Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes: Turn and face the strange


-- चार हजार एक सौ तीस नौ --

I met Stephanie for dinner at Bamboo Garden last night. I'm not sure I would say it now, but it was long regarded as my favorite restaurant in Seattle -- largely because it's all-vegetarian, and when I moved to Seattle in 1998, that was very rare. With the exception of The Cheesecake Factory, which I used to go to weekly with people from the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus after rehearsal nearly every week between 2000 and 2004, I have probably eaten at Bamboo Garden more than any other restaurant in town. On my Google Calendar alone, which goes back to 2007, there are records of having eaten there 13 times in the past ten years alone, including last night.

I have to digress a little bit now, and actually talk about Laney. Stephanie told me last night it had been many years since she ate there, and that it had been with me. I cannot for the life of me find any written record of this having ever happened, and I tried four different ways to search: on Google Calendar; on Google Advanced Search using "Stephanie" and "Bamboo Garden" confined to the domain; doing page searches for "Bamboo Garden" on all of my entries tagged "social review"; and even doing page searches for "Bamboo Garden" on all my entries tagged "stephanie." This doesn't mean, necessarily, that Stephanie is remembering wrong; if she's not, then it means it's an exceedingly rare case in which I went out to eat with someone and did not write about it, which is truly bizarre. It's driving me crazy.

In all my searches, though, I discovered that between 2005 and 2012, I did eat at Bamboo Garden with Laney -- a lot: 12 times! I was so struck by it I had to email her the list:

1. Tuesday, May 10, 2005
2. November 10, 2005
3. April 25, 2006
4. February 13, 2007
5. May 3, 2007
6. July 9, 2008
7. April 30, 2009
8. August 14, 2009
9. April 28, 2010
10. July 11, 2010
11. April 26, 2011
12. October 3, 2012

The weirdest thing about this list is not just that for some reason I forgot that eating at Bamboo Garden specifically with Laney was sort of a thing for many years, but that after 2012, it abruptly stopped -- we haven't eaten there since. Part of it, probably, is that back then, we lived in separate neighborhoods, which actually made meeting to eat outside Capitol Hill more likely. Bamboo Garden is just north of Seattle Center. Now that Laney has lived on Capitol Hill for a couple of years, we tend to meet at the countless options we have, many of them great, right here in our own neighborhood. But it's been five years! We should go back again!

Reading the journal entry about dinner with her in May 2005 was quite the trip down memory lane, by the way. She and Mac had just split up; aside from being friends on Facebook, Mac and I have not been in touch in any real way in many years; I was less than a year into my relationship with Shobhit. Amusingly, I wrote something Laney said to me that I declared would "stick with me for a long, long time," which I long ago completely forgot about.

Okay, I guess I digressed somewhat more than a bit there. Back to Stephanie!

We had first scheduled for 7:00 but she said she could meet earlier, at 6:00. I still rode my bike home first, figuring I could bus back down there and get some reading in. I cut it a bit close, but still managed it: home by 5:00; fed the cats; caught the #8 at 15th and John by 5:25. I had to text Stephanie that the bus was slightly delayed and I was likely to arrive roughly ten minutes late. She works at the Medical Dental Building downtown and ultimately decided to walk from there, timing it so she would arrive right at 6:10.

I still beat her, to my surprise, even after a legitimate asshole driver backed up a bunch of traffic on the Denny Bridge over the freeway. There is only one through lane westbound in that spot; the left lane is left-turn only, and a driver in our lane was stopped and waiting to move into backed up traffic in the turn late. This had us stuck there through at least two green light cycles, which is ridiculous. The bus driver honked and honked and honked, the kind of thing that usually annoys me but here was totally justified. Is it really that fucking hard just to accept the lane you're stuck in, go forward, and simply go around the block? Jesus Christ.

The bus driver even got out of the bus and began walking toward this car that was three vehicles ahead of us, but it was at this point the cars in the turn lane let the driver in. Our bus driver got back just in time to get going once our lane of traffic was moving again. If that single incident hadn't happened, we likely would have made up time and I could have arrived at the restaurant by 6:00 as originally planned. Instead I got there at 6:03. I waited several minutes, seated at a table by the window, for Stephanie to arrive.

When Stephanie arrived, acting happy to see me as usual, she immediately talked about how this place reminded her of the Chinese monasteries she used to get veggie meat at when she studied in China for four months nearly two decades ago. I asked her then about her experiences there and how she liked China -- apparently, she didn't. She gave me all sorts of information about her experience with Chinese culture that I don't recall ever hearing before (although we all know that doesn't mean I've never heard it). I found it all exceedingly fascinating.

Soon enough we were talking about Tess, and I mentioned that I had been looking at my calendar and noticed she has a birthday next week. She'll be ten on Tuesday. Ten! An official preteen. "Two digits," as Stephanie put it. I guess she's having a big birthday party on Saturday. I've spent a long time thinking about how not having kids has prevented me from having the usual milestones that serve as reminders to parents of how much older they're getting. Well, it's starting to happen to me now just through friends' kids. Morgan, with whom I was literally in the room when she was born, turned 13 last month, which kind of astonishes me. And Tess is about to turn 10. Rylee, Danielle's second (with whom I was also in the room, videotaping her birth), will be 10 next year. I often confuse the ages of Tess and Rylee, since they were born only a year apart. And between these three kids, we're talking about the kids of my two best friends.

