Friday night, I got stood up. It wasn't really a traumatic deal since I wasn't convinced he was going to show in the first place. It's funny how my 6th sense works like that. He asked me out, I said yes (obviously), he proposed dinner at his place, I declined and pitched meeting for dinner someplace nice, he slipped into the folds of time. Which, incidentally, is where a surprising number of my ex-boyfriends reside, so at least he'll have company. Joe rather graciously agreed to take me out and keep me from sulking on the sofa with a pint of ice cream, chocolate of course, and so we went to a pub nearby that has an enormous patio that faced the beautiful evening sun. And it was beautiful. We had a drink there, my brother and his wife rang me to chat just a bit, and then we moved on to another pub, followed by another pub, and ended the evening at my favorite, Dowling's, having a nice... um... Sauvignon Blanc? Sancerre? Pinot Grigio, that was it. Nice little wine to round out the best evening of being stood up ever. Thanks Joe for yet another way that you take care of me.
Saturday dawned bright and beautiful as it should do in July. I spent the day puttering around, doing absolutely nothing special other than pretending to study my Italian. I did commit to memory the following phrases, however: fra di noi (between us) and ho poco soldi (I have little money). At this rate, I'll be fluent in another 57 years. In the meantime, Joe, Mark, and Sarah came over for dinner Saturday night. It's been awhile since we've all been together and we're trying to plan another trip, so I invited them over. And they accepted. And showed up, unlike some people mentioned above.
It began like all good dinner parties do: Mark called because he was lost and needed better directions. Honestly, I don't know how I manage to make it home every night. So Mark arrived with a bottle of wine and the photos of his recent trip to Cuba. As I was finishing the prep for dinner, we had a bit of wine and caught up. What I love about Mark most is his laugh. After that, he's got a wickedly sharp sense of humor that I just adore. So it was entertaining, to say the least, as we chatted, sauteed, and waited for the others to arrive.
Sarah landed at the door next, bearing flowers (she's such a good guest), Pimms, which I'm given to understand is the drink of rowing and should always be mixed with lemonade, and Bacardi Breezers, which is what is affectionately referred to as an Alcholpop. She had just returned from a family holiday on the beaches in Portugal.
They make quite a tan pair, the two of them. Hate them both.
Joe arrived last with the requested baugette except that it was actually one of those 'just pop it in the oven for 8 minutes and presto: hot, fresh bread!' type deals. Which is fine unless you're making crostini and your friends are starving. Crostini got scrapped in favor of hot fresh bread and crostini ingredients. Nice, but not exactly how I'd had it planned. But that's why you have friends over to dinner, to curb your relentless perfectionism.
They set into the bread and I set about making the pasta sauce. It was such a simple idea really. Some sundried tomatoes, some pancetta, a little fresh cream, toss it over the pasta, perfect. Except one small flaw. Sarah is a vegetarian. And pancetta looks deceptively like sundried tomatoes when covered with cream sauce. Trooper that she is, she never complained, complimented me tons and told me I was being stupid for apologizing all over myself. My biggest concern was, as it always is when I'm cooking for vegetarians, that I've made enough sympathetic foods. Our main course was roasted pork with veggies, which really left her with a meal of bread and cheese, pasta with scraped sauce, and veggies. And Pimms. Which both she and Mark were ducking into mightily. Joe passed because he was happy with his wine and I passed because it tasted like cold medicine. Did I mention that they were mixing the Pimms with the Baccardi? yeah... dangerous combination as it turns out. It gets you really, Really, REALLY drunk. Functionally drunk. Happy drunk. Still holding your own drunk. But also can't remember where I parked my bike drunk. Conceiver of bad ideas drunk. Hungover as hell drunk.
We finish dinner and clear the table so Mark can show us his photos of Cuba which were absolutely stunning. I really want to go to Cuba but since the only way I can do so is to have one of them pay for everything, not going to happen any time soon. Fine enough, I didn't move to this side of the Atlantic to spend all my holiday time flying West over the ocean. But those photos were amazing. Just a beautiful city, magnificent in its ruined state and its optimism. The colors were so vibrant. And the cars... My word the cars! Huge 50's American cars, still in perfect running order, some looking every bit their age. His biggest comment on the cars, other than how beautiful they were was how huge they were. Damn, now I really want to go to Cuba.
So after the photos it was decided by members outside of our group that we should join them at the pub. We couldn't have agreed more, things were packed, a taxi was ordered and we made our way outside to wait. And Sarah had a brilliant idea. Let's just take the bikes. Joe had one, Mark had one, I have one, perfect. Oh wait... one short. I nixed the idea of me driving a bike after a bit of wine and she had another brilliant idea. I could ride on Joes' bike, and she'd ride on Marks'. Now it has to be said that we have done this before. And it further has to be stated that while it worked fine for Joe and I (with the exception of me screaming) it didn't work so well for Mark and Sarah. He was doing quite well until they fell over. In the street. In the very busy street with cars and buses having a gander up Sarah's skirt. So you can only imagine how this is going to turn out. And thankfully, so could we at the time, so we talked her into walking til we found a taxi and then they boys would bike in to meet us. Great, perfect, let's go.
As Joe and I rounded the corner, we realized it was awfully quiet behind us. Visual inspection of the street turned up devoid of friends. So we backtracked and when we rounded the first corner, halfway down the block, just outside my front door, were Mark and Sarah, lying in a heap on the ground. Laughing. They picked themselves up, Sarah mounted the bike again and we could hear a lot of 'are you ready/yes/are you sure/yes' back and forthing. And then Mark lifted his foot to the pedal. And like a cartoon character, they slowly tipped to the right until pavement. That's when Joe and I started laughing. Howling might be a better term for it. My poor neighbors... It's all we could do, stand there and laugh hysterically while they gathered themselves, once again, and walked the bike down the street to greet us with 'that kind of hurt'. Mark already had war wounds from his trip (he's not telling how he got them but bruised ribs are involved, his bruised ribs) so it can't have felt good. He soldiered on, hailed us a taxi and duly met us at the pub. Where Sarah bought him a Guinness. I think that's what really put him over the edge. Oh, no, wait... It was the Pimms that put him over the edge. The Guinness simply made it so he'd never see the edge again. Poor guy.
Some dancing was done, some drinks were had and all too soon it was apparent that we needed to exit stage left. So Sarah and I flagged down a taxi and came home. Mark and Joe hailed their own taxi, thankfully forgoing on the biking idea. I remember as I walked in, thinking how unusual it was to be coming home in the wee hours, after a night with Joe, Mark, and Sarah, sober. But it was a nice change.