Edited by Rebecca Lomax
Premature Display of Affection
Rushing around on Thursday, I make a mental note to plan mid-week dinners for 8 p.m. instead of 7.
I scheduled my date with Barry on a Thursday to reduce the pressure. Saturday night needs to be a great date, and Barry and I are an unsure great. Unfortunately, I forget a 5:00 conference call, which means I scream in and out of the shower to wash off the day, jump into a long leather skirt and throw on a turtleneck and a pashmina scarf, not caring that the pashmina is last season. Hell, my date is last season — old enough to be my uncle, if not my father.
I start calming down 10 minutes into the drive across the river. On the Suspension Bridge, my cell phone rings and I fully expect to be apologizing to Barry that I'm late. Instead it's John delusionally thinking he's on the calendar tonight. Sorry, but it is 7 p.m. and there was no confirmation on his estimated return to the area. John is a pilot and is relocating to another base city in a month, so I politely decline his offer of "occasional dating" and delete his number from memory in the parking lot.
I breeze in to Dee Felice, a safe haven from the chaos outside: soft lighting, jazz playing and the wonderful aroma of food. Did I eat lunch today?
Barry stands and reaches out to kiss me. I instinctively offer my cheek and he reminds me that in Canada they kiss on both cheeks. OK. Can I have a drink?
Barry agrees it was a whirlwind day for him as well, since he flew in from Toronto. His manhattan is his shrug off to it all. Did he say, "Manhattan?" Does anyone even know what's in that? When he offers me his cherry, I decline, since it seems rather intimate for our second meeting. Instead I sip my cabernet and glance through his trip photos. We have a giggle over the masquerade ball pics, and the conversation is easy. He scoots his bar stool closer. I pretend not to notice.
When the hostess comes to seat us, I slip off my stool and follow her to the table. Barry is lagging behind. I sit down, he takes my arm and asks me to stand again. "Your skirt is amazing," he says, and I agree. It is a special skirt that I had made in the East Village a few years ago. "No, it's you, not the skirt." Now I'm blushing and sit quickly. The waitress is mystified with the sitting/standing thing going on, but she is ecstatic when Barry tells her to bring us a bottle of the feature wine she just described.
Barry turns back to me and continues, "You are so sexy." He reaches for my hand across our little table in the window and holds it tightly. Oh dear, what am I going to do? I'm not into public displays of affection. My mother always frowned on it. Growing up, my sister and I would giggle when we saw couples making out. In college, we would yell, "Get a room!"
Luckily, the wine arrives and it is indeed delightful. Barry has a trick with the cork. He proceeds to drop it from three inches high and it lands perfectly still on its end. He gives it to me and says to try it. It takes me four tries before I, too, succeed. He smiles, "It's a sign of sensuality." Really. Have we ordered yet?
Dinner is fabulous, with my compliments to the chef for the Steak Felice. Now that is a shrimp sauce!
Barry's compliments, however, are all directed toward me. Graciously accepting compliments is an art my family insisted on, but I'm slightly uncomfortable here with Barry's abundance of kind words and his hand holding. When he pulls my chair over besides his for our dessert and coffee, I'm hoping it's to see the band playing behind the bar. No, he wants to whisper in my ear and share his Bailey's Irish cream.
I like Bailey's, I like Dee Felice and the wine? I like it as well. The evening is lovely. My skirt is lovely. Barry is a delightful conversationalist and a generous dinner companion.
When we proceed to leave, Barry offers to drive me to my car a block away. Thank you, that would be lovely. But, I hate to say, I'm just wondering, is it me or is this all leading to me sitting next to him in the car? As we walk up to his car, he gently kisses me as he unlocks my door. Please, tell me a Bentley has bucket seats!
A Night in Newport
Friday night, my man and I were reminded what a vibrant, diverse and accessible city we have in Cincinnati. We began the evening at Sylvia's in Newport, our Mexican haven for years.
I waited all day to eat, and we wanted to go late enough that we didn't have to wait around for the rock show to start, which presents a danger of too much drinking. By 8:00, I was ready to gorge. There was no wait, and Sylvia's chips and salsa were right on target.
Multi-striped horse blankets, piñatas, chili pepper lights and kitschy Mexican knick-knacks give Sylvia's its look. Our table had a ceramic alligator in a fetching straw hat peering out from the salt and peppershakers. I'm not sure how this is a Mexican reptile, but I enjoyed his company nonetheless.
Though the massive wood booths are gone and the staff has changed from a polite and knowledgeable Spanish family to three relatively clueless, blond Kentuckians, we enjoyed an authentic meal of guacamole, flautas and enchiladas.
