My Italian Restaurant

The weather has been odd this week, which is to say about perfect. Which is to say, not very typical for June, although it certainly can happen.

It’s the ocean. The Pacific rules the roost up here, and June is usually transitional, with lots of low clouds in the morning that burn off but sometimes don’t. Juneuary is the term, and it’s appropriate.

Just not this week, which began with sunshine, peaked with some heat on Wednesday, and then began a remarkable cool-down that night, back to merely nice. The mid-week heat wave (over 90, which definitely constitutes a wave around these parts) was kind of oppressive at times, but not a big deal, particularly given the duration. Shorts and sandals for a day, move on.

There was some conversation at our Wednesday after-choir Italian dinner about weather, and walking. We went to Vince’s in Renton, which sits in a strip mall behind a no-frills grocery store and is barely recognizable as a restaurant.

Boston North End

Boston North End

Inside, different story. It makes me think of the Italian places I saw in Boston’s North End a decade or so ago, walking through the tiny streets, a block or so from Paul Revere’s home. It was this time of year, and as dusk approached the dishwashers and wait staff stood outside, leaning against the wall, smoking a final cigarette before the evening began. There were no Napoli aromas wafting around, just ambience, small establishments that would no doubt be packed with a dozen customers in an hour, filling the joint.

Vince’s is bigger but otherwise comes with the same authenticity, or at least it feels authentic. It’s not Olive Garden, in other words, although I have no issues with Olive Garden. This is just different, as it should be.

Italian isn’t my preferred cuisine, anyway. It’s fine, wonderful food sometimes, but I’m not a big pasta fan, and I get weary from fighting to keep slippery food on the plate and not my lap. Burritos exist for people like me.

Choir dinner at Vince’s, 2016. Twice as many members this year.

Choir dinner at Vince’s, 2016. Twice as many members this year.

Anyway, it’s the traditional place for our year-end party, although we’ve skipped it for the past couple. It reminded a few people about their 2015 gathering, when I decided to come join them, even though I wasn’t singing that year. And I decided to walk.

It would have been nice to have a Fitbit back then, just to watch the numbers go crazy. I walked over 60,000 steps that day, a bit over 30 miles. It was crazy. I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

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Those days are gone, though. Four months after my marathon across the city, I stopped walking, pretty much, because I stopped eating. I’d already lost 20 pounds, which wasn’t bad and was actually a good weight for me. I didn’t plan on losing another 20. So that’s what happens when you don’t plan. Note to self.

I miss it, a little, although we’re just talking about amounts of exercise, not all or nothing. These days, I like to take a three-mile walk most days, but I stop there. After 30-40 minutes, I’d really be walking just for fun; the cardiovascular and other benefits start to drop off after that, although there are other benefits.

The weather inspires me, too. I’ve been out every day this week, trudging through the neighborhood, looking at all the other moles blinking in the sunshine. It’s mild enough here that weather is rarely an issue for outdoor exercise, but sunshine just bumps up the attraction.

As does gratitude, realizing that it’s already too hot in some parts of the country to do much outside. That’s not gonna happen here, or not very often. It seems wasteful not to take advantage of that.

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I had a tech epiphany the other night at Vince’s, although it’s not really an epiphany. More of an acknowledgment of something I already understood.

Most of our choir consists of retired people, which is nothing new. People of all ages like to sing; some people just have more time than others. It varies a bit, but the majority? Most are probably over 70, and when people of a certain age go out to eat, they’re going to want separate checks.

You don’t need to have had experiencing waiting on tables in a restaurant to understand this situation, although a lot of us probably have such experience. It doesn’t seem to matter, and of course it’s pretty reasonable. It’s just a huge hassle for the restaurant, and it doesn’t need to be.

Younger people wouldn’t have this problem, of course. They’d just pull out their phones (oh, let’s be serious; they never put their phones away, and neither do I) and shoot off a few bucks to whomever paid the bill. Easy-peasy.

This seems to baffle people who don’t do it, like a lot of things involving technology and money. They sometimes rationalize their reluctance by just saying it’s a preference, but we know what’s going on. People who would give their credit card number to a stranger as long as it’s on the phone, and speak loudly and in a public space, get paranoid about strongly encrypted digital exchanges because they don’t understand.

So they write checks, which have the account number printed on them, or they carry cash (easy to lose, filthy, efficient targets for drive-by robberies), all the while avoiding money transfers hosted by organizations that will only exist as long as they’re secure. I mean, you make the call.

It was funny, then, to see the reactions when my wife paid the check, then stuck her credit-card reader into her phone and began swiping the cards of the others. There was much amazement.

This makes sense to me, as entertaining as it is. I’ve always suspected that I’ll reach a point where I stop adopting new technology, because I just won’t have the time and energy, or need. I already do, in small ways, or I’m sort of unfamiliar just because the need rarely arises (e.g., needing an Uber) and feel a little awkward.

But some technology seems tailor-made for aging humans, whether it’s reminding me of things I’d surely otherwise forget, or giving my foggy brain driving directions, or allowing me to turn up the volume or increase the font size. Or video chat with my grandson.

So I’ll gladly take the future now, please and thank you, and if I need to explain it to slightly older friends, I promise not to smirk. I only hope that younger people will remain smirkless when I need help adjusting my retinal scan to get on the bullet train to Mars, but I’m probably being way too optimistic.

Chuck SigarsComment