Saturday, June 16, 2007

Somewhere Over the Wine-bow

We sat at the small table and picked up our menus, the awkwardness apparent but growing less dense as the minutes passed. I had given my brother Joe a $60.00 gift certificate to this small Italian restaurant for his 60th birthday. Being the frugal and fair man that he is, he refused to use it on himself and his wife, Janeard, unless Al and I went along—he felt that it was way too generous a gift, and would not accept no for an answer. We agreed to meet there on a Friday night when there was a live jazz guitar duo there, adding some evening ambiance to this otherwise bland little room that was actually the “restaurant side” of a pizzeria.

My brother and I have an odd history. Due to our sixteen-year age difference, and the fact that there were never any other children in between us that may have created some kind of bond, we were never particularly close. I’ve known Al for ten years, yet I can count the number of times that he and my brother have actually been in the same room together, let alone out to dinner. Over the course of his years, Joe seemed to drift away from our family and most of his friends. Where I am very forgiving almost to the point of being someone who is the equivalent of a throw rug, my brother tends to hold grudges in order to keep the wall around him impenetrable. Our differences are apparent in other areas as well: I have a varied taste in music; Joe basically can not understand why they even bothered to produce music after the early sixties. He does not understand the point of screaming a rock song or having a course called, “The History of Hip Hop” at our local university. I actually saw him cry for the first time the day Bobby Darren died.

…We won’t even get into the subject of movies. He's still reeling over the fact that they actually made "Mannequin 2."

Being that Al had to finish a job and was running late, we waited to order our meals until he showed up. Of course, we did not wait to order some wine. After tossing around whether we should buy a bottle of wine we had all never tried or just have a glass each of the house wine, we opted for the latter. This particular merlot was a fine choice for the three of us, being that we’re all lightweights when it comes to drinking alcohol. We sipped and chatted, and the minutes that passed seemed to take away any tense feelings that were present, turning them into fond sentiments full of shared memories and silly laughter. I do admit; it felt good to laugh like that with them. I truly began to wonder why it was that we hardly ever got together.

Al arrived, looking as handsome as ever, and ordered his usual Grey Goose martini with three olives. Joe laughed at him, openly wondering how Al could possibly handle drinking that “rocket fuel;” my brother admitted that he would be passed out under the table if he imbibed in one of those. With a few sips, Al caught up to our level of giddiness, and we all engaged in conversations ranging from “Casablanca” to the “most beautiful, perfect head of broccoli” that my brother ever saw in his life at a local farm stand.

After their break, the musicians noticed our lively, little table and upon their return, came over to inquire if we had any requests. Of course, Joe asked for “anything by Frank Sinatra,” and I requested their wedding song, “Happy,” by Bobby Darin. The lead guitarist told me that he wasn’t sure if he had ever heard of that song, but he promised he’d try to look for it in his song book. Joe told him that he probably wouldn’t find it, but that he’d be happy if he just played some classics. They went back to their guitars, and continued to play some wonderful, old standards that fit the atmosphere perfectly.

In the meantime, we were served our sumptuous dishes. We continued to eat, drink and chat as the music played on in the background. I’m not sure what it was that caught my attention, but as I took a break from talking, I noticed that the lead guitarist was softly playing “The Christmas Song.” I leaned over and looked at him, and he winked and smiled as if he knew I got the joke. Never one to keep my mouth shut and just let things be, I shouted out, “Hey!! You’re playing Christmas music!!” Al looked at me in bewilderment and snorted, “Are you crazy? Have another drink! They’re playing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow!! How can you not know what they’re playing? You just made me watch that stupid Meg Ryan movie for the hundredth time last week, and they play it at the end of the movie!! Every time!!!” Chuckling, Joe and Janeard chimed in that yes, it was indeed “Over the Rainbow” and maybe we all had had a little too much to drink. I stopped to listen for a minute…and I immediately felt embarrassed. My goodness—they were indeed playing “Over the Rainbow.” I looked around to see how many other tables were filled with people who may have heard my drunken outburst, and I meekly uttered an “oops,” followed by, “Wow, this pasta dish is delicious!”

