Mr. Porter wanted lasagna so we went into this little Italian joint down by the lake. The decor has not been changed in decades, as evidenced by the stale smoke that hung in the air since 1972. A middle aged man played muzak on a portable organ-like keyboard and occasionally inserted lyrics into the microphone. He sang so softly that the words were indiscernable, although I knew them by heart since my childhood.
The hostess seated us in the dark area just a few feet away from the muzak man. A room divider, resembling black cast-iron railing, and covered with black grapevines, separated us. I hoped he could not hear us, as I was not fond of the muzak and couldnt seem to stop my mouth from complaining.
The large bar across the room from Mr. Muzak was made of dark wood, filled with bottles of every liquor imaginable, and lined with folks that reminded me of that Billy Joel song. They were too comfortable there; calling to each other by name across the bar room. Regulars. Locals. People with nowhere better to go.
Mr. Porter of course ordered the lasagna, that was the purpose of our quest. He hadn’t been to this particular hole in the wall in decades, but seemed to hold fond memories of the place. I tried to imagine that, but my brain failed.
I ordered some kind of pasta and sauce dish. My salad arrived in a bowl that had spent months in Siberia (I’m guessing) so there was no sense subjecting my sensitive teeth to that torture. Besides, doesn’t sauce count as a vegetable?
As we ate our dinners, more diners joined the fray, obediently eating their salads. Meanwhile, I was beginning to experience sensory overload: the muzak, the singing, the stale air, the dark room, the barflys, the abundance of sauce.
Mr. Porter was kind enough to let me have the car keys and go outside while he settled up the bill. I needed some space. Alone time.
So anyway, about the lasagna. It has many layers of things, when all mixed together, make a whole. It’s then fired in the oven at a high temperature, making all the different parts react and bond together. If you’ve ever walked theough the proverbial fire, you know how uncomfortable it is, and that no matter how much it hurts, you don’t come out until the man in charge says you’re done.