Sunday, March 20, 2011

the people who lunch

Elaine Stritch
was not there.

No throaty celebration of the ladies who lunch.

But we were well beyond the ladies only lunch club.

My former landlady (Karen) called to let me know one of my readers was in town and wanted to meet me.

I am certainly no J. D. Salinger (in many respects -- one of which is I am still alive).  No shrinking violet I.  In fact, I am as shameless about being the center of attention as my former state's senior senator, who is known to shove constituents out of the way to get to the nearest news camera.

Karen asked if I would be interested in a late lunch on Sunday.  Let's see?  Fans.  Food.  Of course, I would be there.

When I showed up at Tinto del Mar, I was looking for two lunching ladies at a table.  And, even though I was fashionably late, I saw only tables of large groups.

It turned out one of the large groups was Karen's.  She was there with six other people.

We could easily have been the cast for a Merchant-Ivory film.  A Canadian couple, Don and Irene, renting The Professor's house.  Myrella, my reader, from Houston.  Daniel and Fabiola, friends of Karen's from Guadalajara.  Another friend, Verona, from Seattle.

Myrella and I once had an online conversation about beach property she owns in Oregon.  But we rambled over as many topics as any good friends do when meeting.

And she was a pure joy.  Having read of my often fruitless quests to find aged parmesan cheese, she brought me a chunk.  Along with a dog book she highly recommended: The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul.

I continue to be amazed (and pleased) at the kindness of people.

The choice of Tinto del Mar was a good one.  The dining room was underpopulated.  And, once the usual mariachi band stopped playing, we were able to have great conversation.

The service is always very personable -- and, quite often, personal.  Even if the food is a bit too heavy for me with its thick cheesy, fruit-infused sauces.  Not really bad.  But certainly not outstanding.

It is a testament to the place that its food does get in the way of having a good time.

I put a bit of a damper on the afternoon when the conversation turned to the drug violence in Michoacán.  I conceded that anywhere in the world where people are being shot -- especially over an ill-conceived drug policy -- is a shame.  But there is statistically a greater chance of any given person dying in a car crash than being shot by a drug gangster in Mexico.

The Mexican couple took great umbrage.  And I suspect a lot of it was my rotten Spanish getting in the way. 

But I understand their concern.  Some Mexicans are far more likely to be kidnapped and shot than is an American expatriate.  And numbers do not assuage that fear.  Fear always trumps reality.

My heart sank as I listened to them.  If this very joyful couple can descend into such dramatic fears, what does that say about the future of democratic Mexico?  Those who fear are always the first fruits of demagogues.

Mexican history provides two answers: a man on a white horse -- or another on a red burro.  And there is always someone in the wings willing to cross-dress as either Porfirio Diaz or Lázaro Cárdenas.

But that is not my fight.  And my concern quickly passed.  After all, the lunch was to celebrate life, not to sink into life-sucking politics.  And we had our share of fun and silliness.

So, thank you again, Myrella, for the cheese and the book.  I grated a portion of the cheese over some lemon soup I made last night.

And keep those comments coming.

Note -- The last photograph is not of Myrella.  That is Karen.  And there is an interesting story about that ice cube.  But that may be for another day.


Kim G said...

I once had a version of this discussion with a taxi driver late at night in Mexico City. He kept running red lights, which (given the general speeds and craziness of Mexico City drivers) was making me nervous. So I said I thought he should stop for the lights. He replied that he didn't want to stop for fear of assault. I said many many more people were injured or died from traffic accidents than from assaults and that I'd rather take my chances with the assaults. After some back and forth about whether it really was legal to run red lights after midnight (bullshit in my view), he finally relented.

But I think the point here is that Mexicans calmly undergo real risks every day that we North Americans find largely unacceptable. But they (like all of us) over-focus on other, lesser threats without any particular concern.

Funny how fear trumps logic. And sad too.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where the drivers aren't quite as crazy as in DF, but it's a close call.

Felipe Zapata said...

You've left me confused, perhaps not difficult to do. I do not understand what it was the Mexican pair took umbrage at. Sounds like you said the average José or Gringo Joe is not likely to be caught up in drug violence, which is true. I don't see how that would irritate one of the locals.

Felipe Zapata said...

Kim: That cabbie said it was legal to run red lights after midnight?! That's a hoot.

Calypso said...

"Fear always trumps reality."

I subscribe to "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Pretty sure fear doesn't always trump reality - at least not mine. But then I have never been accused of being normal.

Steve Cotton said...

I was as confused as you are. The point seems simple. And the numbers are easy to understand. But they were as afraid of the drug lords as anyone I have met.

Steve Cotton said...

Fear makes most people do crazy things. That is why we are not going to see a change in America's drug policy. Polticians have spent years convincing the public that their little Muffy will become a Meth queen if drugs are legalized. And the voters have bought the shtick. It is exactly the same way with some people when they consider drug violence. Fear will blind all rationality. It is the best tool of demagogues.

Steve Cotton said...

Good example of the game fear plays with the mind.

Felipe Zapata said...

Sounds like they did not want any mention made at all of the situation. That I understand. Hereabouts it's considered wise to simply say nothing whatsoever. And they don't. They all play dumb.

Tancho said...

With all you little rendezvous, you are sounding more and more that you live in SMA.....all you are missing is a large spired church and a gaggle of art galleries.

Felipe Zapata said...

Steve: Less fear than wanting to dump the customer as soon as possible. And getting another customer in the cab.

Steve Cotton said...

We are a semi-social lot here. But we would not register on the SMA scale of high sociability.

Steve Cotton said...

There was some feel of that. Whenever people start showing paranoia in their conversation, the talk is over.

Kim G said...

Yeah, it was total bullshit. He was trying to say that it was ok to treat steady red like a blinking red, e.g., a stop sign. If that is what the city wanted, they could perfectly well either make it red in both directions, or blinking red in both. Neither was the situation, so it struck me as incredibly dangerous, and bullshit to boot.

Same taxista was also shocked to hear that the roads in DF are much better than in Boston. Little does he know about the power of persistent snow and ice overlaid with snowplows. I'd rather drive DF's roads any day than Boston's.


Kim G

Steve Cotton said...

Better than Boston's? Thyey are aworld better than California's roads. On my last trip through, the place looked shoddier than my little fishing village.

Steve Cotton said...

Addicting it is. I say I do it for me. But I really enjoy the interchange with the people who comment -- and even the people who don't. It would be difficult to find a suitable substitution.