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Some Days in the Life - Marblehead and the German French

Posted 5/30/99

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The afternoon was busy, to say the least. I cleaned some stuff out of the car (after changing) and drove over to Maine. I'm still feeling sick but the drive seemed to soothe me, and that's always nice. I hung out with Mom, Dad and the dog for about an hour before Dad and I drove down to Marblehead.

Mom's first words to me. "Hi Eric! Isn't that a silly haircut, mm?" She feels it goes a long way to increasing my resemblance to Bluto from Popeye.

This is one of Mom's good points. She doesn't lie to make you feel better.

The route to Marblehead is really kind of nice. It starts like the route to any affluent community -- hit the superhighway and change highways every now and again. Pay a toll or three. It was mostly sunny, with a hint of rain midway through. That wasn't bad. Dad and I talked about many things under the sun, trashing my voice more and more but who cares?

Then we pulled off the highway and drove through Salem, Mass. The infamous Salem. Back in my halcyon college days, I used to spend a moderate amount of time in Salem. A good friend, Robin Whelton, lived there. I saw the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation in her house in Salem, along with many other people, including Fluffy, who is himself a story. We did Halloween there one year. I heartily recommend a Salem Halloween. We would take the Green Line commuter rail up.

It looked much as I remember it, though I doubt I could find Robin's mother's house on a bet, assuming she still lived there. From there, we drove down into Marblehead.

How to describe Marblehead.

It's beautiful, yes. But congested. Tiny little streets winding around buildings with no city plan whatsoever, which makes sense when you realize most of the buildings in Marblehead were put up between 1660 and 1801. If you tore the paved roads up and added the pervasive smell of urine, Marblehead could have been an 11th century fishing village in England. Dad and I wandered the streets for a while, chatting and pointing out very old or very new or very cool things to one another.

Of particular note was a rock garden. A literal one. It was about a twelve foot long by nine feet high terraced rock with various plants built into carved and natural niches all along it. It was beautiful, and the kind of thing you can do when there's not that much room for such things but you want to take the time to do them right. It looked self-renewing. It's possible that with minor, volunteer maintenance, that rock's plants have been growing back since before Sam Adams threw tea into Boston Harbor.

We found Dad's car, left from when they picked the boat up. It was parked in by a truck, but the truck's key was in the ignition. So, we knew we could deal with it when we had to. We walked down to get some food, going to a restaurant called the Landing. This was a fine French restaurant, though the interior was remade into a sort of Art Deco meets the Coast of New England. The waitstaff all had thick german accents, the Executive Chef and the Manager both had thick French accents. I had the feeling that when the Germans were driven out of France in World War II, they and their collaborators jumped into a boat and made a perilous sea voyage across the Atlantic, landing in Marblehead and making the best of it by making a Restaurant.

I had the Veal Oscar and a Duck Comfit salad, which wasn't saladlike at all. It was phenomenally good. Dad ordered the house salad but wanted fat free dressing on the side. This unnerved Bruce, our german waiter (is Bruce a German name?) who agreed to check. Dad then went to the bathroom.

The Manager and Executive Chef marched out and up to me. "Is there a problem," the Manager asked, abruptly. I had a sudden vision of being marched behind the building to the docks and shot, my lifeless body falling into the waters below.

"No," I said. "No problem."

They left without another word. I told Dad when he came back, and we decided it was because he wanted fat free dressing on the side.

Bruce (who I will call Gunter) came back. "It cannot be done," he said. "The dressing is part of the salad."

"Can I have some tossed greens and tomatoes then," Dad asked. "No dressing."

"That can be done, yes."

Gunter brought us water after prompting. I also ordered coffee. He brought my coffee, but took my water. Apparently one could have one but not the other.

The food was so exquistely good that the combination all felt more like flavor than unbelievable rudeness.

We walked some more and then went back to retrieve the cars. There was a lotful of kids jumping their bikes on a jump in the cramped parking lot. They agreed to move the jump for a bit, and Dad moved the truck and moved his car out, then moved the truck back. We pulled out in seperate cars. I followed Dad through the maze of Marblehead's streets (at the town line is a directive that large trucks should pull over and ask directions before proceeding. Getting lost in Marblehead is a given) and we headed out.

I got home late. My throat was hurting badly again, and I was coughing a lot, but no matter how badly I felt, I felt great. It was a good good day.