Ad Man and I went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday a few weekends ago. We met up with the birthday girl and her husband plus three other couples who are also friends of ours. All four of the couples with children were able to dig up babysitters for the evening on short notice. I can’t remember another time we were all in the same place at once, sans kids. You know how there are always those people who are like, “OMG…it’s the image of the Virgin Mary in my cappuccino! It’s a miracle!” Give me a break. This was a fucking miracle!
As is typical with our friends, plans for the birthday celebration began less than two weeks before the event. The birthday girl’s husband went through a few different options for locales, ultimately deciding on a hip, new restaurant in a gentrifying neighborhood in Atlanta called Inman Park. Sounded perfect to me. Hey, we’re hip! We like good food and drinking indie beers on patios!
The youngest of us is pushing 40 and the oldest is staring down the barrel of 50. We moan about how old we’re getting, yet still have this notion of ourselves as modern, urban, bohemians. When reminded that this year marks the 25th anniversary of Sonic Youth’s Goo, Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy and Doolittle by the Pixies, we die a thousand deaths inside. I mean seriously…that’s the equivalent of an album that came out in 1950 to us as kids. It’s mind-blowing.
So, despite the punk rock credibility we cling to like barnacles on a boat dock, it was hard not to feel a little long-in-the-tooth among the children gathered at the restaurant bar. And that was before a couple former sorority presidents–or so we assumed–began bedazzling an area in the back section of the bar for the Westminster School Class of 2005’s tenth reunion. (Note: Westminster is a very old, very affluent, private school in Atlanta.)
At that point, the population of the restaurant was approximately 49% young lawyers and art gallery interns with trust funds, and 49% young, tattooed hipsters with fixie bikes chained to the rack outside. Our table of graying, tattooed (former) hipsters bitching about the lack of good public middle schools made up the last 2%.
We sat down at a table among the pierced-and-perky hordes, and those of us who weren’t already wearing “progressive lenses,” pulled out reading glasses to see our menus. Reading and understanding are two very different things, however. The menu before me contained some of the most indecipherable, adjective-laden food descriptions I’ve ever seen. The Grassfed Beef Carpaccio was described as “dragon tears, smoked evoo, cauliflower & peanut puree, grana, little chips.” I misread dragon tears as dragon teats and we all agreed that was actually no more outrageous than the original wordage. There was the Hot Mushroom Skillet with “mushroom drippings, egg, toast.” You also couldn’t go wrong with the “Silver Turtle” Roasted Cauliflower & Sunchoke with “apricot, alliums, naan bread, smorgasbord.” I began to get a sneaking suspicion that these weren’t actually food descriptions at all, but rather, randomly generated haikus.
In contrast to the pretentiousness of the menu, our waiter was quite down to earth and friendly. Thankfully, he was fluent in restaurant-speak, and able to answer all of our many questions, including…How does one milk a mushroom? Are there any actual mushrooms in the dish or are they tossed away like yesterday’s trash after being robbed of their precious drippings? Where do you source your dragon tears and do you know if they were free-range dragons? Are you at liberty to divulge the contents of “smorgasbord?”
After we ordered, the chef walked into the dining area and my friend M, the birthday girl, realized they had a mutual friend. So, M dragged the chef back to our table. We all hit it off immediately and, thus, gave her no end of shit about the flowery menu. She claimed no involvement in its drafting, so we let her stay. The chef asked us who our server was and, when we told her, she said, “Aaaahh…you must be the table of ‘normal people’ he was telling me about.” I considered that a compliment given the obnoxious diners flanking our table, but M spent the rest of the night nursing a deep, psychic wound caused by being referred to by the N-word.
We were, however, pleasantly surprised when our meals arrived. The food was delicious and didn’t at all require bolstering by descriptions rivaling those of Keats’s Grecian urn. Sitting here writing this, I was just thinking I should reveal the name of the restaurant since I’m saying positive things about the food, if not the menu or the clientele. However, when I looked up its website, I discovered yet another reason to hate the damn place. I knew it was called Ladybird, a perfectly lovely name, but what I didn’t know is that the full name of the place is actually “Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall.” Whyyyyyy?! Why not “Canteen and Watering Hole?” Or, “Puddle and Pile of Kibble?” There are times (many, many times) when marketing people make me want to scream…and I’m not just talking about Ad Man.
As the Westminster Class of 2005 began filling up the back of the bar area, the restrooms became more and more inaccessible. This, unfortunately, coincided with the timing of the beer hitting my bladder. So, twice I had to steel myself and head out to yonder ladies’ room, slithering between Blaine and Grayson who were trying to hook up with Sloane and MacKenzie (or whatever their names were). Approximately every fourth woman at the reunion was carrying an enormous Louis Vuitton Neverfull bag, increasing the difficulty of the obstacle course exponentially. During my first trek through the forest of 20-somethings, all I could think was, “Wow…that is a crapload of expensive dental work.”
Following dinner, a few of us headed to a bar in Decatur where we chatted over Jack Daniels slushies and curry-spiced popcorn. When the server asked if we wanted another round of drinks, the birthday girl said, “You guys should stay and hang out, but I’m going home and getting in bed.” (We don’t call her “half-pint” for nothing!) I tried to rally the others, but the lure of pajamas and a warm bed won out over my sad cheerleading. So, we all headed our separate ways, exhausted from a long, raucous night of partying. It was 11 pm. Because, that’s how we roll.