I decided to look at a website for a popular local restaurant this morning that I constantly hear people raving about. It’s a tad on the pricey side (for me)––a glass of wine for 15 bucks––but their modus operandi is in the right place with locally sourced food and a family history of foraging and working lovingly with food over the generations.
So many new places have opened over the past couple of years, during this pandemic, none of which I have sampled. I have eaten out exactly three times, once at a picnic table and the two other times on patios. These were all because there were visitors visiting from away. And two of those times the patio was crowded or people were actually hovering over us until we spoke up. Oh and a lovely yet pandemic conscious coffee out with a friend from really far away.
I don’t care about eating out. I was a privileged white kid whose parents loved to eat out and I have eaten the best moules frite and poutine fois gras this side of the Atlantic and the best steak that Inigo Jones (!) in London had to offer this fifteen year old boy, who went into Inigo’s kitchen to see his meal before it was prepared, and not to forget the Ivy, again as a fifteen year old. I’ve eaten at the Savoy, had calamari and tuna in Spain and sushi in Japan. (I am now and have been vegan for about five years.)
On the less privileged side, but still privileged (because I am a white male and restaurant jobs come easily despite my incompetence), I have served in some of the nicest restaurants and catered in some of the swankiest homes in the land. Big affairs. Food served in martini glasses! You know, tiramisu, maple smoked salmon, truffles, blini with caviar, all gorged upon by myself and co-workers, washed down with expensive wine.
And the privileged vacations, the discount vacations, and the ones I’ve spent some amount of time paying off.
Meanwhile around me people plan vacations and ask if I am going anywhere, but the most I can do is peruse hotel websites, not to dream, just to spend a few minutes on that virtual beach or in that virtual suite and imagine drinking some prosecco while I watch the sunset.
What I’m trying to say is if you are wondering why I haven’t planned a vacation or dinner out it’s because I am in mourning now. I am in mourning for life as it was. As you can tell I am painfully and irrevocably spoiled. I will gladly wait until it is time to venture forth. I support vaccines and masks (if mandates were removed I might find myself running naked down main street), but I am not going to fool myself into thinking that sitting in a restaurant here or in Puerto Vallarta with my mask sitting on my side-plate or wrapped around my throat, and wondering if Joe Blow’s aerosols from that recent throat clearing at my back are going to find their way into my nostrils. I don’t want his bubbles in my bubble, yet he comes from way further away than I do. Bubble be damned. It is not my idea of a good time.
Yes I am in mourning. I am in mourning for the death this pandemic has wrought, just as I am in mourning for the thirty million who have died of AIDS (still no vaccine). And while I’m at it, in mourning for those years wondering just how it was transmitted as I watched friends turn to skeletons. I am mourning. I dreamed I kissed a friend last night and then panicked because I’d forgotten about my mask, and wiped away the kiss with one of my big winter mitts as my friend caught my actions out of the corner of their eye.
Much as I love to travel and I do (and I love travel by plane as my forty odd collection of civil airliners meets my gaze here at my desk), I have no desire to celebrate a vacation sitting in a departure lounge wondering if my face will look and feel like a steamed pork bun when I finally take off my n95 (something heroic health care workers have endured for ages now). Or wondering if I’ll inhale some wayward droplet as I surreptitiously sip my airline bubbly, a tradition of mine––drinking bubbly on a vacation––early flight––pre-breakfast if need be.
I don’t want to hope the beach or the restaurant is empty, or that the coast is clear before I leave my hotel room. I go for the crowds, at times. The noise. The energy. The laughter. And I do love an empty beach at other times. I don’t want a hostess mumbling to me from behind a mask. Seriously? Perhaps I have loved too many aspects of my experiences too deeply to want to try to ignore what it is I love about it. The host or hostess smiling, the waiter snarling, the food, the interaction, the people at other tables.
So no. Don’t ask me if I have eaten out or where I plan to go next. I am in mourning right now with no reason to celebrate. I am tossing my curls and stomping my feet and fully being the spoiled brat I was bred to be. What I will celebrate is the solitude here at home, the trees, the meadow, my family and the comfort, the love and familiarity and of course the roof over my head, and my food. Beyond gratitude. The world is going on as it should, without me. How could I want more than this?