“Good evening, my dear fellow,” the man said immediately upon sitting.
I looked him up and down. Not because I was sizing him up, but because it’s not often that one sees a three-piece suit these days. And it is even less often that one sees a man so well appointed: four-point pocket square, tie tack, cuff links, double Windsor knot and a fedora. It was as if my grandfather had come back to life. I looked twice, just to be sure.
“I’m here for some refreshment,” he said, which might have sounded odd if it had come from anyone else but him.
The woman in yoga pants, running shoes and bright red lipstick sitting next to him looked up briefly before busily burying her nose back into whatever was so important on her cell phone.
There was a time when people actually dressed for dinner. The idea of eating in a dining establishment in a T-shirt — essentially an undergarment — would have once been unthinkable.
I looked around the room, the nicest restaurant in town, and observed our clientele — two guys wearing stocking caps, the woman in her yoga clothes, hikers, bikers (both kinds) as well as a guy in what I thought might actually be swimming trunks and a long-sleeved dress shirt. Unthinkable indeed. Just because you have money doesn’t mean that you have style, or class for that matter
“What’s with the getup?” the 25-year-old hipster in his bushy slacker beard, backwards baseball cap and flannel shirt asked, as if he had a right to judge anybody.
“My wife picked it out for me,” he said, turning the bright yellow band on his left hand.
Style is a tricky thing. One decade’s up and coming is the next decade’s pass?. It’s as true with fashion as it is with food or cars or drinks as it were.
“I’ll have a half carafe of Chablis,” the dapper man said.
“I am sorry,” I said. “We don’t carry Chablis and we don’t have carafes.”
“Make me your best Manhattan then.”
I reached for a bottle of rye whiskey.
“Don’t use that,” he said wrinkling his nose. “That’s for old men.”
I wondered what he thought constituted old.
“Use a nice blended whiskey, like Seagram’s 7. My wife loves Seagram’s 7.”
Often in the bar business we hear terms like “classic” and “traditional” as if they clearly establish something. Both terms are relative to your own experience. Meaning that a classic martini to you might be totally different than to my old-timer. Different products, different proportions, different ways of combining them and even different glassware all yield different types of classic.
A shrimp cocktail later and the well-appointed man attempted to engage in a time-honored tradition long associated with bars — he tried to talk to someone. Unfortunately, that someone was the yoga woman sitting next to him.
“Excuse me,” she said, not politely, “can’t you see I’m on the phone?”
He did finally find a couple to converse with, one from out of town, and a lively story about a visit to Venice with his wife ensued, followed by a ribald joke featuring a locksmith, a widow and a priest.
We all laughed, proving that perhaps laughter is something that doesn’t go out of style.
When the old-timer finally rose to leave, he extended his hand toward the couple graciously.
“Thank you for a fabulous evening.”
“Please do thank your wife for letting us borrow you,” said the lady from out of town.
The old man hesitated. “I will.”
It was only then that I noticed his bright blue striped sweat pants. And I realized that the wife he spoke of so adoringly, the one that had lovingly assembled all of his accessories, would never have left him leave the house dressed like that.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
• The next time that old-timer sees his well-loved wife, fashion is not going to matter.
• Virginia Woolf once remarked in obvious horror: “It was precisely this lack of physical splendor, this shabbiness, that meant that life could go on like this, in abstract argument, without even dressing for dinner!”
• Seagram’s 7 still makes a wonderfully smooth Manhattan, regardless of what’s hip right now.
• If we rely on someone else for our societal compass, when e or she is gone the world can seem like a very strange place.
• Love, like laughter, also never goes out of style.