Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dinner with Grandma

I showed up at the senior’s building at 6 o’clock, exactly as promised. I buzzed her apartment.


“Telegram!” I said.

“Telegram? Oh. Heavens!”

“Just kidding Grandma. It’s me!”

She buzzed me in. Another tenant was passing through the lobby as I entered. She gave me a great big expectant smile.

“Hello!” she said warmly.

“Hi! How’ve you been?” I said. I had the sense she thought she recognized me and I didn’t want to disappoint her. She just continued smiling and walked slowly away. I guess I was wrong.

Inside Grandma’s little apartment unit I looked at all the portraits on the wall. Photos of all her various grandchildren and great grandchildren. Ostensibly my cousins. Some of them I knew well, some not. Some I’d met once long ago. One was missing, assumed to be in jail somewhere. Another, a going concern, lucky to be avoiding jail at the moment. Oh - and there’s one of my half-brother who I’ve never even met. There’s a rich history of marriage and re-marriage and general waywardness in this - my biological father’s - family.

She handed me a toilet seat. A new one. All wrapped up in clear plastic. It had a wood grain finish. ‘Strange gift,’ I thought, and one I didn’t particularly need.

“Can you do me a favor before we go? Can you install this new toilet seat for me?”

“Of course,” I said. She opened the closet and pointed to her little tool kit. I took it and went into the bathroom. The current toilet seat had a wood grain finish. I held the new one next to it. I couldn’t spot the difference.

“Is this one any different?” I asked.

“No. It’s just newer. Someone gave it to me.”

‘Strange gift.’ I thought again. I selected the correct screwdriver to hold the large bolt in place while I reached below to release the wing nut. The whole affair was rusted tight. I selected an appropriate wrench to clamp on to the wing nut while I turned the screwdriver. SNAP! I broke one of the little wings off the wing nut. Undaunted I reestablished my grip on the nut. SNAP! There goes the other wing. That little nut will never fly again.

“Um, Grandma? There seems to be a problem here. Your bolts are rusted. I think we need to spray something on them to loosen them up.”

“I don’t have anything like that,” she said. “I’ll get your Uncle Dave to look after it. Thanks anyway.”

We put her little tool kit away.

“So where do you want to go for dinner?” I asked.

“Oh, wherever you want to go is fine.”

“Well. It’s Wednesday. Montana’s has all-you-can-eat ribs today - or as I like to say - All-they-can-cook ribs!”

“Oh, that’s too long a drive. And they’re too expensive. We’ll go to Mustang’s. Mustang’s has better ribs and they’re not as expensive.”

The words ‘Yeah, but Montana’s is ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT!’ died somewhere between my brain and my lips.

“Okay,” I said cheerily

We set off. I was concerned. I’d never heard of Mustang’s before. And Grandma’s culinary tastes are entirely suspect. She prefers frozen breaded fish over fresh beer-battered fish. She declares Swiss Chalet the ultimate in fine dining. I had a good sense we were in for trouble.

It was a country hick-ish joint. Lots of families and young kids there making noise and running around and reaffirming my vast contentment with my not having children and the knowledge I never will.

We waited at the lobby mini-counter for a remarkably long time before someone came to seat the party in front of us. Then they came back for us.

I ordered a Guinness which came in a chilled glass. Major faux-pas. A word to the wise: If you run a restaurant don’t pull that shit on me, especially when Grandma’s not around, keeping me in line. Or you’ll be sorry.

I ordered the ribs with mashed potato. It came with home-style vegetables. The mash was viciously pureed and utterly bland and served with little packets of frozen butter-substitute. I unpeeled one and dropped it on top where it remained like a cherry on a little sundae.

The ribs were $4 cheaper than Montana’s and were precisely one-half the size. Thus they were in fact more - not less - expensive. A fact I prudently kept to myself throughout our dinner conversation. Oh, and by the way - the ribs sucked. But that’s just my opinion. Grandma enjoyed them.

Mustang’s is in Stoney Creek at the corner of Barton Street and Fruitland Road. I don’t recommend it but if you do go, ask for a window seat. You can’t see though them but they’re dressed ingeniously with venician blinds and planter boxes filled with - as best I can tell - shards of crushed clay pots. Quite - um - unique.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Mustangs. Been there. Done that. I'm pretty sure I didn't waste paper and a stamp writing home about it.

Just a hint for next time. Grandmothers are suckers for a pouty face and stifled tears.

Damn, now I want ribs. And it's Wednesday! Do you think they do all-we-can-deliver ribs?