It’s odd seeing Facebook status updates from my friends reading TGIF! or some similar variation of the theme. When you’re unemployed, Friday is just another day. It’s really no more special or different than Monday, which is kind of sad. I loved loving Fridays! Fridays were like a beacon in the dark, a light at the end of a tunnel. A goal to aspire to. Friday signified that the weekend was here. Ahh, the weekend! Now I can sleep in! Err…wait a second. Well, now I can go do something fun during the day instead of having to work! Umm…yeah, hold the line. See? For me, it’s all arbitrary. I might as well feel the Wednesday love or get all excited about Sunday evenings. You know what else I miss? Hating Mondays. Every story needs a villain, and Monday was like Darth Vader, Lex Luthor, and Cruella Deville all rolled into one. How I despised Monday! Couldn’t wait for Friday to swoop in and kick his ass! Every week was like an epic adventure. I loved watching Friday slip through the gates of Mordor and carry Monday to the very top of Mount Doom, tossing him into the volcanic crater bubbling with molten lava and saving humanity, with a noble assist from humble little Tuesday.
Alas, now it’s just another random day.
Last night, however, was not just another random night. I got a chance to see how The Other Half lives, and lemme tell ya – I want in!
I have these friends, E and J. They started out as business associates – E owns an apparel/promotional marketing company, and J is his partner (literally – she’s his wife). I introduced them to KNA, my former employer, and before long they became our vendor of choice. We struck up a personal friendship, and a year ago E and J suggested I stop by for dinner sometime. J is Filipino and promised me an authentic home-cooked meal. I love Filipino food – my ex-wife was half-Filipino – and so, I jumped at the chance. We finally settled on a date: December 29. Perfect! I was on vacation that week (Christmas break) and kid-free. That day dawned like any other. Overcast, mid-3os. The forecast was for rain. Imagine my surprise, then, when a freak snowstorm developed mid-afternoon, just as I was showering and getting ready to make the trek over to their part of town. Portland isn’t a very snow-friendly city; the littlest bit shuts us down. Plus, E and J live on the side of a hill on a very steep street. Suffice it to say, we had to scrap plans that afternoon. “We’ll do it again,” they said, but because Life Happens, it was ten months later before “again” rolled around. We finally decided on November 4th.
Naturally, all day yesterday, I kept waiting for Mother Nature or Fate to step in and derail our plans a second time. “Hope it doesn’t snow,” I joked, and even though it was sunny and quite warm – 65 degrees – I kept a wary eye on the sky all day. When I heard a distant buzzing sound drawing nearer to my house early in the afternoon, my first thought was “tornado!” rather than “leaf blower!” (which it turned out to be). When it came time to leave, I half-expected to find my car had a flat tire or a dead battery. On the road, I waited for the inevitable overturned semi. Even as I pulled into their neighborhood, I feared I might find their house a stack of kindling at the bottom of the hill, compliments of a mudslide. Fortunately, none of these events came to pass, and I pulled to a stop at their curb at 5:40, without incident.
My first reaction? Wow, my friends are well off! Their house was just like one of the Street Of Dreams homes they put on display every year. Three levels, professionally landscaped, extensive stonework and fountains and their own private waterfall cascading through their backyard. There’s a stone island with a firepit in the center and cozy outdoor chairs, surrounded by water (they’ve got a moat!!) that you cross a bridge to reach. And I haven’t even seen the inside yet. I rang the doorbell, and was greeted immediately by barking dogs. Oh…right. I forgot they had a dog. Not just one dog, though. Not even two dogs. They’ve got three of ’em. Which is all fine and good – I’ve got nothing against dogs – but I’ve only ever owned a cat, so I’m not real familiar with how to act around them. Especially considering that two of the dogs were English mastiffs. Seriously, they were approximately the size of horses. E opened the door, and there they were, sniffing me and pawing me and slobbering on me (the dogs, not my friends, though they seemed happy to see me, too). It was a bit overwhelming at first, but by the end of the evening I’d made good friends with Lyla, the largest of the trio. Over and over, we played tug-of-war with a piece of rope. She kept grabbing it in her mouth and shoving one end into my lap, so what could I do but play along? She was strong, too. Literally pulled me right off the couch while I tried valiantly to hang onto my end of the rope. Dogs are fun, it turns out. Even ones the size of minivans.
J was busy cooking, and the (enormous and ultra-modern) kitchen was filled with the heavenly scents of Filipino food. I was drooling before I’d taken three steps. E offered up a drink. I asked for white wine, but it was a late harvest Gewurztraminer which was too sweet for my tastes, so he kindly offered to mix me up something else instead. He suggested a vodka tonic with cranberry juice, which sounded great to me. He then grabbed what had to be the biggest bottle of vodka I’d ever seen, a Belvedere roughly the size of a lamp. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised – this was merely keeping up with the oversized theme (the house, the dogs, the kitchen). He mixed up my cocktail (which was awesome – Belvedere is considered a “super premium” brand and you could tell by the smooth finish) and gave me a grand tour of the house. It’s every bit as beautiful inside as you would expect. The second floor landing is roughly the size of my living room, though I didn’t have the heart to admit as much. “Talk about wasted space,” he said. Hell, rent it out to me – I could live there and have plenty of room! Eventually we found ourselves sitting outside on the upper deck, immersed in cozy patio furniture, listening to music over flush-mounted ceiling speakers that are part of the surround sound system that pipes music through the entire house, with a giant upright space heater taking the chill off the breezy November evening. We drank our drinks and ate lumpia (mmm!) while chatting about this and that. Soon, it was dinner time, so we went back inside and pulled up stools, eating at the polished granite bar. J had made chicken adobo and rice, and a side of marinated cucumbers. They asked if I’d ever had it with a fried egg on top, and though the combination sounded odd to me, I was game to give it a try. When in Rome and all that jazz. They served me my plate, with the egg sitting atop the rice, and when I broke into it with my fork, the yolk spilled over the rice. The combination of chicken and egg (which came first? who cares??) and rice was absolutely delicious. I’d have never thought of that, but after one bite I was sold.
After dinner E and I hung out in the living room watching the Blazers game and talking while J picked up their daughter from soccer practice. When they got back we had warm pumpkin pie with ice cream, accompanied by a small glass of Crystal Head vodka over ice, another high-end brand that is “quadruple-distilled and triple-filtered through Herkimer diamond crystals” and advertised by Dan Aykroyd, the actor. The bottle is a crystal skull. How awesome is that? I dared to ask E how much it cost. He told me it was $55. First time in my life I ever drank vodka straight up. And actually enjoyed it.
9:00 rolled around, and I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, since some people had to get up early the next day for work, so I thanked them for the wonderful dinner and the great hospitality, and made the long drive back home. Back to reality, as it were. I don’t have anything even remotely approaching a moat at my townhouse, though sometimes when it rains really hard the gutters overflow and I have to deal with really big puddles in the backyard.
Not quite the same thing, is it?