I've walked into the Monk's Kettle multiple times, looked around at the wall-to-wall people, and decided on other, less packed venues. But last week some friends and I decided to put our names in the hat and ford the hour-long wait for a table at the Mission bar/restaurant. You see, there are these new inventions called "cell phones," and the host promised to call us on one when our booth was ready, so we could go have a Pabst somewhere else in the meantime.
No matter what music is playing at the Monk's Kettle (on this evening it was Os Mutantes), I always have a Gregorian chant going through my head when I'm there. There are worse things that can happen. I still say that naming a place after a cauldron prepared by celibates is a risky endeavor, but the Monk's Kettle has a cheese plate on the menu, and I am a sucker for anything that comes from sheep. It also has a ton of beers not made by Anheuser-Busch, which is another plus.
Once we had finally settled into our little nook in the corner, we were all pretty excited. "Don't groan when the bill comes," said Garrett, who has pointed out on a few occasions that I tend to do this. We have a habit of ordering a ton of appetizers and then expensive entrées, so I am supposed to know by now that this means our check will exceed $100. Yet it always manages to freak me out.
"You do another annoying thing," said Erick, my other dinner date, who is perpetually ready to point out my faults. He noted that I always look over the shoulder of the principal payer to see whether they've left a big-enough tip. The irony of someone who is cheap enough to kvetch about a bill yet is freewheelin' with a tip is not lost on either of my friends.
Basically the three of us interact like an old married couple that is highly dysfunctional yet possesses unconditional love for one another. "You know what's wrong with you?" is a mantra oft repeated in different ways, both subtle and pronounced. We walk through friendship's hallowed walls to the strains of monks chanting, "Yea, though you be lame, in my heart you shall remain ..."
The dudes got some strange Trappist beers and I got a glass of wine, and then we ordered the cheese in puff pastry and black bean cakes. Our waitress was incredibly beautiful and reminded us of Jennifer Connelly. This launched us into the topic of who would play us in the movie version of our lives. "Don't you dare pick the chick who played Natalie on The Facts of Life for me," I threw out immediately, heading them off at the pass. I chose Drew Barrymore instead, not only because I think she is really cool but because the guitarist for Wilco once told me that I looked like her, and dang, that's something a girl never forgets.
"Are you kidding?" Erick asked incredulously. (Read: "You know what's wrong with you?") I stiffened my back for the assault. "She is so dumb!"
Wow! He was actually saying Barrymore wasn't cool enough to play me. Sometimes these guys throw me a bone. We moved on to Garrett, who looks like a cross between Pete Townshend and Jake Gyllenhaal. We chose the latter. He seemed pleased.
After a bit more bickering, we dug into our food. I have been thinking a lot about why we all interact the way we do, and, like everything, I think it comes down to sex. None of us are having enough of it, so when we hang out, that energy is transferred to verbal jabs, probes, lubes, and banging. We are looking for aural climaxes in the form of sparring. It's a power play.
Erick won't agree with me, as he believes that is not the nature of our interactions (yet, of course, since it's a disagreement, it is indeed the very nature of our interactions), but he is always down for a discussion about power. He's a big fan of Nietzsche, whose likeness is tattooed on his arm.
"Everything comes down to power," Erick stated flatly, after our conversation turned philosophical for no apparent reason.
"I think that everything comes down to reproduction," I said. "We are here to reproduce, to replicate DNA. Our entire civilization and social structure has just made it easier for DNA to jump around and evolve."
"But at the base of that is power," said Erick, exerting his power over my theory.
He brought up Foucault, who of course was all about sex, and basically created a viable structure for Nietzsche's power theory.
Our entrées arrived. I was already too full to eat mine. We took a break from talking, which is what old married couples usually do when the food comes. We all agreed that the dinner was excellent. We even got free drinks because the host called us in too early so we had to hang out a little bit. All in all, it was a good Monk's visit.
The bill arrived, and I reached for it. "Oh, here we go," Garrett said to Erick. "Just pay it and shut up, Kate." I looked at the total. It was $90. How did that happen?
Erick snatched the bill out of my hand before I could begin itemizing. One thing I do like about our marriage is that we all pay for each other in times of need. These guys ponied up $85 and handed it to me. I put the meal on my card and left a $26 tip.
"Jesus, that is a big-ass tip," Garrett said. "You don't have to leave a tip like that ..."
"Zip it," I retorted. "She was great. And her name is Katy, like me, with a 'Y' and not an 'ie,' which means she's extracool." They rolled their eyes.
We walked up 16th Street toward the Castro. I was laden with food and therefore dilly-dallying, and I heard about it the entire way. Of course, I also complained that I would now have to watch football with them or watch them play a mercenary game on Xbox. But not hanging out with them isn't an option, because they are my best friends.
"Come on, ol' Slowy McGee," Garrett said. I tried to pick up my step a little bit.