…”How about those Yankees?” probably would’ve worked better. I started to feel that the cobwebs were really taking over my middle-aged brain.

Recovering from the Christmas blunder, I decided to continue enjoying myself and my family. We had such a good time, we didn’t realize that the whole restaurant had cleared itself, and we were the last ones there. We got the check, and my brother opted for a quick bathroom visit. As we sat at the table to wait for him, the jazz duo packed up their guitars and headed in our direction toward the front door. They came over to us and apologized for not being able to find the song I had requested. We assured them that it was fine, and that their selections were just as enjoyable. With that, the lead guitarist looked at me and laughed, “I can’t believe you caught on that I was playing “The Christmas Song!” The rhythm man chimed in that he couldn’t believe it either—that they do this on occasion just to see if anyone is actually paying attention.

SCORE!! I excitedly jumped up from my seat to give them both a high five. “I knew I wasn’t crazy!!” I exclaimed. I turned to Al, who looked both surprised and relieved at the same time; surprised because he really didn’t hear it, and relieved that his wife was, indeed, not suffering from dementia. When Joe came back, he laughed with us as well and also seemed thankful that his sister was not just another loud-mouthed, drunken fool who’s inclined to random outbursts of nonsense. Actually, being a musician himself, I think he was actually disappointed that he didn’t hear that sneaky riff as well! As strange as it sounds, I really was relieved myself. There is something quite unnerving about being so certain of something, beyond the shadow of a doubt, and having everyone tell you otherwise. You can tend to feel a bit crazy.

One thing I am certain of is that I will have to do this again with them soon. Life is really too short to not get together with the ones you love!

40 comments:

Matty said...

Lisa,
What could possibly be exciting about a head of broccoli?
I will have to try that Merlot.

Carine said...

Lisa,
what a wonderful way to celebrate-with a loved one on a special date!
may you remember the part about doing it more often!

Loving Annie said...

Good Tuesday morning Lisa,
That was a nice present you gave your brother. A gift certificate for somewhere to eat is PERFECT !

And you have such a way with words in describing everything.

I love how you described the differences between your brother and yourself - it was poignant.

I always feel sad when someone I love holds grudges to keep their walls up. I think it is better to be a throw rug, in the long run, rather than to isolate yourself with such bitterness...

Remember the Bobby Darin song 'Mack the Knife' ? I still love that, and play it in the car sometimes.

Good on you that you caught the music ! See, you weren't crazy, you were just paying attention !

I like how you changed your mastead, and that picture of the country road is GORGEOUS !

*Hugs*

Big Dave T said...

You sure have some fun times dining out there. Just like in Seinfeld. I guess it must be a New York thing. They do have some good restaurants in New York, don't they.

Lisa said...

Matty,

You made me laugh out loud! It was Due Torre Cesari Merlot, from the Friuli region of Italy! It was really good for a house wine!

I have to say, if you knew my brother (who I forgot to mention is very good-looking and doesn't look anywhere near 60), you'd understand! He made us laugh when he described how he found the most perfect head of broccoli he's ever seen in his life. He went on about it for ten minutes! He's a really funny guy (he used to be a stand-up years ago here in NY).

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Carine,

That night, we actually agreed that we had to do this more often, and then we made a date to visit our extended family upstate! We haven't seen them in five years (since my wedding). Time flies so fast...life gets busy, so you really have to make the effort.

...I gave him that gift last August!! That's how long it took for us to pull it together!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Annie,

Thank you so much for your kind words! You always have such sweet things to say.

Those country pictures are beautiful, aren't they (I'm not sure if you saw the one way at the bottom with the rainbow and the Adirondack chairs)? They're actually from an inn in Vermont, I think! I've never been to the Berkshires, but I think we're going to get up there this year!
Have a great Wednesday!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Dave,

I have this to say about NY food: With all due respect to the other states, there is just no comparison. You just can't get the amazing food anywhere else that you get here. And when it comes to pizza, you might as well just never even eat it unless you come to the metropolitan area!

You name it, we've got it, and they're all top notch! You'll have to visit NY someday...you just have to make sure that you ask someone where the best restaurant is for whatever it is that you like...if you're gonna do it, do it on a recommendation!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Dave,

Sorry about that message that was all over the place, I'm in a rush, lol

Young Werther said...

