade through my 7th grade years? It took a heavy hint or two, before she recalled that I used to play “Star Trek” with my childhood chum Darla (yes: her real name), in the vast fields behind my house. I wore a blue velour shirt, Darla wore an orange one; we taped on our home-made Starfleet insignias and brandished plastic phasers and communicators we’d made from kits. Hours and hours of buddy-bonding enjoyment. My beloved, unfortunately, was blurry on some of the details, and not because of the perky and brash Pinot Noir.
“Okay,” I say. “But who played who?”
“She was the Captain!” the beloved blurted out.
“Whose name was….?”
“Piccolo! Cuinard! Something like that!”
“Wrong Star Trek!”
“Dang! Okay, okay, but you were #1!”
“Wrong Star Trek again!” We’ve got a cultural divide here, plus the May-December thing going on.
“You were– you were– you were Scotty!” It was so sad, the look of triumph on her face. I told her I knew she loved me anyhow. (Darla: Kirk. Me: Spock. But many of you knew that already.)
On the other side of us was a pair of women who were clearly not a couple. I suggested to the beloved that they were sisters. One had blond hair, the other brown, but otherwise their features were quite similar. I launched into the gazillionth re-tread of an old joke of mine (singing the first five words of the Donny & Marie song, “I’m a Little Bit Country (I’m a Little Bit Rock n’ Roll)”, and the beloved commenced to guffawing. Why? Fifteen years. You only need the joke cues; no longer the whole joke. In another fifteen, I’ll be able to shave it down to even fewer notes.
We had neither the belly space nor the money for desert, but it came anyway, thanks to the graciousness of the fine upstanding establishment. All manner of confections, all featuring chocolate. I went to say something to the beloved just after she had sunk her teeth into the first of them, but she waved her hand in front of my face. “Don’t interrupt me,” she said, as soon as she could catch her breath. Thereafter I didn’t.
When the waitron came with the tab, she proved her queer-cultural ignorance by placing the tray down next to me. The mannish one. “Close, but no cigar, my sweet naïf,” I think to myself, as I push the tray over to the be-lipsticked beloved, our family’s CFO and primary breadwinner. We lesbians do things differently. We’re kind of like Canada. Only the day before the beloved had demonstrated to some of the gals in her summer theater production how you can lead in a dance, even while you hold the arm position of the follower. “Polly and I have danced this way for years,” she said, to muffled chuckles.
With any luck, we’ll continue to.