"Wait a second." I said. "I'm a girl. Don't call me your buddy. That's weird."
If you were ever to spend any time with me and Big Chris, you would find Chris in your face every six seconds just to let you know that I am his buddy, his platonic friend, and in no way should you infer anything romantic into our (admittedly weird) relationship.
Chris tells this to servers, taxi drivers, baristas. He says it when I'm there, and apparently when I'm not. He's so paranoid someone might think we're together, I should just make him a t-shirt that says, "I'm NOT with stupid."
He would wear it. And then explain it.
Anyway, he was over here on Thursday night, sitting in my living room and arguing with me over where to go to dinner to celebrate LeBron James' being a free agent or similar.
"I feel like pizza." Chris said.
"Well, we can go to Little Star."
"No. I'm over that place. Let's go to Salt plus Pepper."
"You mean Flour + Water? No. I'd have to get dressed up."
Chris rolled his eyes. "You're in glasses. You've already given up."
"When I see a woman in glasses, I know she is one step away from short hair. If you have short hair and glasses, you've already given up." He looked at me, in a big black turtleneck, jeans and yellow flats. "You look like an author."
"You look like a 12 year old. Let's go."
Flour + Water was packed, with a crowd milling around in the freezing July cold outside. We put our name in and stood by the front desk, getting in everyone's way. Chris went to the teeny, tiny bar and ordered a beer. "She called this beer 'blonde'!" Chris chuckled. "And I just put it on our tab. We could leave right now and I would have gotten a free beer."
"Yes. but then I could never come back."
Chris sipped his beer and looked around. "There are a lot of lesbians in here."
Behind him, two women were intwined, kissing and snuggling as they drank wine and waited for a table with everyone else.
"Those two chicks are making out, Chris. Isn't this wildly exciting for you."
"No." He stared straight ahead. "I see that all the time on the internet."
"But this is real."
"I prefer fake."
After about 15 minutes, one of the gorgeous staff members came up, dressed straight out of the Anthropologie catalog and looking fresh faced, she said, "Beth? If you guys want, we can seat you right now at the communal table."
I looked at Chris. "That means sitting with other people. Are you okay with that?"
"Yes, I am. I am hungry and I like new experiences."
The communal table at Flour + Water is a long piece of polished bark, like someone sliced a tree trunk right now the middle and pulled out a slice, making a long, skinny, fancy table. There were 10 or so stools around it, and the stools were very, very high. Chris and I sat across from each other, squeezed right into the middle of the group. It was loud, we were surrounded by folks waiting for real tables, and we had to yell to hear each other.
"I feel like a lifeguard!" Chris screamed across the table.
I looked at the menu, hoping Chris would be able to handle pizza without a cheese ring baked into the crust. "This is fancy pizza, Chris."
"Yes, I know. It is big boy pizza. I have had this before, so you can relax. Also, I would like the rabbit pasta because we are having new experiences."
Another tanned and tattooed supermodel server came over. Generally with Chris, I do the ordering. He refuses to try to pronounce anything in Italian and instead, awkwardly makes jokes and points. Avoiding this, I screamed down the table, "Can we please split both the carbonara pizza and the parsley tagliatelle? And may I please have something non-alcoholic?"
I hated screaming that across the communal table. I felt like a pregnant child.
"Sure." She screamed back. "We have sparkling lemonade and iced tea and..."
"Iced tea, please."
She was off, and Chris looked over at me. "I bet you just ordered a $6 iced tea."
"So what? You're about to eat a pizza covered in 'egg emulsion' so relax."
Chris and I spend a lot of time telling each other to relax, apparently.
We didn't really pay attention to anyone else around us, only because our efforts were concentrated on hearing each other. But soon we settled in, normal and laughing and making fun of people. I give 'my buddy' Chris a hard time, but he cracks me up. As he gesticulated wildly, telling some story about his incredibly interesting job, a server behind him tried to squeeze in with his second beer. Chris' elbow and the server's arm connected, and half of that blonde beer went flying onto the cashmere-clad trophy wife next to him.
I wanted to strangle Chris, but it really wasn't his fault. It wasn't anyone's fault. It was the communal table, this hippie concept of eating with strangers while touching their elbows and knees with yours.
All around us, folks patiently waited for coveted tables in the main part of the restaurant, including the affectionate lesbian couple. An hour had passed since we arrived and they were still waiting. So was the man Chris had named Kenny Rogers.
"Look at Kenny Rogers getting wine in his beard." Chris said. "He could be sitting at the communal table covered in beer right now."
Our pizza and pasta came at the same time. I'd spent much of the early evening giving Chris a hard time about his bizarre need to treat me like a masculine acquaintance, so eventually he began displaying exhaustive effort at basic social graces. Chris served me pasta and poured me more water, his elbows glues to his sides.
"Elbows in!" He yelled.
"Elbows in!" I yelled back.
Someone down at the end of the table laughed. "Elbows in!"
Oh communal table. You're so weird. Stop being in on the joke or I won't be able to make fun of you anymore. Chris loved that rabbit pasta, and I thought the pizza was fantastic, just really heavy. Turns out, egg emulsion is a lot like Hollandaise sauce. We had them wrap up the leftovers and looked around.
"Jesus, Chris." I said. "Those women are still waiting."
"The lesbians will not sit at the communal table."
"Why not, I wonder?"
"Because they are on a date."
"You got that right."
I took inventory of the communal table. It was either girlfriends dining, or straight women/gay men couples. I thought about pointing this out to Chris, reminding him that I already enough enough girlfriends and gayfriends. But he was done, out the door and on the sidewalk.
"What did you think of Flour + Water?" I asked.
"Elbows plus knees? Fancy pizza! Also, we have checked something off our list!" He said, and yes. There is a list. A buddy list. It has it's own notebook. "Cross it off in the notebook!"
Chris walked me home and shook my hand goodbye.
"Beauty bar?" I asked.
"Beauty bar." He said. "You coming?"
"No thanks. I wouldn't want to be a cock block."
"I agree." Chris said. And with that, he spun around and was off down the sidewalk.
"Have fun!" I yelled after him.
Chris turned around, waved and screamed back, "Elbows in!"
Next on the list? Bubba Gump's. Which you can read about on Monday is a new weekly Culture Blog post I'll be doing. "Beth visits a tourist trap (working title)" will be a Monday blog column on SFGate in addition to my Wednesday posts. So kick your week off right, and read all about Big Chris and my visit to Pier 39's culinary centerpiece, Bubba Gump's Shrimp Shack. Up on the SFGate Culture Blog, Monday at noon-ish. Have a great weekend...