I’ve been having lunch with the same small group of delightful people once a week for some time now. We always meet at the family-owned Reforma restaurant on 72 and 45. The family who owns the place knows us, of course. We always occupy the same table, and Matteo the waiter pretty much knows what everyone wants. I usually get one chile relleno which costs 30 pesos.
We are an odd group. There’s Lorna Gail, the well-read deep thinker with a flair for singing and acting. Then there are Doug and Sally, an American couple in their 80s who live in Merida. They’ve been here for many years and are continually delighted with this place. They drive an ancient car with a large artificial flower extending upward from the driver’s window.
Bill M comes to the group occasionally and we welcome his wry wit whenever he gets there. Bill, from New Mexico, has been in Merida for years and is a retired agro business guy.
Tony Gonzalez is an engineer who works at a firm in Santa Ana. Tony loves learning American colloquialisms and has an encyclopedic knowledge of American movies. And he can answer most of our most esoteric questions about Merida. Like, Where Does The Garbage Go?, an obsession of mine.
Then there’s me.
Doug and Sally used to lunch regularly in a cocina economica in Santa Ana park, as did Tony. Ten years ago, after noticing each other there for quite a while, they decided to eat together and have been ever since. At some point they moved to the Reforma restaurant.
One of our best lunches was the day Doug decided to tell us some of his adventures as a hat check boy at New York’s Copacabana nightclub in its heyday. He loved it. He told us that he hit on every pretty girl who crossed his path. Someone asked him whether he ever got smacked and he said yes, but that one out of ten times, he scored, so the smacks were worth it. He looked delighted. Sally looked bemused.
Doug enjoys testing us with titles of old American songs to see whether Lorna Gail and I know them. We usually do and we sing them, much to the amusement of other restaurant patrons. Songs like Daisy, Daisy, How Much is That Doggie in the Window? and Smile. When Bill is there, he joins in. Last week, we sang Goody Goody. I don’t know why this is so much fun, but it is.
At the same time we meet, there are two other groups there regularly. Both are comprised of six to eight men over 70. We all greet each other warmly.
This is an unlikely aggregation of people who I find very dear. I look forward to those little lunches more than I do most of my activities.