playing with the big kids now
It is 1 a.m., and I've just returned home from an office holiday dinner party. Against my better judgment, I am posting on this leaky cauldron, of sorts because I feel guilty; I have let the links bar to the right grow longer than the recent entries in the main column of this site. It is time I revisited you, dear blog readers and amused you with the goings on here in the Valley of the Sun.

Tonight we went to a nice steakhouse for dinner. "Nice" doesn't cover it, though. When I arrived, I parked a block away so as to avoid the restaurant's valet parking. When I saw the waiters in the white suit coats swirling around the tables, I was glad I had changed out of the pale blue tank top I had planned on wearing. Nearly every other woman seated around the table was wearing a sequined blouse. A waiter swooped in on me as soon as I sat down, replacing my crisp white napkin with a crisp black one, "So as not to get lint on your black slacks," he said.

Earlier in the day I had been lulled into a false sense of security that my peers at work were my kind of people. Having told us to wear comfortable clothing, our editor treated us to an afternoon out of the office, taking us to a rock wall climbing center. We spent a few hours scaling the walls, and I was at home in clothes I've also worn as pajamas. Then, we were told to meet him as Mastro's Steakhouse, "And I wouldn't wear jeans," he told us, his eyes emphasizing that a shower would be necessary.

Mastro's was the type of restaurant one goes to for (insert life-changing event here). Our table of 10 didn't have one white-jacketed waiter; we had four. There was a man whose sole duty, I determined, was to stand watch over the three tables in our area, keeping careful guard for water or wine glasses nearing the half-empty mark. Another man, who looked like he could be playing the role of a Secret Service agent with his black suit and earpiece stood at the opposite side of the table. The seafood sampler came out with dry ice "smoke" spilling over the sides of the dish, and I felt like a foreigner scrutinizing the natives around the table, mimicking their moves as I tried to figure out how to extract meat from a lobster claw without squirting lobster juice all over my boss.

When it came time to order our main course, the ring leader of the waiters got our attention saying, "Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to take this time to introduce our menu." I ordered the lamb porterhouse, and when it arrived, it announced its entry into the room, sizzling on a 400-degree platter. The food was amazing, and of course I couldn't finish it (I knew desert would be coming and I had to save room). This was not the type of restaurant where one asked for a doggy bag, though. Instead, the waiter returned with my lamb in a small box occupying a shopping bag large enough to carry a live version of my dinner. The bag read:

Scottsdale + Beverly Hills

After dinner, I followed a couple of coworkers out for drinks at Barcelona, a nearby club. This time, I parked two blocks away not because I wanted to avoid the valet parking; I seriously doubted that the bouncers would let me in the building after watching me alight from the beat-up green minivan I drive. The men in our group paid their $10, and though we women entered free of charge, I gripped the Burberry purse my grandmother bought me for my 21st birthday as if it alone could sanction my presence in the upscale club. I was afraid my plastic Target chandelier earrings would give me away, and I adjusted the £5 pashmina Pat brought me back from a London street vendor, hoping it would lend my outfit an air of global style.

I should have realized that the days of Chipotle as a high-class meal were long gone a month ago when I attended a "get together" at a coworker's house. She asked that guests bring something to eat or drink, so I brought chips - I went all out and brought two bags, actually - which seemed to slightly offend my hostess. I set my bags of chips on the table among sushi, tri-tip, mussels, candied almonds and chocolate-covered bananas and turned to the little black terrier that follows us Kansas girls, saying to myself, "Toto, I don't think we're in college anymore."

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