My Mother-In-Law takes every opportunity to remind me that even though I'm married, the courtship never ends. So Saturday night, Flannery and I hit the town. I've got the night off and she has a gift card for one of the best restaurants in town. "I've got a surprise for you," she says coyly early in the week and I'm intrigued. She makes arrangements for the baby sitters and I have taken steps to make myself look good. We leave the phone numbers for her cell and the pizza place down the street. The girls don't hardly look up as we tell them good-bye and head out for a night together. It rarely happens that we do this sort of thing as the usual conflicts come into play: schedule, baby sitter, illness, and of course, money. Not tonight. Tonight we are young lovers out and about.
We get to the restaurant and the parking lot is packed. Every mother's son for three counties is inside waiting to be seated. I'm still full from my steak and potatoes from lunch. More than anything, I'd much rather just have a good beer. "Well they have drinks where I'm taking you and it opens in twenty minutes. Let's just head there," Flannery said slyly. "Sure."
Her GPS unit spoke in a firm, gruff voice as it guided us there over back roads. I tried to ply her with questions as to where we were headed, but she would give up nothing until we arrived in downtown Massilion and she deftly parallel parked and announced, "We're here!"
The chill wind cuts through my new sweater as I read the plaque on the white clapboard house, "The Massilion Club, established 1917." I wondered if this had been started by WW I vets as we headed up the steep steps, and I really start to wonder what she is taking me to. If the folks having cigarettes on the porch are any indication, I can't imagine what kind it is.
The rooms are packed with young hipsters, Goths, and freaks. A Zombie at the door gave Flannery a necklace of sparkly beads. "It's just like Marti Gras only I didn't have to show anything!" she remarked. She would later tie these beads to her rear view mirror, smile, and notice that they were silver dice on a string.
I followed her through the press of people and it was only when we found ourselves next to a costumed wolf stroking a costumed sheep that I noticed all of the art on display. It was mostly cartoonish and grotesque, with depictions of screaming at the stars as their brains were falling out, with little birds and ships in the background. One artist painted a sad little egg in every painting to gift it with some pathos, but it didn't help. It was all pretty bad.
I made sure Flannery had a seat away from the throng and excused myself to the men's room. I had a little trouble getting in as the door was blocked inside by a gent struggling into his troll costume. I wondered to myself what I'd gotten into as I made a B-line for Flannery. "I'm thirsty," she said, "How about a drink?" "Yes, let's," is all I could mutter, thinking that I had never heard sweeter words than this.
The cash bar had a long line, but on my turn ordered a whiskey sour and a Guinness. The inexperienced bar maid almost ripped the inside of her hand off trying to twist the Guinness cap before I caught her. Flannery and I mingled and check out the art while the band set up in the front room. As they broke into their rocking opening set we cruised the snack table and picked up some gum and one of those wax bottles with the Kool-Aid inside. Green punch was being served from a dirty aquarium into paper cups. It looked foul.
The band was on their second tune as we headed back down the stairs for the car. Flannery had some gum but spit it out into a waiting trash can after the third chew. "That had an interesting flavor at first, but I just couldn't hack it," she said about the gum, and I thought that summed up The Massilion Club completely.
We followed the nagging GPS unit back to the restaurant and it punctuated our conversation with the occasional Bing-Bong tone when it felt like it had said enough. We chatted about the diversity of the crowd and Flannery tells me how she saw an ad in the local paper for the occasion and decided that it was up my alley. She worried that we would be the oldest couple there, but she didn't need to. The gray haired couple with the walkers had us beat by a couple of years.
We return to the restaurant and it is as crowded as it was when we left an hour and a half ago. The host won't take our name as he has written a description of what we are wearing instead, as it makes us easier to find in the crowd he explains. When he calls us for our table, I ask him what he has written. "Fur hood," he says. I tell him that if I were seating him, I would have written, "missed a belt loop" but he doesn't find this amusing.
We are seated and our waiter, Kaiser Wilhelm's grandson, ignores us for as long as he can, then he promises us food and drink only to disappear like Houdini wishes he could have. When he reappears later, we order everything on the menu in the hopes that he will return with something. He does come back and brings a third of what we ordered with an unfelt regret that it wasn't all here at once or right. "The kitchen is kind of busy tonight," he explains and this makes everything alright.
Regardless, we eat like Roman senators and gorged on our food like a refugees on a bender, with a bite of this and a bite of that and the occasional, "You have to try this!" thrown in. We spend two hours chatting and munching and Kaiser Wilhelm's grandson is replaced by a waitress who will look you in the eye. She brings the bill and a huge bag of peanuts to boot.