Signs that The End is near......
If this is your Valentine's Dinner plan and you are an American male....or a butch American lesbian......it probably means your manufacturing job was out-sourced to China by Wal-Mart last year to save everybody in America ten cents on their NASCAR T-shirts.
Not that I have anything against White Castle....
Or its New Jersey incarnation: the White Diamond....aka "The Greasy D"......
The Greasy D was a high school haven for me: hamburgers for 19 cents.
I know, Grandpa...and you had to walk through snow to school uphill both ways.....
Gas was 32 cents a gallon....so a Greasy D hamburger cost a half gallon of gas.
In Now Terms that would be a buck.
Back then, you could still buy a sack full of burgers.....uphill and downhill.
Supposedly, Greasy D invented the square hamburger that Wendy's pirated. The square burger does not curl up on the grill or something....but I suspect an urban legend that Snopes would know more about than I.
All through high school, I never had a Greasy D burger in daylight.....well, maybe at dawn once.
It was sports related.
I was a high school hockey player in New Jersey....
The proof of the innate kindness of hockey players is that they allowed me to call myself a hockey player.....despite the fact that my California upbringing and my genetics caused me to have no hand-eye coordination, little depth perception, a pathetic ability to skate....and a dim understanding of the rules.
I had watched hockey from an early age. In Los Angeles in the Fifties, late night black-and-white TV was strictly boxing from the Olympic Auditorium, some pro wrestling.....or hockey from the same Olympic Auditorium. In New Jersey, I had a six-year-old's, black-and-white TV, middle-0f-the-night understanding of hockey.
Still, they took me in. With infinite kindness, I was shortly moved to the position of "Hockey Reporter". I still went to all practices and games....and got to skate. Sometimes.
Hockey in Northern New Jersey is a tribal sport.....All the tribes participate: the Jews, the Poor White Boys, the Rich White Boys, the Blacks.......we didn't have Mexicans back then. Darwin wasn't born yet.
There are exactly two ice rinks available for several million people in Northern New Jersey....and several hundred high school teams.....plus the private stock broker teams and leagues who got the good ice times.
All our prep and public school practices and games took place in the middle of the night, an hour's drive from home on the school bus.....into a world our parents could not have imagined.
One of the rinks was indoors....and perfectly fine....well, with a 3am kind of East Orange vibe.
The other was outdoors in east East Orange....the heart of the Inner City.
Racist ass-wipes like to make jokes about black skiiers, black swimmers, etc. Dumbass racists would probably try to make jokes about black hockey players as well......But you cannot imagine the skills of black folk with a 24-7 ice rink with a sport where you skate like hell and get to hit guys with sticks.
I went to Cornell and was the roommate of famous hockey players. My ex-roommate is the most beloved hockey guy in Canada, Wayne Gretsky not withstanding.....and now apparently possibly the premier or something.
He was a goalie, though.
The best skater I ever saw was a black man from Montclair who single-handedly put his school on the map against all the yuppies....
I hope he owns a hedge fund now. Or a repo firm......
Anyway, at 3am, outdoors in the ghetto in winter....hockey was not the only thing happening. The local vibe is best summed up as follows...
In a crucial game in our conference, our lead forward charged on attack with the puck and got slashed across the face by a defender. All the skin of his forehead fell over his eyes in a flap and blinded him....plus blood poured everywhere. He still made a couple of moves and scored the go-ahead goal.
When he skated blindly over to the boards for first aid.....at 3am in the ghetto.....there were locals there to help. Tape.... needles and dental floss for stitching.....a rainbow of painkillers.....and an intense interest on the part of the locals for our guy to get back in and get another goal.
They had money on the game, after all. Nothing but the best.....just take a hit of this, no....one more.
When it was clear Our Hero was done for the night after another shift on the ice with blood everywhere......there was a date with a local lady over behind the closed snack bar......perhaps for some First Aid. Or definitely Second Aid.
After the practice or game, everyone was at the Greasy D.
Everyone: players, reporters, fans, gamblers, coaches, bus drivers, ad hoc medics....
I got 35 cents a column inch for my reportage from the New Jersey Star Ledger....so I could spring for a sack full of Greasy D burgers.
The sound track was: Spencer Davis Group, with a fifteen-year old Stevie Winwood: Gimme Some Lovin'.
The walls and floors would literally jump to the beat........
We hockey folk learned more about life from hockey than we did from anything the high school had to offer....Or college, for that matter.
Soccer guys are the same.....
I just can't write about them until the statute of limitations expires....
So.....in terms of romance of Valentine's Day....
Actually, my Amanda would be thrilled to have a Valentine's date at the Greasy D....
She would be among friends.....
Just so it was 3am......and the locals were there.
Anyway.....our Valentine's was something different.
We had been booked for the whole Valentine's week, which coincided with the ATT, with our number one client.
We refer to him as either "The Richest Man in the World", or "The Nicest Man in the World."
He is an owner of Pebble Beach, and he is the only guy other than Frank Sinatra who walks into a venue he controls and gives everyone he encounters a crisp, new hundred dollar bill. Not from a place of arrogance...but from a place of respect.
Meanwhile, our guy's assistant went on vacation the week before the ATT. She told her understudy: "Make sure you call Michael about the catering."
We were all fired up ready to go, because we know our guy and what he wants....and had all the food in.....
The dumbass chick called Michael's Catering.....where there is no Michael anywhere.......and they hijacked our week.
So.....bored, broke (our guy did later send us a check for the tips for our crew for the party that never happened) and pissed off.....we decided to a Valentine's Dinner like we would like to have.
We put it up on Facebook and sold out in a half hour.
The funny part was the locals who snapped up the Valentine's opportunity at The Store, and expected to get a Caesar, some Tri-Tip, and some Chocolate Mousse.....and found themselves strapped to the table for five hours and fourteen courses.
Yeah....this is what we do...
They were thrilled, loved it.....and now know more about how we really work.....
Various hors d’oeuvres…
Sour Grapes and Yuzu-cured Monterey Sardines
’83 Bernkastler Badstube Spatlese
Potato Foam with Czar Nikolai
’88 Hospices de Beaune Cuvée Baudot Meursault-Genevrieres
Roasted Leek Paper, Crab Caviar, Ginger Infused Whitefish Caviar
’83 Meursault Expensive Lawsuit
’79 Quady Essencia
Chai Smoked San Joaquin Squab with Broccoli Couscous, Beet Chips, Beet Jus and Roasted Yam Gravy
’79 Silver Oak Cabernet (
Kadoka/Saffron Linguini with
’83 Smith-Haut-Lafitte (
Bacon Roasted Venison, Grated
’79 Durney Cabernet (Cachagua)
Melon Shooter with Chile-Salt Spuma
Gruet Brut (
Fennel and Rose Marshmallows with Hibiscus Gelée
Probable Failed Anti-Griddle Course
Lemon Poundcake Goat Toast
Cheese and Savouries
’78 Gran Coronas (Spain)
Still......I woudn't mind being at the Greasy D instead. Just so it was 3am, during hockey season.
Amanda is that kind of romantic, too.
What's not to love?