Saturday, June 23, 2012

Granny Still Got Game

I was sitting by myself in Luzzo’s, a great little trattoria near New York City's Gramercy Park. They specialize in thick-crust, coal-oven-baked pizza, my new favorite. At the table next to me were two good-looking guys in their late twenties. One of them asked me what I had ordered, sensing correctly that I had been there before. I recommended the Funghi, a mushroom-and-basil taste of heaven; I warned him about the “Napoletana“-style thin crust, since I detected a Chicago accent and knew that thick-crust pizza is something of a religion there.

We chatted about where we were from (I was right about Chicago), and as usual, they had a hard time believing I was from California (I may lack the sun-and-fun bunny looks, but I was born on Sunset Boulevard); Kyle’s friend Ronnie was from India but had traveled to Israel to visit Christian religious sites, so we had a great deal to talk about. Before we knew it, two Funghi pizzas had disappeared and Kyle asked what I was doing later that night.

“Um, like, nothing?” I replied in my native tongue, (I was raised in the San Fernando Valley and tend to revert to “Valspeak” when I’m nervous.)

“Well, you wanna join us for drinks later? A bunch of us are meeting up at our place in the Village, then out for drinks. It’ll be fun.”

My brain whirled: he wasn’t asking me out on a date, per se, so I wasn’t being unfaithful to my boyfriend, and besides, what harm would there be in drinks? Mostly, though, I did the math on their ages: they were born well after I had graduated college.

As kids their age might say, WTF?

“You don’t think it would be weird to have someone my . . . age hanging out with you?” I blurted.

Kyle laughed. Ronnie said, “Hey, you still got game or we wouldn‘t be asking.” I don’t know if it was really a compliment, but I didn’t care.

“Seriously,” said Kyle, “You’d add a lot to the mix. In fact, one of the girls is Tunisian with ties to Palestine, so it should be pretty interesting.”

To say the least! But go to two strangers’ home, then get into a cab with them, assuming they didn’t change my address to a hefty bag in their crawlspace . . .?

What the hell? I thought. Why travel all the way to Manhattan if you’re not going to have an adventure?

We exchanged numbers and I returned to my hotel to freshen up, which, as we women over forty know, involves a paint roller and a putty knife for applying spackle-like foundation.  Hours later, I climbed the stairs of their four-story walk-up. My heart was pounding beneath the armor-like undergarments that helped me achieve the effect of having a “forgot-to-have-kids” figure with the help of levers, weights and pulleys.

I knocked on the door, and was practically knocked down by a chocolate Labrador retriever.

“Down, Lenny!” Kyle called out, pulling helplessly on the collar.

OK, the guy likes dogs, so he can’t be all bad. And Lenny liked me, so I had passed the first test.

We sat and sipped wine (except for Lenny), and I met the 22-year-old Tunisian gal. Not only was she drop dead gorgeous (petite, olive skin, wavy black hair, dark almond shaped eyes, cheekbones for days), she was a Middle Eastern correspondent for an international newsmagazine and spoke five languages fluently, some of which she picked up during her travels on all five continents. Mere words cannot describe the relief I felt at not having to compete with her on any level; I silently thanked my Higher Power for not having to woo any males away from Princess Jasmine in order to school them in the finer points of my stretch marks.

So there we were: Kyle, Ronnie, two other milk-maids from the midwest, the Nubian siren, and little old me. Everything seemed to be fine until I noticed that the Jewel of the Nile was not best pleased with the attention Kyle was lavishing on me. There was nothing flirty about it - it was the kind of polite interest you show to the elderly or slow of mind. But I was cutting into her Kyle time, and I could almost see her cursing me out in five languages in her mind.

The subject turned to politics, and before long, the Middle East was being discussed. Perhaps it was a foolish gesture of accord, but I posited that the enmity between the players was not universal. "After all," I said, "you and I are sitting here at this table, and we're not trying to kill each other, right?" 

She paused before answering: “It’s a peace process.”

Ooooookay. Soon, I caught Princess Jasmine giving the two Chicago girls a “Who invited Granny?” eye roll. I excused myself and found the waitress.

“Hi, can you put that table’s order on my credit card? There’s going to be a fight over the bill and I'd just as soon not bicker.”

The waitress, who was my age, winked at me. “I like the way you think, hon.”

After signing the slip, I returned to the table.

“Hey, guys, the first round was on me. It was great meeting you all, but I’ve got to get my beauty rest.” There were hugs all around, even from Princess Jasmine (it was her turn to be relieved). I got to make a clean exit.

In situations like those, age really does have some advantages: the years had taught me well when it’s time to get out, as well as the fact that the free beer and nachos was made possible by my killer credit rating.

Plus, Granny really did need her rest.