“I’ve got some bad news and I’ve got some good news. Nothing lasts forever.” ~ Kate McGahan, author.
The “where were you when” conversations.
You know the ones. Somebody asks, “So where were you when…? The when is always one those consequential events, usually an unpleasant one. Life’s moments that leave stains that won’t wash out.
For my dad’s generation it was, “Where were you when you heard about Pearl Harbor?”
Where were you when JFK was assassinated? In Mrs. Campbell’s 4th grade class. The school closed and sent the kids home to parents trying to make some sense of it.
Where were you when the Challenger exploded? At work. I cried.
Where were you when the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake hit? At the local supermarket near the liquor aisle. I’ve never heard so much exploding glass in my life. On my way out the door grabbing a woman who was losing her shit, in tears, frozen; pulling her out by the arm.
For me, the most recent where were you question is, “Where were you when you realized the coronavirus would challenge everything you knew to be true?”
Caffe Sport almost exactly one year ago.
I’ve mentioned that lunchtime more than a few times during the past year and with good reason. It was my “where were you when” moment; another stain.
Caffe Sport is a small restaurant on Green Street, half a block off Columbus, the main drag through San Francisco’s Little Italy. At Caffe Sport it’s garlicky Southern Italian cuisine in abondanza (abundance).
It’s booth seating on heavy wooden bench style seats in front of thick, solid wood tables inlaid with tile. When the tableside conversation gets stale you can kill the time waiting for your meal by gazing at the abondanza of Sicialian kitsch on the walls and ceiling; paintings, sculptures, lamps, tiles, framed maps, and an oversized model of a fishing boat. It’s a limitless collection of junk and stuff and things; almost as if a single square inch of unadorned wall is an affront.
It’s been almost a year to the day since Cora and I had that lunch. We went with the full knowledge that things would change, and change drastically. We’d no idea what the changes would be or how long they would last. As it turned out we really had no idea. We went out to have our “last supper.”
In Italy, mealtime, every meal, is a celebration, a glorification of life, love, family and friendship. I know this for fact, having sat at many an Italian table during visits to the land of my mother’s birth.
On that day, at that lunch, there was no celebration. It was a concession to an unknown; an ironic comprehension of being on the cusp of something we couldn’t really comprehend.
The dining room was almost empty, the atmosphere quiet and somber. Not even Dean Martin crooning about the moon hitting “your eye like a big pizza pie,” or the unmistakable Italian aroma of simmering tomatoes, heavy with garlic, could lighten the burden of knowing that things were about to change drastically. Continue reading