I have not had as much fun as I did last night in a long time, at least as long as my 38-year-old-after-3-glasses-of-wine brain recalls (I'm vague today; let's just say that.) But I am clear on how seriously I enjoyed my hours with Shawn last night. Stoli, you're the best. We met at Ghibellina, grabbed the last two seats at the window looking out onto 14th Street and basked in the crisp air of a gorgeous evening. Shawn and I both believe that restaurant designers who make their establishments' front facades able to open -via huge windows, garage-type doors, etc- are the best.
My friend, Ralph, co-owner of Ghib was shocked to see my out on a Thursday. I know, it's rare. I'm livin' large. I even splurged for a cab there and back (actually, because I hate 90% of DC's cabs with the fire of 1,000 suns, I took an Uber on the way down which was so pleasant and cheap, and then, because three glasses of wine, I got all confused about pinning my position and so took a cab home, and I wondered the entire way if the driver had just moved to DC five minutes before picking me up. He literally seemed to have no idea where we were or where we were going).
But I digress.
One of my favorite of Shawn's peccadilloes is that he can't eat and drink at the same time. I mean, he can, but he does not in any way enjoy doing so. His palate gets all confused, and it's just no good. So, he drinks his beer(s) (peccadillo 2: he only drinks beer) before taking even a bite. I, myself, do not want to do this nor do I feel it would ever be a smart decision for me unless I wished to immediately be drunk and unable to taste the food I ordered.
And I really wanted to taste it because I was starving and had chosen the olive & artichoke pizza that I love at Ghib. I started in as soon as mine arrived. Meanwhile, Shawn's Margherita just sat there staring up at him, surely thinking, "What the eff is wrong with that guy?" Indeed, both our waitress and Ralph came over at different points to subtly ask just what was the matter.
"I told y'all he cannot eat and drink at the same time," I said as Shawn ordered another beer. Translation: that pizza would have to keep on waiting.
The waitress looked slightly sad (because really, the pizza was getting cold) but was supportive in saying "I mean, I do eat our pizza cold all the time, but it's better hot."
"But just wait until I do finish my beers," said Shawn. "I will WOLF that pizza down like you have never seen."
That happened, and it was with unprecedented speed and efficiency. He could be a competitive eater.
Now, I'm going to tell you a story that I feel is the sad sister of my Cat That Once Was tale. Shawn gave me his permission, even though his emotions are still a bit raw. Head's up, a beloved dog dies. But, get that out of the way and steel yourself because, as with the aforementioned cat, elements of the story are hysterical.
Three years ago, Shawn decided to get a dog. He'd never had a pet but always wanted one. He mentioned this plan to a friend who then showed up with a dog approximately 20 minutes later. The pup, a Boxer-Boston terrier mix, was about 18 months old and had been rescued from an abusive home. Shawn took to him like white on rice (he sort of had to what with the immediacy of the delivery and all), and he and Macho were inseparable. Shawn even let Macho put his "dirty, NY paws" on his pillows. The magnitude of that cannot be overstated.
As Shawn came to find, Macho had a heart condition and also a manic love of the doorbell. He went positively apeshit when the doorbell rang, quivering with glee and suspense. Who would it be? A new friend? The anticipation was equal parts exciting and awful.
"Macho, calm down! You're gonna kill yourself one day."
Friends, I fear you know where this is going.
One day came. Shawn was flying home from LA and checked his messages when he landed. A 911 from the dog sitter: "Shawn, please call me ASAP."
Because they weren't phone friends, Shawn called immediately and with dread.
The doorbell had rung, Macho thrilled with delight and then, like those fainting goats, he froze, keeled over and was no more. Legs straight out, stiff as a board.
Obviously this story is heartbreaking and tragic, and Shawn is in serious mourning. But we did have to share a series of guffaws over the repeated warnings to Macho and his fortune of dying suddenly in the midst of sheer happiness.
I offered to give Percy to Shawn, but he turned me down.