Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Touch Of Class From A Trailer Park

It all started when a 12 year old girl offered to collect the mail and brought in a small cardboard package. It was a recent win and purchase from EBay, a bottle of cologne that a 15 year-old girl from 1986 wore at her sister's wedding. It was at that wedding that she was a bridesmaid for the very first time and received her first kiss from a handsome blonde with chapped lips. As Glory, the now 35 year-old woman, dabbed perfumed fingertips at her pulse-points, took a lint roller to her black knit skirt and expertly removed cat hair, she secretly wished that Bill, the man who was taking her out on the town this evening, was that boy from the past. She wouldn't have noticed chapped lips if it was.

The door opened and the trusted babysitter walked in as Glory, the young mother was finishing a quick nursing session with the baby. A few hurried instructions and suggested activities were discussed then Bill and Glory, the happy couple, walked out and shut the door to their double-wide trailer. The excited wife opened the sliding door to the 7 passenger van and strapped the infant into his carseat amid the tinny clatter of empty aluminum soda cans. She tossed a sack of Bill's gym clothes into the back seat and settled herself, and the dinner that she prepared for a new mother and father, in for the drive into the nearby city. Bill thought they'd never get away.

When they arrived into the downtown district the sky was already overcast. Glory was glad for her blue sweater as Bill got out of the van to cash in a portion of his coin collection for the restaurant meal. It didn't take him long and he was smiling when he started up the van and pulled away from the curb. They had to make a second stop to a couple of new parents and deliver a promised meal. That done, with the rain accompanying their van ride to the restaurant, Bill and Glory talked about past birthday dinners, anniversaries, and other special times eating out. These were happy memories, despite varying degrees of food quality and service. Upon arriving at the out-of-place restaurant where they had made their reservation, Bill and Glory kissed and walked quickly through the rain to the door framed by Grecian columns and exotic-looking plants. Often billed as a pizza place in a logging town whose upper-crust eateries include The Iron Skillet and The Pizza Factory, Rhodes truly is more than what it seems.

The hostess met Bill and Glory at the front. She seemed to know that it was this couple who had made reservations before they said they had them. Perhaps it was the baby in his Blue's Clues outfit. No one else was in the restaurant except a salt-and-pepper haired man who appeared to be snoozing in one of the front booths. The anniversary couple found out later that he was the owner and chef just catching a few winks before the arrival of the dinner crowd.

It is a four-star restaurant that belies its environment. Framed pictures of Greece graced the walls and silk plants were strategically placed to buffer dinner-time conversation. A fountain with a small carved statue of a woman atop it was the central focus of the room.

Subtle lighting invited Bill and Glory to a booth especially prepared for them. Glory quickly learned that it was too small to make nursing possible, so they moved themselves to a table especially prepared for them. The waitress asked them if they were ready to order long before they had a chance to look over the menu of the untried foreign dishes. Soon, however, orders were made: Glory with her Greek plate graced with roasted lamb, Spanakopita and Tzatziki sauce with pita wedges and Greek olives; and Bill with his Moussaka and Hummus with pita wedges and Greek olives. The chef was awake.

They started things off with a Greek salad for Glory and a cup of lemon chicken soup for Bill. Then came the main dishes. The flavors danced a lively Syrtos in their mouths, the saltiness of Feta cheese and Greek olives, the zest of lemon, and the pungency of garlic celebrated together in one delightful bite after the other. Greek rap music from the restaurant speakers accompanied this joyful party of the palate.

While not physically full, they were sated and overwhelmed by the variety of flavors, smells and textures. Yet, they were anxious to complete their meal with the traditional dessert of Baklava, which was not unfamiliar to them. As hoped for, the honey-sweetened and nut-filled pastry livened their palates again for a culinary grand finale.

There were plenty of leftovers, which the waitress promptly packaged for the trip home. By this time, the chef, who was back at his booth bed while Bill and Glory were dining, was again busy in the kitchen preparing dishes for the growing crowd. Bill paid the waitress $50 and told her to keep the change. Glory noticed the chef in the back and caught his attention. He smiled and waved the happy couple goodnight as they thanked him for his unforgettable performance.

A drive in the rain to a vacant ballpark to talk and feed the baby followed. Then a drive through this logging town to see where other restaurants once flourished, and back home to the smell of chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven, baked by the babysitter and a 12-year-old rounded out this anniversary evening. But not before a nervous Bill checked to make sure the tarp on the roof was still keeping out the pouring rain.

Bill and Glory
Four years and counting