What a great way to renew relationships, in an intimate restaurant.

Restaurants nowadays are all shiny glass and polished steel, with trendy dishes I can’t pronounce and definitely no live band to serenade us as we dine.

Lisa said...

Young,

Around my area, it's not unusual to enjoy live music as you dine! There's a Spanish/Mexican place that has a guy walking around with a guitar; there's a continental place that has various three or four piece musical groups playing on a Saturday night; and my nephew, who belongs to a jazz alumni band from his college, plays at a restaurant/pub once a month, so we'll go there sometimes! I do realize how fortunate we are to have such a variety.

We also have a large variety of cozy restaurants, thank goodness...my husband and I tend to stay away from the trendy places. To us, it's not fun to eat while listening to dance music blasting out of huge speakers, and shouting across the table to each other...that's the hot spot around here right now for the young crowd. We won't be back. Yikes.

Take good care,
Lisa

Shelby said...

wonderful post of your relationship :)

Lisa said...

Shelby,

Thank you for the complement and for stopping by!

Take good care,
Lisa

simply me said...

Li - that was beautifully written. Your brother is a good guy with a really sexy, smart, beautiful younger sister. I can relate to the age thing since my brother is more of a father figure to me than a brother. I do love when we get together and he talks about my childhood since I don't remember much of his stories.

Lisa said...

Maria,

Yeah, Joe's a good guy! He's a little wierd, but then again, he is a Scarnato. We all seem to fall into that category! ;)

...I happen to look really sexy right now, after coming in from getting caught in that torrential rain (NOT). ;)

xo,
me

simply me said...

....I can betcha you do look sexy, that was some rain huh. More to be coming tonight. I love thunderstorms....uhmmm wouldn't be nice to have someone to cuddle with..where's Buster

Lisa said...

Maria. You crack me up. Look at it this way, when you were ready to go to sleep to cuddle, I was still at Pietros stuffing my face. And then I came home to do laundry, and fell asleep on the couch while watching "Norbit." No cuddling last night...Al was two-timing me with his fish.

xo

LZ Blogger said...

Lisa ~ Boy you have covered a lot of material here. Most of it I EVEN REMEMBER! (even at my age!) ~ jb///

Summer said...

Lisa, good to read from you again! i enjoyed every minute of your post as if i was there with you all! wonderful...like you said, life is too short and i think you should do this more often with your close family. enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!

Kacey said...

You make me realize that I must spend more timer visiting my brother. He is seventy-six and not doing very well --- I don't expect him to live until Christmas. I have always felt badly that I am the one who has to make the trip to his house, because he never comes here. But, by this time in life, I guess I'll just keep on being the one to keep in touch so I won't feel terrible when something happens to him.
Comments have mentioned the special food in New York, but there is a place in Punta Gorda, Florida that serves the greatest Italian food and something called garlic knots. Golly, they are wonderful. I have to admit that we don't have anything like you talk about in Toledo, Ohio.
This was a fun post --- must have been the merlot!

Dawn said...

Lisa
I can finally comment on your blog!!! So many times I wanted to but I didn't have a blogger account, and now I do. And so hello. I read you occasionally over at more.com and fab40...was looking for the father's day essay that won that you mentioned somewhere but never got to read it.
Anyway, great post. Yes, life is too short. I have an estranged brother and I want to shake him and say that he's missing out on so much as I hold no grudges. Thanks for sharing as I might approach my own brother. Hmmm...I wonder if wine would help in my own situation. I am at www.surewoman.com

Desiree said...

Well isn't that the truth!!!

My daughter and son have 13 years between them and they aren't very close either not the way her sister who has 10 years between her and her brother is with her brother. Funny how that three years makes such a difference.

You know I've checked your blog several times and it wasn't showing this post until today. How annoying! I guess I should have been hitting refresh but I don't know why as I clear my cookies every time I close my browser. Go figure!

Lisa said...

My Dear Blogging Friends,

I just picked up a quick signal on my son's laptop here in Lake George...I promise I'll comment and visit your blogs when I'm home next week!