A new mariachi guitarist added to the ambiance as he strolled from table to table. Yes, the tiny-footed, bulbous-bellied guitarist pictured on the menu was absent, too. As always, I felt a little uncomfortable during the first serenade, but as time wore on and my belly got fuller I was able to relax and enjoy his talent, especially when he was addressing other diners. What's more, once the musician realized we weren't going to tip him for his attention, he pretty much left us alone. Bad form? Yes. Effective? Definitely!
Regardless of our planning, however, the service was so fast and the food so good we were all paid up and out the door with close to an hour left to kill.
We decided to cruise the dessert assortment — I'm not a big fan of the fried ice cream at Sylvia's — at York Street International Café, just the around the corner.
York Street has an elegant, yet surprisingly inviting feel. As you walk in, the main dining room is lined with towering dark wood bookshelves, decorated with charming collectible themes and topped off with two eye-catching copper chandeliers. Young hipsters filled the tables, but we were seated immediately despite the fact that we were just desserting and potentially taking up a productive table on a busy Saturday night.
We found ourselves at our "usual" table, decorated with pictures of Florence, Italy and surrounded by shelves of what I call "Spuds MacKenzie" effigies. My man explained that the owner actually has two white dogs with one black eye (further picture proof was on the shelves), and this was not a tribute to Budweiser's strangest mascot. He's so wise about such things.
We each decided on a drink and a dessert. I was a little disappointed they didn't have a better bourbon selection. I mean, we're in Kentucky, for God's sake! But they made up for it in the dessert menu. I ordered my very favorite: crème caramel — most places serve crème brulee, but caramel is so much better! — and my man got a chocolate caramel pecan tart that satisfied his hankering for "something chocolate."
We savored our cocktails and confections while discussing the décor, poking around in the drawers by our table and watching a fist-sized gold fish float upside down in the corner of his tank. I swear he was looking at me for help, but one of our friends working that night explained the fish had been like that for months.
A band was playing upstairs, but we were previously committed and now pressed to get to the historic Southgate House Ballroom for a mellifluous night of original Cincinnati tunes.
As we walked up York toward the river and past the Newport Peace Bell Tower, the beauty of the Cincinnati skyline struck me. The skyscrapers, the city lights and the reflection on the river presented a romantic background for the quick stroll to our final destination. And, though I've lived in New York and L.A., the ability to see a complete cityscape from such a close distance is profound.
The accessibility of Cincinnati and the malleability to make this town whatever you can dream provides diversity and strength. Just participate.
Payday for Everyone
Last Friday must have been payday for half the free world. Occasionally there's a mathematical instance in which people on different pay cycles all get paid on the same day, and we unsuspecting individuals don't realize it until we get into our cars and attempt to make use of our earnings. Then all hell breaks loose.
Friday night, Bill and I wanted dinner at LaRosa's in Hyde Park and a movie. Well, Madison Road was packed with traffic, the LaRosa's parking lot was full and the path around the building to the exit was also practically blocked. Whoever was driving that Chevrolet Caprice was dead-set on getting the last parking space, even if it meant preventing anyone else in the parking lot from ever getting out.
After my 18-point turn to escape the parking lot and the three cars behind me, we got onto I-71 — I needed to drive fast by that point — and cruised up to Kenwood. We encountered another jam-packed parking lot but employed our anger management skills and parked up the street. I don't think either of us could have waited another minute to eat.
Later we saw Storytelling at The Esquire. Young Cliftonites must have been part of that half of the free world who didn't get paid this weekend, because the movie was surprisingly empty, especially for a Friday. The movie was provocative and unsettling, as was the man who turned to the two guys in front of us during the previews and asked, "Do you plan to talk through this entire movie?"
Maybe he was part of that non-payday half of the free world, too. I just get nervous around people with rage potential. Those guys were talking too much, though. It was only a matter of time before someone told them to shut the hell up.
On Saturday, Jen and I hit the streets to run some errands and catch up with each other. I let her drive, as my car-ma and park-ma the previous evening were less than stellar. Again I saw people pulling stunts with cars that still make my head spin. It's bad enough that people make left turns on red and hang out of parking lots blocking two lanes while pulling into traffic, but it tends to make me just a bit edgier when it's been raining all day.
With nothing tempting enough at home for breakfast on Sunday, Bill and I decided Bob Evans was in order, though we had to contend with the church crowd. But the cinnamon swirls are worth it. I also should have guessed that since the predicted snowfall for Sunday was in excess of 25 flakes total, going to the grocery store would be an adventure, which it was.
Needless to say it was great to get back home and watch the snow fall and the traffic pass by as the cold, snow-dusted half of the free world scurried to thin out their wallets before the weekend was over.
I can't wait for spring.
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