Real life in Live Oak
Henri finds the essence of Northern California at Pasquini’s
I’m not sure exactly what was going through my head that night I told you I thought we should see other people. You were right, as you always are: More is not necessarily better. I miss you terribly. My life is empty. I go to movies almost every night—there was a marvelous Bette Midler film festival last month—but I miss talking with you about them afterward. I miss your insights, your wit, the way you could shed light on the most complex of films—like the time you pointed out that Best in Show was supposed to be a comedy.
But more than that, I miss eating with you. The bistros in the Village, the cafés on the East Side, and especially the dinners you’d cook for the two of us after a long week at work. The radicchio-and-walnut salads. The softshell-crab crepes. The little peppermint cookies we’d have with our after-dinner tea.
So, I’m asking you to come back to New York, back to me. I’ve got two tickets to Liza Minnelli for a week from Saturday. One is yours, if you want it.
Last night I went to dinner at a little Italian roadhouse south of Chico. Pasquini’s, it was called. As I sat there, I thought about you and our life in New York, and for the first time I realized with absolute certainty that I will never be able to return. Life is real here in Northern California. The people—though many of them far too conservative in many ways for my taste—are honest and hard working. They drive pick-up trucks with big dogs in the back. They drink beer. They wear baseball caps to dinner, sometimes backwards—I swear to God. In the fall they hunt ducks, and they don’t care that people in New York—people like us—think that’s barbaric. It’s charming, L. It’s real. The sign outside Pasquini’s is decorated with a neon martini glass and swizzle stick.
On the way I stopped at a produce stand along the highway. A high-school-aged girl stood under an awning behind a folding table with a primitive cash register and scale on top of it. She was selling tomatoes, corn, green beans, cherries, peaches, squash and cantaloupes that her family grew. It was her family’s property, and they’d been farming that land for three generations. Some of these farms go back further than that. Her dad was hosing down the dirt walkways between the tables of fruit and vegetables to keep the dust down.
The gravel parking lot at Pasquini’s was packed, and nearly every table at the little restaurant was taken. And this was Monday night. The waitress told me later that it was a particularly slow night, that ordinarily there’s a 45-minute wait on Mondays, which is “spaghetti night,” when the pasta special with a salad is $4.95. She also told me that they do a lot of business on prom nights, when juniors and seniors from the local high schools show up in gowns and rented tuxedoes, after having driven along the river and through the orchards in their dads’ trucks.
I ordered the prime rib, though the lasagna ($9.95) looked good. It came with a green salad and a delicious garlic bread. Total: $17.95. Remember, that might get you a skimpy appetizer in the Village. The house red, though nothing I would have recommended a couple of months ago, complemented my dinner perfectly, although there was a respectably decent wine list. Rest assured, though: I haven’t stooped to drinking Bud Lite.
By the way, my physician, Dr. Epinards, agrees with you that I should lose some weight—though he says that 40 pounds is probably enough. I’m going out tomorrow to look at treadmills. There’s a perfect spot for one right in front of my television in the room next to the kitchen. I figure I can walk off some of that weight and watch Oprah while my pasta’s cooking.
Take care. I’d still love to have you visit, but I won’t be returning to New York any time soon.