In my favorite Rolling Stones song, they sing, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you get what you need.” This seems to be a universal truth that plays out in surprising ways. Such as on Thursday night when Steve and I went to eat at Lord Fletcher’s in Rancho Mirage. We had eaten there before and liked the place. It has faux-English pub decor and portraits of Winston Churchill and the Queen greet you when you walk in. The ceilings are lined with dark beams and British paraphernalia covers the walls; it reminded me of the pubs I frequented in the Cotswolds, and the fact that it was one of Sinatra’s haunts just added to its charm. Steve loved the fact that they served his favorite meal: prime rib, creamed spinach, and Yorkshire pudding. This time, though, was different. We were stressed out and upset after dealing with an elderly parent who is in denial about the seriousness of her condition, and what we really wanted at that moment was a nice, quiet evening.
Alas, it would not be so. After ordering my Pimm’s Cup, a gin-based British drink with 7-Up and dressed with cucumber, apple, and orange slices, and Steve’s Manhattan, we sat there trying to have a good time as we struggled for something positive to say. Soon another couple sat next to us at the bar. It was apparent they were regulars since Sir Andrew, the bartender, prepared their drinks and peanuts in advance. The couple, whose names are Tom and Minda as we would find out shortly, had goals that countered ours. Tom immediately drew Steve into conversation asking him all sorts of questions about his work, childhood, and mother. I watched on trying to figure out Tom’s intent for so many questions. Was he trying to start trouble? Would this lead into a heated political debate? Or my biggest worry, would this make Steve more agitated than he already was? I sat sizing up the situation until Tom mentioned a fact that earned my seal of approval: they are originally from Chicago. Like Sinatra, Chicago is my kind of town, and I spent many good times there with my Gramps and step-grandma Ninna. Anybody from Chicago is a friend of mine.
The ice broken, the four of us and Sir Andrew entered a lively discussion about our lives, jobs, and how we ended up in Palm Springs. We learned that not only were the four of us lucky to be served by Andy, Anthony Bourdain was, too. Bourdain featured Lord Fletcher’s in an episode of No Reservations, and Andy made him a dirty martini and had a spot on the show. Hearing that I am a teacher, Andy shared his teacher joke:
A group of kindergartners were told by their teacher that they would use no baby talk. “You need to use big people’ words,” she’d tell them.
She asked Mary what she had done over the weekend. “I went to visit my Nana,” she said.
“No, you went to visit your GRANDMOTHER. Use big people words!”
She then asked Billy what he had done. “I took a ride on a choo-choo,” he replied.
She said, “No, you took a ride on a TRAIN. Use big people words.”
She then asked little Johnny what he had done. “I read a book,” he replied.
“That’s wonderful!” the teacher said. “What book did you read?”
Johnny replied, “Winnie the Shit.”
Tom decided to buy us our next round of drinks, and before I could say Frank Sinatra, Anthony Bourdain, or Winnie the Shit, Andy had prepared another Pimm’s Cup and Manhattan. Then Steve and I received the sad news that our table was ready. We thanked Tom and Minda for the drinks, shook hands, and then went back to our nice, quiet evening. Once we were settled in, Steve voiced my thoughts: “I wish we could have dinner with them.” It didn’t take much incentive for me to pop back up and ask them.
So we ditched our table and our nice, quiet evening to have dinner with them. Steve ordered his favorite, and the prime rib was medium-rare and a sizable portion. I ordered the chicken and dumpling: dark and white meat dressed in a cream sauce with peas and carrots served with a massive dumpling. The dumpling was tender and soft, but also held up to the sauce well. It did not become one big, gooey mess. Tom ordered the Thursday special: roast chicken with red potatoes. He asked for creamed spinach instead of the vegetables it was served with, and they brought him out three bowls of it. Minda ordered the shrimp salad. Everything looked fresh and the shrimp succulent. Everyone from the owners, Andy, our server Christine, to the bussers made us feel at home, and before we knew it we had closed down the place. Meeting and visiting with Tom and Minda was the highlight of our evening. Steve and I are still amazed at how much we had in common– from our political views to our love of New York and jazz. They have given us two new reasons to visit Palm Springs.
While we had wanted a nice, quiet evening, sharing laughter and good times with Tom, Minda, and Andy was what we really needed.