Take good care,
Lisa

Loving Annie said...

Good Monday morning July 2nd, Lisa ! Just dropped by to say hello, and see what was new with you -
Cyber-hugs,
Loving Annie

Mark said...

Sounds like a great time had by all. Thanks for sharing and happy holidays!

Betty said...

Dear Lisa,

What a beautifully written story! And before reaching the end I had gone over both songs in my mind and discovered that the first 3 pitches in the melody of each each song are identical! Fascinating. You're just as sharp with music as with verbal language.

Your story was so captivating that I heard the guitars, the voices, and tasted the pasta and wine. Thank you for sharing the experience so vividly. May the glow of that evening last a long time.

Hugs,
Betty

Carine said...

lisa, please read my blog, cuz you've been TAGGED! details are on the blog

Shimmerrings said...

Awesome story, Lisa. And, I know that crazy feeling you are talking about. It totally drives me bananas when "I know" something... and someone tries to deny what "I know"... it does make one feel quite crazy! I'm soooo glad you were able to validate that you are not! This happens to me, often, in my work place... and often, in my relationship. Whah! My brother and I are 8 years apart... and other than having the same parents and the same sister, we have never had hardly a thing in common. He cried with me, when my husband died... and when my dad died... somehow, that has made us closer.

Lisa said...

Dear LZ,

Thank you for always taking the time to come and visit. I'm glad you remember my crazy stories! I'll be by to visit soon.

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Summer,

I'm so sorry I haven't been by in a while...I was away, and I'm trying to catch up with my blog reading! Thanks for stopping by, and I'll be by your site soon!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Kacey,

I find it is always best to not stand on ceremony. If your brother is sick and can't get to you, you're definitely doing the right thing by visiting him. I'm a firm believer in trying to have no regrets.

Garlic knots abound on LI!! They are da bomb!! They sell them in every pizza parlor and Italian restaurant (which I might add are on every corner)!

Hope all is well with you, and I'll be by to visit soon!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Hi Dawn!

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! I'm so glad to hear from you.

I was unable to locate the Father's Day essay on Fab40, but I heard everyone saw it through a newsletter that was emailed to them? I just receieved the email that I won; I didn't actually see it in print.

Anyway, I hope you work things out with your brother. I'll try to visit your site sometime this week!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Desiree,

I've been privileged to watch my kids grow closer over the years...I wanted to have them close together because I didn't want a repeat of my brother and me! My daughter (17) can now relate to my son a little better (15), and vice-versa. I've also noticed that my daughter and stepson (almost 21) have much more in common now as she gets older. I hope they are all close as adults! That would make me so happy. I'm sure as your kids become adults, they will all be close.

I'll try to visit your blog soon...I'm playing a lot of catch-up after being away!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Loving Annie,

I hope you're doing well this beautiful Sunday! I will be by to visit you soon!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Mark,

Good to hear from you! Sorry I haven't been around...I miss reading your blog. I'll be by soon!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Betty,

Thank you so much for the compliments. I hope we get together with them again soon...it really was a good time.

I'll be by to visit soon...I want to catch up on what's happening in your world! Hope all is well.

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Carine,

I will try to do the tag at some point today on my blog at Fab40...look for it!

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Shimmerings,

I'm so sorry about the loss of your husband and father. That must've been horrible. I'm glad that your brother was able to support you at those times.

Yes, there isn't anything more frustrating than knowing you heard something, and having people tell you your crazy...this has happened to me before as well. Sometimes not in such a "fluffy" way, either...you start wondering if you're the only one on the ball, or if you're crazy, or if other people really just float through life and don't ever pay attention to what's right in front of them. Since I'm pretty in tune with myself and what's going on around me, I tend to think it's the latter. People are just too focused on the wrong things, and they miss so much by being that way. They miss the obvious...either that, or they don't want to acknowledge it.

I'll try to visit you as soon as I can!

Take good care,
Lisa

Loving Annie said...

Just stopping by to say hello on Monday the 16th, Lisa !

How are you doing ?
Hope all is well --

Loving Annie

Lisa said...

Loving Annie,

I'm doing well, hope you are, also! Have a great week!

Take good care,
Lisa