Today, I had the pleasure of lunching with my friend Jill (aka JadedJu). We met over the internet through bloggy friends a decade ago and then in person, a few months later. When I returned from our first lunchdate, on a Sunday in February of 2004, I reported back to our blog circle with the following story. Later, I found it re-posted on some random site with the title “BEST TRUE INTERNET MEET-UP STORY EVER”. The word TRUE made me laugh for quite some time, but it remains one of my favorite stories and so I’m bringing it back around.
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Every time I meet one of my blog friends for the first time in person, there’s a bit of a blind date quality to it. How will I know him? What if she stands me up? What if they’ve brought a fistfull of friends to stand and point and laugh at me? So when I went to Pescadero to meet Jill last Sunday, I was a little edgy, not knowing what to expect.
I saw her as I approached Duartes, winding my way through the long line of Harleys that filled every parking space on the block. Leaning against a lamp post, she had a look about her that said she’d been waiting for me to arrive. Her bright green mohawk didn’t surprise me as much as the fact that she was nearly seven and a half feet tall.
“Are you . . . ?” I asked.
“And you?” she countered.
We nodded in unison and I followed her into the restaurant.
We’d already ordered and broken into the soft, steaming loaf of homemade bread when she said, oh so casually, “So you’re all packed?”
I stopped buttering.
“Yeah, we haven’t got much time.”
“Time for . . . ?” I glanced around the restaurant as if some magical answer to her question was waiting on one of the rustic walls.
“Time to catch up with them. We’ve got to be in Oregon before morning. The show opens in Victoria on Tuesday.”
I put the bread back on the plate and pushed back from the table.
“You ARE the Lion Tamer, aren’t you?”
It took another three minutes to find the actual Lion Tamer, tucked into a corner booth, sharing a bowl of creamy Artichoke soup with my would-be date, Jill. Either they hadn’t gotten deep enough in conversation to realize that they’d found the wrong person, or they’d moved past it and were getting along famously with no thought to the green-hawked giant and I.
Those were a few awkward moments, let me tell you, and there was half an instant in which both Jill and I considered the possibilities of circus life as a seriously alternative lifestyle. But the truth was, we weren’t packed, had never tamed anything larger than a cockatiel and we knew we wouldn’t get fresh bread like the loaves in the baskets at Duartes while on the road, so we bid our circus friends adieu and retired to the adjoining bar for an unclutter-your-mind drink or two.
As it turned out, Jill had brought me a pair of heavy pottery mugs she’d made. Their heaviness, she explained, was a flaw. I disagreed, liking the weight of them in my hands. To demonstrate, I clutched one of the mugs and flung my arm back in preparation of a great mock-wind-up. I did not, of course, see the biker behind me.
Now I’ve been in few bar brawls in my life, but I’ve learned a few things along the way.
- As soon as the first punch is thrown, you’d better swing hard and fast at everything and everyone within arms reach, with the exception of the person who is your ride home.
- At some point, someone is going to break off a beer bottle to use as a weapon. It might as well be you.
- When three of your opponent’s friends come through the saloon door, you don’t stand there wondering if you can take them. You run.
Point three is the one on which Jill and I differed. While I crouched on top of the bar, broken Heineken in one hand and a chair leg in the other, scanning the room for the nearest exit, Jill faced down the leather-studded linebackers at the door. For an instant, no one in the room dared to breathe. Innocent bystanders who’d taken up with us mid-brawl, let their fists unclench and willed their bodies to regain its innocent-bystander-pose.
And then, my friends, in a flash, she was on them. Over them. All around them. I’m telling you she was Uma Thurmon sans the Bruce Lee jumpsuit. Not only did she lay out the three at the door, but she wiped the floor with four others, before the first biker, the one I’d smacked in the noggin with my sturdy mug, dropped his knife, picked up the mug from where it had fallen and fled.
We ran, as any sane woman would, and took refuge in the rustic barn behind a picture perfect whitewashed house with meticulously manicured gardens. We were well aware that the eight bikers we’d bested had at least 18 friends in town and we should lay low for a while. We played Toss the Olallieberry and Grouchy old Codger and we danced naked in the loft until the sun set.
Finally, we sneaked out of the barn and back up the road. The menacing row of motorcycles was gone. In fact, the whole town seemed buttoned-down, sidewalks rolled up and a soft snore blanketing it. I found the mug the biker’s ran off with, abandoned but unbroken in the gutter outside the bar. I picked it up and tucked it into my satchel where it nestled in beside its mate.
Parting, that sweet sorrow, came next. Jill and I hugged and wept and waved until we couldn’t see one another in the dusk, and we promised that next time, when we have the chance, we’ll run away with the circus performers and never look back.