by C. Jeanette Tyson
seen them at the Barnes and Noble’s Café and Cippolina’s; you could see
them anywhere in town that offers chairs and a little something to eat: five
or six men, none younger than 65,caps
on their head or on the table, sipping
their coffees, mashing together the
crumbs of their muffin with a single finger. One will be talking and another
nodding his head as if to say either “yes, no doubt” or “here you go again,
loony as a coon dog.”
They hold each other with tolerance,
understanding and a huge sense
of humor. They’ve seen each other through it all:
promotions and lay-off’s, kids growing up, wives who hated them and
left, wives who were loved and left, life on the hook and all the ones that
got away. They’ve
admitted things to each other they’ve told no woman.
They’ve stepped up to the front line of mortality and bravely they
love those men, meeting every
morning whether there’s much to say or not, gathering up
their crumbs. How lucky
they are to have found one another. You could draw a little heart around
February 17th, that’s when we’re celebrating.
At Table One.
We are women, of course.
We were drawn together by the simple fact that we all lived in San Francisco
at the same time and did similar things, although we didn’t know each
other there. There’s more to it than that now, of course.
Once a month we manage a night out. Table One at
Vespaio is ours. It’s the round one in the alcove in the bar, the one
from which you can see all the beautiful people
yet not have them rub up against
At Table One you can part the curtains and get a
good view of the turquoise convertible, circa ’66, parked out front. You
divide the cost by four and make plans to drive it to Marfa. It’s a trip
you’ll never take in a car you’ll never buy but you’ve already done it
Or you can direct your energy inside.
Men sometimes approach Table One yet are confused what to do when
they get there. It’s because the laughter rang out so clear and true and
called them like a whistle. Down boy, we say.
What we’ve brought to the table:
wedding plans and divorce proceedings;
doubts about business
ventures and public school education; advice about emailing/calling/sleeping
with men; new shoes, groovy
dresses, glowing hair, the phone number of Diane, Goddess of Facials;
political outrage; spiritual
quests; tales of crazy parents and the wounds we’ve tried to heal,
wounds that haven’t healed, parents who aren’t healing; sex, current
and past, especially past; sex,
aided and au natural; and
more sex, let’s just call it
I don’t know whether we talk about sex because of
the oysters or not. The Oysters Rockefeller are ordered before we can
take off our coats.
Alan Lazarus is chef and co-owner of Vespaio.
What he brings to Austin is Italy by way of California. The menu features fresh
ingredients, simple preparations, often from
his own garden, elegant
presentation, adventurous pairings. One
of the reasons we go there is that it’s not enough to be waited on; we want to be
Vespaio has a bohemian yet sophisticated edge to
it. Trattoria or again, California. Whichever film star is in town is generally there or has just left.
Fashion is forward. The light is low but the kitchen is open and
When the girls get together, good intentions stay
outside on the sidewalk. If you weren’t drinking out there, in here you
have a martini better than the sex you keep talking about. If you were
watching the cholesterol out there, in here you have a steak because it is
going to be the most perfectly pink melt-in-your-mouth steak you ever had.
If you were cold outside, inside you have the cioppino stew and are
satisfied on the most primal level,
or maybe the butternut ravioli.
Table One is constant yet not always the same.
Last month Cathy had to work late and didn’t make it after all.
I almost didn’t make it myself. At the last minute the children’s
father cancelled his plans to take them.
They were thrown off. I
thought I should stay home. But
it’s always the same balancing act, isn’t it? You give it to your child,
to your spouse, to your work. That night I decided to give it to my friends,
mostly because I knew what they’d give back to me. You can bring guilt to
Table One but don’t expect it to stay long. No one was worried my
children’s lives would be ruined in those two hours.
And they were right. Though
next time something like that happens, I’ll stay home and they’ll
applaud that, too.
Alan stopped by Table One as he usually does and we
talked about his latest trip to San Francisco. Did you go to Zuni, to Nanking?
Did you go to Boulevard, Le Central? But he had his own
favorite haunts. He stayed, with
immense satisfaction, in his own rut.
Time after time we go back to Vespaio. There’s
nowhere else we want to be. Life’s messy
at Table One. We note it, then eat, laugh, hug and go home.
C. Jeanette Tyson is a freelance writer and mother to Jackson and
Maddy. Vespaio is located at 1610 South Congress.