My brother Fred, a lawyer from Chicago, not knowing what to get me as a gift (we used to give each other books, but now that the book-world is entirely digital, the lack of bookish corporality prevents us from doing so) got me a gift card from a fancy restauranteur that puts new levels of hoity into his toityness.
I suppose I am perplexing to buy gifts for. The truth of the matter is simple: there's nothing I feel I want anymore that I can't, albeit with some rumination, buy for myself.
When I read a book review, if it interests me, I buy the book. The same holds true with movies and TV shows on DVD, which I still prefer to Netflix because I have 'the collectors' gene.'
I care less than nothing about clothing and, as for accessories, I have more expensive watches than you can shake a wrist at. Except for the every day watch I wear, I keep those
As for my mania for fountain pens, there's one I have my eye on, and there's a pen I covet that is really 'too much,' but my personal opinion about such things is that chasing after them is more fun than actually buying them.
All this leaves the few people who give me gifts not knowing what to buy me, which is how I found myself at the aforementioned fancy-schmancy last night for dinner.
I sat there, I'll admit, in a mood that was more Gotterdammerrung than festive. The fact is, the last place I wanted to be, the last thing I wanted to do, was celebrate my birthday in a setting and with food that I cannot abide. Food and a setting so precious and fetishized that I felt like throwing my size 13s through the plate glass and running like Gulliver screaming through the streets when he realized, having returned home to London after so many years away and so many distant lands visited, that he was way better off living with the Houyhnhnms.
Truth be told for the money we spent last night over and above the generous gift certificate given to me by my brother, I could have flown business-class round-trip to Saltillo, stayed at the best hotel in town, El Quinta Real, and had two meals or three at Tino's, a small restaurant near Estadio Francesco I. Madura that, as part of my monthly pay for playing ball, I got two chicken dinners a month.
Tino's was lit with old Christmas lights that ringed the 15 x 20' space. Along the wall to the left after coming in through the swinging screen door, there was a long formica counter with eight or 10 swivel stools, two have which had given up the swiveling ghost.
A fan sat on the end of the counter and circulated the heat and dust and cigarette smoke around the place. Along the side wall there were four booths for four, or six if you were friends, and alongside the booths, three tables for four or three.
Being a lonely eater, I sat at the counter and Tino, behind the counter without me ordering, pulled me a bottle of cerveza from the cool and a glass of mineral water. In moments out from the kitchen in the back came a plate of heaping rice and beans and about five or seven unidentifiable chicken parts.
My guess is that the amount of food on one of Tino's chicken platters was greater than that of twenty or thirty diners at the well-manicured place I went to last night for the approximate price of a mortgage payment.
This food was and is the best I have ever had in my life. Perhaps it was the saccharine glow of memory that made it taste so good. Or perhaps when I ate there, the food tasted better because I was away from my parents' home and the frozen-block-of-vegetables-oppression that their supervision afflicted me with.
Maybe it was because I was alone and happy in a new country with a new name, around, for the first time, people who seemed to love me and care for me. Not because I could hit a baseball, but because I was Jorge Navidad, making $200/month with two chicken dinners thrown in.
Last night, I was as far from Tino's as I could get. The risotto with rock shrimp was doll-house sized, and I skipped dessert because, well, let's just put it this way, Hoboken will have to freeze over before I even try Olive Oil ice cream.
That's it for now.
I wish they delivered.