I stood in front of the Blue Café, inhaling the cocktail of fried chicken and pizza that wafted out of its open doors, and checked my watch. As I looked up, I saw a familiar figure loping through the Midtown crowd, his brown cowboy boots click-clacking on the sidewalk.
I smiled as he pulled me in for a hug, his trademark scent of Ivory Soap and Seabreeze astringent washing over me, and said, “Hello, my pet.”
“Hey there. So would it be okay if we tried this place?” I asked, gesturing toward the Le Pain Quotidien that towered over the take-out place that he had suggested earlier that day.
“Le Pain Quotidien, eh? Sounds smashing. After you, sis,” he said as he opened the door.
A chipper blonde woman in impossibly pointy boots led us to a table for two on the second floor and handed us our menus before walking away with a “Bon appétit!”
“Smells like wood in here. I wonder if it’s new,” I said. “Have you ever been here before?”
“Not me. The Sauce and I are regulars at the Blue Café next door,” he said, “They’ve got a huge buffet. Chicken wings, meatballs, all-you-can-eat pasta.”
“Who’s ‘The Sauce?’” I asked.
“Karl Karsawski, of course,” he replied, a playful squint dancing around his blue eyes.
“Of course,” I smiled back. “So what are you going to have? I know it’s no Blue Café, but I bet you’ll like it.”
“What are you gonna get?” he asked.
“I think I’ll get the Aged Gruyere Tartine,” I said.
He let out a “Ha!” and punched the air in triumph: “I knew it! Carlita’s Way asked me where we were going for lunch and I told her: ‘I don’t know, but my sister only eats cheese’ and now here you are ordering a plate of cheese. I’m a genius.”
“You know me well, my dear,” I said, “I presume you’ll be ordering a side of beef?”
“Hmm, I think I’ll make do with the chicken and pesto tartine. What’s a tartine anyway?”
“An open-faced sandwich.”
“Oh, I get it, because it would be too simple to say ‘open-faced sandwich.’”
An eager young man took our orders – two tartines, two lemonades – and confirmed that this was the restaurant’s opening day – hence the eau de wood shavings that dominated the sweet smells coming from the bakery under where we were sitting.
After the waiter left, my brother looked over the railing next to our table and declared: “This is an excellent tactical position. We can see everyone coming and going. I kind of want to drop something on someone.”
“Please don’t,” I said, hearing my mother’s voice in my ear as the words left my mouth.
“Not even this lemon?” he asked, dangling the fruit from his water glass over the railing and raising his eyebrow.
“That wouldn’t be very nice,” I said. “So what are you up to this summer?”
“My cross-country drive! I’m flying out to meet Whitney in California and then we’re driving his car back to New Jersey,” he said as if he had already told me this plan. He hadn’t. “We’re making lots of stops. Hey, remember on Price is Right when there was that little mountain climber that climbed up the slide while the music was playing? That’ll be me.”
“Hmm,” I hesitated, “I kind of pictured the map in Indiana Jones where they show the little airplane flying between the cities.”
“Yes! That’s even better,” he nearly leapt out of his chair. “How did that song go anyway?”
“The song from Price is Right? The yodeling one?”
And that’s when I started singing: “Yo-da-lay-ee-oo. Yo-da-lay-ee-oo. Yo-da-lay-ee-oo.”
“Yes!” And he joined in: “Yo-da-lay-ee-oo. Yo-da-lay-ee-oo. Yo-da-lay-ee-oo.”
We were on the third round when the waiter arrived with our lemonades.