Speaking of which, I worried a little bit about how dinner with Stephanie would go, and what the implications might be perceived to be. We spent pretty much the entire dinner ignoring the elephant in the room, the elephant being Gabriel -- we literally did not talk about him at all, which was a very conscious decision on my part, and a choice I made genuinely for his sake. I want it to be absolutely clear to him that I'm not talking about him with Stephanie behind his back. No matter what the context was, or how much concern either of us purported to have, that would have served no one well at all. Thankfully I have never had to make this choice, but if I were, my loyalties as a friend will always be with him first, and I think Stephanie knows that. I'm honestly not sure Gabriel knows it right now but that's a different conversation.

Literally the only time Gabriel ever came up was in passing, when I said she and Gabriel must have still been together whenever it was we ate at Bamboo Garden together. She said perhaps they were. That would take us prior to 2010. But, as I said, I can't find a record of it even then. That continues to mystify me, but I guess I'll just have to live with the mystery.

We found plenty of other things to talk about anyway. I had tofu skins, which I had never even heard of, for the first time -- it was the dish she ordered. I had the Gourmet Chow Mein and we shared both dishes. She said tofu skins are typically found only at authentic Chinese restaurants. I had some and declared it not bad. I guess I didn't like it as much as she hoped: "You can stick with your gourmet chow mein then," she said, with mock haughtiness. I did like the black bean sauce her dish was prepared in, and the water chestnuts that were in it.

Stephanie decided to join me on the #8 bus as far as 7th Avenue, where she got off to go catch her bus back to Federal Way. We caught the bus at the stop on Queen Anne and Mercer, which is apparently the spot for chatty friendly black guys. Last night, this guy was standing behind us at the stop light we were waiting to cross at before getting to our bus stop, and after he sang a long a little to his headphones, Stephanie encouraged him, which made him sing more and louder. He had a nice voice, and Stephanie kind of danced along for a bit.

He then walked with us to the bus stop, and he introduced himself to Stephanie first, and then also to me. He shook my hand twice, both when introducing himself and when we had to get on the bus. Both times he extended his left hand, which was unusual. He said he's only been in Seattle for four months, and he raved about our weather -- a strange thing to hear, given our unseasonal heat the past couple of weeks, coupled with the craptastic smoke drifting down from British Columbia and making Seattle seem sickeningly like Los Angeles. "In Baltimore," he said, "it was hot and wet and sticky!" Stephanie was like, "It's hot and wet and sticky here!" To be fair, east coast weather and humidity is definitely worse.

A lot of us locals, though, are sick of this weather and more than ready for the rain to return, especially after a record streak of no measurable precipitation. I did admit recently that the record streak of consecutive wet days that preceded this have made me take longer than usual to long for the return of rain, but the heat wave has done it. I'm ready. I've worn shorts every single day for the past two weeks and am ready to be comfortable in pants again.

-- चार हजार एक सौ तीस नौ --


-- चार हजार एक सौ तीस नौ --

I was with Stephanie for hardly longer than an hour, so even after having been home first and going back to Lower Queen Anne and returning to Capitol Hill again, it was not quite yet 8 p.m. when I was back home for good. Shobhit and Ivan were both at work, leaving the next couple of hours to myself, which I rather enjoyed. I used the time to finalize the four different playlists I've made for Laney's birthday -- at her request. I'm very happy with them, and she seems to think they're great. She's thanked me multiple times for doing it, even though it's the kind of thing I do for fun anyway. I loved doing it. There were three tracks I needed that I did not already have, and two of them I managed to download from YouTube. One track could only be found on a single YouTube page and it was somehow protected, though, so I just went ahead and purchased that track.

And then I remembered the new Kesha album was being released, Rainbow. I bought her first two albums at nearly the same time in 2013, and always liked their straightforward pop-dance sound, but this album -- coming after five years of legal issues with a label that supported a man she accused of abusing her -- is on a whole new level. Much like Lady Gaga's Joanne, it has a lot of country sensibility infused into the pop, and it’s a seamless blend that I love. I'm very impressed and have been listening to the album on repeat all morning.

I would have waited up for Shobhit if I could, but he was working until 10:15 and I was falling asleep, so I went to bed. I slept so soundly that I didn't even wake up whenever it was that he came to bed. Odd that I didn't wake up then, but I did when he got up to turn the fan off. The last couple of nights it's been too hot not to have it on when we went to bed, but cold enough to turn it off on the middle of the night. And then for some reason I woke up a couple of times before getting up this morning, between around 4:30 and 5:15.

It's been a fairly standard work day otherwise since. Granted the work day is now only half over. I ate my pizza out on the patio but no one sat with me today. The stupid smoke is still semi-obscuring the skyline, although it's not as bad as it has been. I'm just ready for it to be gone completely.

-- चार हजार एक सौ तीस नौ --