Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eight months and four days: the center cannot hold.

I just woke up. I was downstairs, watching the San Diego Chargers' 2010 Super Bowl hopes evaporate, so I was surprised to find, upon entering the kitchen, a full-size mockup of our Bar Mitzvah party centerpieces sitting on the kitchen island.

It's all there: the thin glass vase that we were so lucky to find at Michael's craft store earlier today -- to be truthful, I didn't find it, because I was too busy being mesmerized by the radically overweight woman in the stretch pants wearing the St. Patrick's Day green bowler with attached red braids.

We spent $82 at Michael's craft store, most if not all of it on Bar Mitzvah items. During checkout, as she expertly slid the Visa card through the machine, my wife informed me that, "These items are no accounted for in our budget." So that $82 is coming from somewhere else, food, clothing, shelter, one of those luxuries.

Whatever I think of the money spent, I have to admit that the mockup centerpiece is looking pretty good. She's got the thin, tall rectangular vase up there in the middle with one Godzilla movie poster stuck to either side. They're cool posters, with Japanese stuff written on them, but smaller than our original planned 8.5 x 11 size, which is a darn good thing, since 100 8.5 x 11 stickers cost $42.

When asked, Sandra Bullock explained that the smaller size allows viewers to see the dark rocks she placed in the vase. I looked; she's telling the truth. There is a layer of rocks in there.

From there explodes several tall sticks of bamboo, with a smaller stick tilted toward the side, fishing pole-style. To drive the point home, this stick actually has a small paper fish attached to it, hanging from a string.

I would tell you more, but Sandra Bullock just angrily told me, "Don't write about the centerpiece! That will spoil the surprise!"

So you're just going to have to guess at the rest of it. All I will tell you is that there is a 75% chance it will include individual fortune cookies for all guests.

Last night, we drive to Fisherman's Wharf, where the Jawa would be attending the Bat Mitzvah party of a classmate with connections. Their centerpieces, we later learned, extended all the way to the ceiling. They had palm trees, in keeping with their tropical theme.

We drove through the rain down the Embarcadero which, for those unfamiliar with San Francisco geography, runs along the eastern waterfront, under the Bay Bridge, past the financial district before turning inland at Fisherman's Wharf. Here on the Embarcadero is where we are urging all of our out-of-town guests to stay, at the Hyatt Regency, the one with the glass elevators that figured so prominently not only in Mel Brooks' "High Anxiety," but also in my and my Jawa's collective imaginations. For almost ten years now, the Jawa and I have taken periodic trips to the Hyatt Regency so we can ride on the glass elevators.

The Hyatt is crazy convenient for out-of-towners, seeing as they can land at the airport, get on BART and emerge directly in front of the hotel without having to rent a car, change trains or do much of anything other than sit there and protect their luggage from anyone standing too close.

On Friday, before our Bar Mitzvah, a select group of family members will be invited (forced) to attend services with us at Temple Emanu-el. Afterwards, we will all be meeting for dinner. Until last week, we'd figured on using the same restaurant for this dinner as Josh K., a place close to -- but not within walking distance of -- temple Emanu-el. Everyone would load up into the bus we'd rented, which would deposit them at the restaurant, then wait patiently to return us to the hotel. Us. We'll be staying at the hotel, too.

Last week, though, we decided that while it provided the delicious fare, Bella restaurant did not have a private room, which we would like to have. "You know," added my bride, "we could save a lot of money by finding a place near the hotel. That way the bus could just drop us at the restaurant and leave."

I quickly learned that whatever cost benefits we might receive from this new arrangement would be quickly erased by the added cost of downtown restaurants. Most options had earned at least three local stars, some even a Michelin star or two. All cost the equivalent of a year's tuition at a state school for our party of 24. While the novelty of dining at the once-trendy Aqua might be fierce, the final bill might prove to be so much that I would be forced to wash dishes in the restaurant kitchen, where I toiled as a backwaiter under soon-to-be reknown chef Michael Mina in 1992.

Driving through the rain down the Embarcadero, though, at once we all spotted the green neon sign of Sinbad's, the type of seafood restaurant that Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda might have dined at in 1968. "That's what I want," said the Jawa from the rear seat, where he was taking his gremlin-like responsiblities very seriously. "I don't like fancy."

Which is funny. As I was reminded of later that night, my wife and I don't have alot in common. She would like to wake up early on Saturday and go to the gym together. I'd like to stay up late Friday in a dark bar together. Despite that, however, we are in weird agreement on the collective level of elegance we prefer; that is, either quirky retro-kitsch elegance, or none. Apparently, our Jawa is right there on board with us. He doesn't like fancy. His parents had a kegger for their 40th birthday party and rode off from their wedding ceremony on a borrowed 1967 Triumph Bonneville. Maybe he is my son, after all.

Right now, I am browsing the web site for Sinbad's, which is one block from the Hyatt Regency, hanging over the bay. It's so old-school, it's almost Alioto's. The overall cost is reasonable, so expect to see 24 of my relatives walking across the Embarcadero next August 20, on their way back to the hotel from Shabbat evening dinner.

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