The Friday after Christmas, my wife Margaret and I had an unusual night full of blips and blessings.
We spent the day delivering Christmas presents to relatives in San Diego. On the way back Margaret asked to go to dinner. I voted for Toby Keith’s I Love the Bar and Grill and Margaret wanted to go to Slater’s 50/50 Burger. She held out for Slater’s even though I offered (Attempted Bribery Alert) to buy her a hat if we went to Toby’s.
The hat was an issue because she was wearing a super-hip Santa hat, made of faux-leopard fur and maroon velour. She thought people would make fun of her.
Arriving at Slater’s, we saw lines extending out of the building and there was literally not an empty spot in the parking lot. People were walking from parking lots across the street to get there. No parking at Slater’s: Blessings 0, Blips 1.
We proceeded to Toby’s. Margaret was still concerned with her hat and the lack of an acceptable hairdo beneath. I told her she was cute. She never believes me.
As we got near to Toby’s, the street I normally drove down was blocked for the overflow Friday night crowds in Rancho Cucamonga’s Victoria Gardens. I opted for the parking structure two blocks away. Blessings 0, Blips 2.
The only empty parking place on the ground floor was a handicapped spot. Blessings 1, Blips 2. As I pushed Marg in her wheelchair we passed another lady in her wheelchair being pushed by her husband. She told Margaret how beautiful her hat was. Blessing and Blips all tied up.
When we got to Toby’s we were told there would be at least an hour wait for seats. I asked the host if the wheelchair seat area at the bar was open. He said that he couldn’t see. “Go look”. We did. One wheelchair spot and a companion seat next to it. Blessings and blips still tied.
When the bartender/waitress showed up, before she said anything else, she blurted out to Margaret, “Oh my, don’t you look cute. I love your hat!” Blessings were ahead.
While waiting for our meal we saw a young guy (compared to Marg and I most people are young) a little way down the bar line up four shots of Jack Daniels and down them all in a few seconds. We dubbed him Four-Shots-Guy. We hoped he had a ride home and counted this as a blip.
Margaret looked across the bar. (In this Toby’s it’s an oblong shaped bar with people sitting all around.) “Those Mexican girls over there are making fun of me,” half-Apache-half-Mexican Marg said. I looked and couldn’t tell, but she was convinced. Then we saw a guy walking on the other side of the bar with a knit hat pulled down over his eyebrows. Marg hates that look. We put Dorky-Hat-Guy in the blip column. Blessings 4, blips 6.
As we were finishing our dinner we both heard the loud girl sitting next to us yell “(Expletive) Baldwin Park!” We looked at each other. We both had a history in Baldwin Park. Margaret tugged on her shoulder. Marg made a temporary drinking buddy, just like the old young Marg used to do, with a girl who had lived down the block from us on Frazier Street. She lives in Rancho Cucamonga now, too, and we agreed that all the cool people had moved out of Baldwin Park. Blessing were catching up.
We were enjoying the band. We could hear them but not see them. The Tony Marques Band plays a great mix of Southern rock and contemporary and traditional country.
I asked our waitress to close out the tab and charge my credit card. We had consumed one glass of wine, five glasses of beer, a bowl of chili, and two “I Should’ve Been a Cowboy” burgers. Delicious and, I was guessing, about $70.
The waitress returned and told us that there would be no charge on my card. The gentleman down the bar had picked up our check. I looked and there was Four-Shots-Guy standing there smiling and wishing us a Merry Christmas. We had received a random-act-of-kindness. We thanked Four-Shots-Guy and returned his greetings. I tipped our waitress anyway. Blips and Blessings tied.
We moved over to the dance floor to watch the band. To our surprise, the singer was Dorky-Hat-Guy. Move him over from Blips to Blessings. We were swaying with and singing along to the music. I discovered I knew all the words to Folsom Prison Blues. Then, out of nowhere, a beautiful woman appeared and whispered in Margaret’s ear, “I hope you had a good time tonight”, hugged her, and kissed her on the cheek. When I looked around to thank her, she was gone. Was she the manager? A honky-tonk angel? Either way, a blessing.
When we finally were ready to leave, Marg cashed-in on the “new hat promise” I had made. We picked out a black cowboy hat and I paid cash. The cashier said she didn’t have the right change, so she gave us an extra nickel back. Just a five-cent blessing? No, every blessing is priceless. I took it. Blessings won, 9 to 5.