Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ya, Ya

There have been a couple of Ya, Ya's in my life. One was an elderly woman whose response to question, statement or anything was basically " ya ya". The second wore Bugs Bunny underwear and worked in the dairy department of Wal-Mart. I use it here as a variant of slightly titillating , useless information.

We decide to have dinner on New Year's Eve in a nearby town, the one that Johann characterizes as a place where it takes three women to make a complete set of teeth. The restaurant is new. Dawn gets rave reviews from work associates. She tells me the chef is a Las Vegas pro, but not the one I know. "Younger," says. Whenever I meet my friend the Las Vegas chef, I pick his brain about culinary techniques.

When we arrive at the restaurant, the place is nearly empty. There's one table at the east wall with a reserved sign, hand printed with magic marker. Two teenage girls and an older women are working behind a counter which serves as bar and extra seating. "Sit anywhere," one woman says before Dawn can tell her, "We have reservations for two at 5:30." The scene is reminiscent of a trip in which Dawn surfs the dining guide in the motel room; calls to ask if they take reservations and the person at the other end of the line says, "Honey we're a fast food restaurant."

You need sunglasses to protect your eyes from eight 100 watt wall sconces and bright overhead lights. I look in the rear food prep area. My friend the Las Vegas chef is scurrying around a small kitchen in a burgundy chef's coat. "Make it good," I say. "I'm here." Twenty years ago the mother of one of my student's pointed out to me the best way to get a meal at William Ho's restaurant was to poke your head in back to let the cook know you weren't some derelict off the street. She was Chinese.

The chef greets me with a big HAY THERE . I rib Dawn about her misinformation. Our waitperson is wearing a zipped, hooded sweatshirt covering a very ample gut. When I order a beer, another teenager, obviously over 18, serves me. Slowly, people file in. There's a couple at the other side of the restaurant with a shrieking baby. Mom has to leave with the kid on one occasion and gets up to chase the little rug rat when he escapes from his high chair. The over 70 set needs to eat before bedtime at 8 pm. They arrive en mass. There's Col Sander's and his wife, Burl Ives, three farmers in bib overalls, the librarian from Viroqua with the turkey wattles and a gent bent over with a cane who looks like Uncle Wiggly.

Flashback to an Italian restaurant in Sedona on the day before Valentine's day. Our epiphany to beat the crowds is copied by every octogenarian in the local retirement community. The coup de grace-two members of a local rock band on guitar and violin playing Puff The Magic Dragon. Dawn had to send her food back.

After six thirty the twenty something set arrives dressed in their finest jeans and hoodies. Afterward they'll head for the bar next door to celebrate.

Our food is worthy of a Las Vegas chef. I'm not being facetious. It was good. When Teeny brings the bill, she forgets to add the beer. I remind her that she'll get a larger tip, if she re-figures the total. That convinces her to go back and correct the bill.

We leave driving no faster than 45 miles per hour in dense fog. Jorge begged off from accompanying us because the six mile trip is too dangerous because of a winding narrow country road and drunk drivers.

Johann calls in the evening of New Year's Day. He wants to know how a friend can rid her place of a ghost. Early in the morning, Jorge calls to tell us he's working on framing a wall for his new upstairs bathroom. I assume he's messing with us to get us out of bed after a long night. I tell Dawn to hang onto my phone for a minute because I'm washing potatoes in preparation for hashed browns with creme fraiche. Jorge forgets that we have a dog who delights in licking your face at six am.

New Year's Day the weather changes from 40 degree fog and mist to twenty degrees and 25 mile per hour winds. I believe that's the equivalent of 35 below zero. I muse that loading wood builds character. I quit after four wheel barrow loads and a whole lot of cussing when Mandy tips over a full wheelbarrow trying to attack a block of wood.

She's an animal.

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