Kris and I walked up to the corner of Oak Grove and River Roads at noon Saturday to meet Lane and John in what I hope will be the first of a series of gatherings. We got a table at McQueen’s, a smoky bar filled with aging men and women who look to be regulars. The women around us were ordering screwdrivers and Bloody Marys; the men were ordering beer to go with their breakfasts. Because McQueen’s doesn’t serve lunch until 1pm on Saturdays, the old folks chased their alcohol with chicken fried steaks and three-egg omelettes. And everyone smoked — great, billowing puffs of the stuff.
We’d had our hearts set on burgers, but we settled for breakfast food as well. The food was incidental, though. Our real purpose was to get to know Lane and John, our neighbors and fellow bloggers. We’ve been here nearly three years now, and have only barely said “hi” to these two.
We had a good time. We chatted about the history of Oak Grove, about the recent snowy weather, about our jobs, and about blogging. We shared anecdotes of the various stores that used to dot the Superhighway (now 99e).
I had forgotten how smoky McQueen’s was until we were walking home. I could smell it on my clothes. “It’s a good thing you just took that sweater to the cleaners,” Kris kidded. “Now it’ll really smell lovely.” When I took the sweater off at home, I could tell that she was right. It’s cloaked in cigarette smoke.
After a bit of writing, Kris and I each fired up an iPod and we took off for a walk. I listened to Undaunted Courage, which is about the Lewis and Clark expedition; she listened to The Decemberists. It felt very Pacific Northwest. The sun was out and shining. It was a lovely day. We walked down the hill, through the park, back along the river, through the lovely estates, and then up the hill past McQueen’s again. Along the way we stopped to point out notable features to each other: cats basking in the sun, cats sitting forlorn in bedroom windows, a gaggle of ducks in the ditchwater, a house damaged from a fallen tree. We passed several other people out walking. We passed a boy who had scraped together all the remaining snow he could find (there’s not a lot left) to build a snow-head — just the top of a snowman, with a carrot nose and eyes made from chestnut husks. We passed several people in their driveways washing their cars. We passed people outside gardening. It’s January 20th, and I feel like we’re being given a small preview of spring. I like it.
In the late afternoon we ran errands. We stopped by Trader Joe’s to get more salsa autentica and, especially, more nuts. (Since I started my wellness program, nuts are my favorite food.) The store was crowded, more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. I don’t do well with crowds. And I was hungry. And there was a hippie family with clueless parents and screaming kids. This all made me very tense.
“I’m hungry,” I said on the drive home. “Let’s stop at Oaks Bottom Pub.” We got the restaurant at just after five. All the booths and tables were full, so we sat at the counter. I had a feeling we should have just gone next door to Cha Cha Cha, but I didn’t heed it. Instead I sat there getting crankier and crankier (because I was really very hungry), listening to all the goddamn kids in the place. The pub had no less than eight children, ranging in age from about eighteen months to eight-years-old. It was like we were at Chuck E. Cheese.
I don’t mind kids, but there’s a time and a place for them. A pub? Not really the place.
On our drive home, Kris and I once again had a discussion about how kid-centric the United States is, or at least the small subsection to which we’re exposed. Are other countries like this? We don’t think so. We don’t even think all parents are like this. But many of them are. And that’s fine. That’s their prerogative. It just gets old after a while, listening to stories about children over and over, or having a dinner with friends constantly interrupted by the kids.
Now I sound like an old grouch, when in reality I love children, and especially our friends’ children.