Thursday, November 20, 2014

Little Door, Big Pleasure

When, after a largely excruciating childhood and lonely, miserable adolescence, I suddenly became (sort of) rich and famous in my early 20s, I was insufferable. The world had spent 22 years hurting me, and I, by God, was going to hurt it back, worse. Of course, a big part of me felt that maybe the world had been right to humiliate and demoralize me as relentlessly as it had, so that part was fiercely contemptuous of those who treated the newly, well, validated me kindly. A third part couldn’t trust anyone’s kindness, and compelled me to try to hurt them before they could hurt me. There was just no winning with me! Naturally, most people just shook their heads, mumbled, “What an asshole,” and gave me a very wide berth.

Forty years and more after the fact, I and the missus had dinner Wednesday night with one who didn’t, H—, and his own wife, S—, and what a sublime pleasure it was. Even after calming down a bit in my 30s, achieving enough self-respect to be able to exist in the world, and ceasing to be monstrous, I have continued to think there’s something terribly wrong with me, as I just don’t enjoy other people as much as others seem to, so what a relief to enjoy an evening as much as I enjoyed last evening. 

We convened, at our friends’ invitation, at the wondrous Little Door on 3rd Street, on West Hollywood’s southern border. The food, sort of a French/Moroccan fusion, was breathtaking — the best I’ve eaten in a restaurant in this decade. I normally wince when people speak of good service, as though they're accustomed to being waited on, or feel they ought to be, but this was the best kind of Good Service, not just prompt and attentive, but joyful. You got the impression the servers took pleasure in presenting the glorious food, and were proud of their colleagues in the kitchen.

In my days as a teenaged and barely-20 parking attendant I’d always found it distasteful when pairs of couples drove onto the lot with the husbands talking about the Dodgers or ham radio or foreign policy in the front seat while their wives, in the back, talked about fashion, recipes, and The Children. As we were seated, it appeared that sort of thing might take place at our table, but the conversation soon began to flow in every direction with each of speaking to the two others to whom he or she wasn’t married. And at our table, it was H— and I discussing fashion. I’d met S— once, I think, decades ago, and liked her, but didn’t realize how wonderfully tart her sense of humor was. In the car on the way home, the missus told me that S— had asked her many questions — that is, had seemed genuinely interested in her, and what a treat it always is to meet someone who wants to talk about something other than him or herself! I not only wasn’t bored, as I so often am (even by people whose great niceness I don’t dispute for a millisecond), but wanted to keep going even after we finally surrendered our table and went back outside, H— and S— pointing out that it was past their bedtime.  
Inside, the four of us had (possibly to fellow diners’ dismay) demonstrated our respective abilities to sing The Who’s “Pictures of Lily”. Once outside, the missus and I performed our famous impression of Yoko Ono sitting in with the Days of Future Past-era Moody Blues, and we all headed home, I with a carton containing the main course (vegetable couscous) the missus had been too busy chatting to eat. Tonight, for the second time in 24 hours, I shall eat like a king!

Have I neglected to mention the crème brulee, which somehow managed to be even more heavenly than my scallops had been? Have I neglected to mention that our friends treated us? 

A red-letter evening. One of my three or four happiest of a year that I’ve thought at many points I might not endure to see the end of. Sometimes I almost feel like a real human being.

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