Yearning for Manzanita
CHEAP EATS My new favorite songwriter is my old friend NFC, which BTW stands for "new friend Catherine," not National Football Conference. Of course, I sometimes call her Ms. Conference or National or Nat just to confuse matters. And to confuse matters further, I'm rooting for her in the Super Bowl.
So while these people are going, "Go, Colts!" and those ones are going, "Yay, Bears!" I'll be sandwiched between them on the sofa, with my fingers crossed and my knees all a-rattle, going, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, come on, Catherine!
Probably under my breath in case anyone still wants to invite me to their Super Bowl party.
Confession: I've been neglecting my old friends in order to meet new people. And the more new people I meet, the more I love my old friends. I can't decide whether this makes me a people person or a misanthrope, so let's just stick with chicken farmer for now.
NFC, my new favorite songwriter, only has three songs. For as long as I've known her, she has had the same three songs, and we sit in her heater room with coffee and guitars and a cat named Juicy Toots, rewriting and rewriting them. She rewrites. I close my eyes and concentrate on having an opinion. This one used to be a folk song. Now it's the blues. That one has a slightly different melody. The other has a new, improved bridge, retrofitted to withstand earthquakes and open mic jitters.
By the time she dies, NFC will have either the three most exquisitely perfect musical compositions ever written or a very bad headache. My money, as usual, is on both. But that's not what I wanted to tease her about.
I wanted to tease her about a certain evening we spent together recently. It was the coldest Thursday on record. Ever. Anywhere. Many of my dearest, warmest, longstandingest loved ones were gathering out at Gaspare's to break pizza in honor of our prodigal pal One-Cents. I chose instead to accompany NFC to a house concert in Oakland. Where I wouldn't know anyone.
Which is how I like it, my top priority in life these days being my unreasonable, hopeless, quixotic quest for romance, the kind with nudity in it. And that just ain't going to happen between me and my friends, I'm afeard. (And they're relieved.)
So: new people, I'm thinking. Girls! Boys! Boths! Couples with a sense of adventure! Single people with a sense of humor! Sensitive artists with a sense of worthlessness! House concert! Yay!!!
Come to find over preshow dinner at Manzanita that our hostess, NFC's friend, is 80 and that everyone else at the party will be senior citizens, except us.
"Oh," I said. I love old people. "What about the bands?" I asked.
"Only one. My friend's son," NFC said. "He's visiting from Nashville."
Mind you, this news is broken to me at Manzanita, which is an organic vegan macrobiotic joint, two big cities and a cold, cold bay away from Gaspare's, where all my other friends in the world are just then deciding what all to put on all their extralarge pizzas. Sausage, I'm thinking.
"Yum. Aren't these whole grains and unseasoned greens delicious?" my new favorite songwriter asks, sprinkling a shaker of almost tasteless toasted brown things all over her plate, in lieu of salt and pepper.
I'm thinking: olives, pepperoni. Salad with salad dressing on it. "Yes! Delicious!" I say. And I really do clean my plate and enjoy it. And feel pretty good, kind of.
I love my friend NFC, and I love old folks and country music. But it turns out Ms. Conference had the wrong night. The house concert wasn't until Saturday. I probably could have gotten across town, over the bridge, and across town again to the Richmond in time for a glass of wine and some crust, except that NFC's friend invited us in anyway, bless her heart, and her son, bless his, played a whole set of his new country originals, by way of rehearsal.
We sat on the couch with cookies and water and watched and listened with big, big smiles on our faces, and I wouldn't trade this cracked, cold Thursday for any Thursday in the world. *
Lunch: daily, 11:30 a.m.2:30 p.m. Dinner: daily, 5:309 p.m.
4001 Linden, Oakl.
Takeout and catering available