That special time
By Ken Brummage
Del MarWhenever I’m not working I plan my Tuesday around the 1-2 p.m. sweet spot, and a particular bar stool. A clear, calm morning, early sunshine portend well for my midday reverie. I know what’s coming. No surprises. Perhaps I’ll get in a workout, a trip to the post office, maybe the dry cleaner or the supermarket. No lengthy commitments. I keep my eye on the clock. Invitations extended can be misconstrued as invitations to lunch. They’re not. They’re invitations to join me. Occasionally I’ve found myself mentioning the superfluous 50 cent price cut on the extraordinary culinary treasures I’ll be enjoying soon. I can’t imagine doing anything in the world to save 50 cents. Ridiculous. Think I’ll stop mentioning it. “No? You sure? OK. See you later.”
Finally...it’s time. I normally approach westbound on Via de la Valle, and start looking for parking as I approach the railroad tracks. (Boy I’d like to live right here. I’d walk.) If I’m coming southbound from Solana I scope the eastbound lane for curb space while I’m waiting for the signal at the PCH intersection. Northbound it’s a simple right turn and check both sides of the road. I can normally hang a U-turn here to snag any available 20 feet. Done. The stroll to the restaurant is effortless, like being carried by a river, a vortex, a local gravitational bulge. I’m on a mission.
Occasionally I’ll nod to the hostess or waiter who recognizes me as I pass through the dining room. It’s pleasant enough, I suppose. But I won’t fall short. Scanning the deck through the windows I know what must be done. Sometimes my objective is available, but that’s a rarity. No, I must employ bar strategy honed by years of clawing my way up the food chain. If it’s still early I can get sun on either side. Otherwise I’ve got to go right to avoid the shade. (There’s one caveat here, but it’s advanced strategy: If I perceive an imminent departure that can be exploited easier from a shaded proximity, I’ll go there. But this is risky — can’t get stuck long in the shadows.) No need for a menu, of course. I’ll have the shaker margarita with “the warning” while I’m waiting. The waitress smiles. Aha! Finally they leave and I pounce. The throne! I’ve captured the flag! The corner bar stool at the center of the universe!
“Taco Tuesdays?” “You had to ask?!”