This morning, after yoga, I headed over to Tibbett Diner for breakfast. I’ve been there twice so far – the only restaurant I can say that about. It’s about a block from the studio, the wait staff is friendly, the food is good, and service is pretty fast. Today, though, they made a mistake, and it fell in my favor.
I ordered the western omelette special, which comes with homefries, coffee, juice and, in my case rye toast. I always order rye because it’s a sourdough bread, and we don’t usually keep sourdough at home. My breakfast came just as I ordered it, though if it hadn’t, I’d have eaten it anyway – it would be what I was meant to get. The gentleman sitting next to me, also a solo diner, did not feel the same way. Apparently, he ordered white, but also received rye. When he saw his order, he pointed to my toast and said to the waiter, “It looks like our toast orders have been switched, I ordered white, but got rye, and he ordered rye.” I said “I’m pretty sure I got rye.” The waiter took the errant toast and went to replace it.
I was sitting pretty close to this gentleman. There were three small tables built for two lined up next to each other, booth on one side, and three individual chairs on the other. They use this configuration flexibly to seat groups. It can hold up to six, but they leave the center table empty to sit two small groups. Thus I found myself an empty booth seat away from him, and why he could see my toast (almost) so well.
In order to lighten the mood, I turned to him (he seemed to have a sense of humor) and said, “I can’t believe that you still accuse me of stealing your toast after all the time we’ve been together.”
He laughed and proceeded to explain why he likes white toast. He likes to put jelly on his toast, and finds that the flavor of rye overpowers the jelly. Then he said, “Ha! People plan, God laughs” which could be the tagline of this blog, quite frankly.
I learned a lot about him over the course of our breakfasts. He just lost his wife of 59 years on July 5th. She had been terribly sick for the last two months, and in a sense he seemed relieved that it was over. I found out later that she had been ill, though not as seriously, for the past two years. He is still getting used to doing things, like shopping and eating out, on his own.
He was a teacher in the Bronx, drama and physical education, for 35 years, after which he retired into writing. He wrote some episodes of Ryan’s Hope (a soap opera from the mid seventies until the late eighties). He used to sit in on the bar scene in the show every St. Patrick’s Day (he is half Polish (from Białystok) – half Irish, and looks Irish), when they switched the cheat beer and cheat whisky for real beer and real whiskey and had a good time. He also wrote some plays, at least one of which was performed in Toronto, a city he likes a lot. He has also been to Buffalo a couple of times. He was arrested there once. He came back from a trip to Canada, and walked over the Peace Bridge. He had apparently forgotten that he had four Cuban cigars in his shirt pocket. The judge let him go.
His favorite Canadian city is Windsor, Ontario (across the river from Detroit), which he claims is the cleanest city he’s ever been to. He relayed the story of one of the greatest moments in his life, which happened there.
He used to work for the writer’s union with a guy named Maury (or something like that). He didn’t really like Maury much – Maury was always voting against his proposals for the union and the like. However, Maury was a great logistics man, and would plan trips down to the last detail, which made him handy to have around.
There was a convention in Windsor, and Maury had made reservations at a restaurant known for two things, a flowing trout stream in the restaurant from which you could pick the fish that you wanted for dinner, and a great lobster special: $17.99 for a lobster, fried clams, and fries or corn on the cob. Maury made reservations for six: three gentlemen (including Maury), Maury’s wife, and two extra for girls two of the gentlemen met at the conference. However, Maury brought two other gentlemen he met at the conference with him to dinner. The restaurant was unable to take eight people on a reservation for six. It was too busy.
My new friend started to bargain with the maitre’d: “What if we squeezed into the table for six, and all ordered the same thing, so it won’t be any trouble for anyone in the kitchen.” The maitre’d acquiesced. So they all sat down, and proceeded to decide what to order. When the waiter came, they ordered one by one. “I’ll have the lobster special with fried clams and corn on the cob.” The waiter took the order and left, but soon returned, “Would any of you like beer?” They all agreed to have beer. “Domestic or imported?” One by one, “Domestic.” “Domestic.” “Domestic.” Maury was the last to order, “I’ll have imported.” Soon the dinner and beer arrived. Labatt’s, Labatt’s, Labatt’s, and a Schaefer for Maury, who had forgotten he was in Canada. From then on, every trip, “Hey Maury – want a Schaefer’s?”
I learned other things about him as well, like that his son is the golf pro at Van Cortlandt Golf Course, which is the only fact I could verify with Google. Still, it was an entertaining meal with a very nice (and talkative) man. At the end of the meal, I learned that his name was Ed Silva. Out in the parking lot, he offered me a ride, but I was good.