It used to be that if I could see where valets were parking my car, I would find parking somewhere else and walk. Why hire someone to finish the final 30 feet of what I’ve already spent 15 miles doing?
But I’ve eased up, especially when dinners are free.
I’d be dining at Lawry’s The Prime Rib on La Cienega Blvd. in Beverly Hills. It was like the 1999 pilgrimage I’d made to the A&W Restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga.
“Root beer built this place,” I told my unborn offspring.
And because I was familiar with Lawry’s line of salad dressing and seasoned salts, visiting the mother ship would be like finding a baby Clydesdale in your Budweiser bottle and riding her all the way back to Belgium.
Upon entering Lawry’s, the visitor is greeted by uniformed staff in what appear to be Russian nurses uniforms of the 40s if Stalin was running the United States instead. Our server took us to a private room where she began to perform a service with a spinning bowl that I’d first seen when I snuck away from the tour group in Mazatlan. But this turned out to be different.
Grasping a large silver salad bowl with her left hand, our server began to spin the bowl while pouring salad dressing into its center with her right. As her right hand was stretched high above her head, the server showed great skill in getting the dressing into the bowl at all. But she could have poured the dressing in like everyone else does and not worried us so.
I assumed it was a party trick.
But the greatest conversation piece was a a trolley that looked like an Airstream trailer filled with prime rib. Our carver, Jose, was wearing some kind of medallion like something one might be given by the Wizard of Oz. From the back the meatwagon looked like a car in a carnival ride. It was the type of contraption that one wouldn’t expect to be filled with meat but with whole families migrating from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl searching for a better future in California.
But instead of Joads what I got was a load of meat, a gravy crater in a mountain range of mashed potatoes, and a dollop of creamed spinach that continued to leave butter deposits in my car on the way home.
I couldn’t help but think that the meal I had connected me to people I’d seen in black and white photos, the women’s lips so black that you knew their lipstick must have been very red. I felt jowly and I had an urge to go to the track, guard the border, and elect McCain simultaneously.
Dessert was an excellent hot fudge sundae and a thin but potent glass of Tawny Port.
As I left Lawry’s my car was already rolling toward me. I had to back up, just to be polite to a valet who’d probably feel bad that I walked farther across the parking lot than he’d driven.
But at that point I felt the need to give back a little.
See also: Lawry’s