There are certain streets that appear shorter than they actually are. It feels like a warp in space-time; these streets that, reminiscent of a piece of string, can be arranged to allow an ant to travel from point to point without crossing those points in the middle. It is an issue of perception. These lengths of certain streets deny the visual monuments necessary for us to note them closely. Distractions may be present in the form of more interesting destinations at either end of this length. What I describe is the perceptual equivalent of a highway passing through cornfields, but in an urban setting, if for only a scant few blocks at the most. Such an area is that section of Shattuck Avenue, a few blocks north of University Ave, in Berkeley, that I met a handful of noders for dinner.
I had arrived a few minutes early, and entertained myself by perusing a nearby gallery of ceramics and blown glass, which had the advantage of large windows through which I could keep an eye out for -- that does look like pictures of ac_hyper and MrFish, I shall step out an introduce myself and awkwardly not offer any change from my pockets for the parking meter as I have none. We introduce, I stand about uselessly as the parking meter is placated, we move to the restaurant. We approach the restaurant and come to the attention of a perky goth, her black hair curving under her ears mushroom-like wearing a black top, wide black pants accented with pink and white striping, and, we later discover, silver boots. This is oakling. We get to know each other a little, as we mill about waiting for ClockworkGrue, ducksauce, and bindlenix. I avoid the ignominy of a nametag.
Our intended venue, Cha-Ya, is a very small (seating for under 20) Japanese restaurant. It is neither a teriyaki house nor a sushi joint, but rather serves vegetarian food. Several of my friends (and oakling too) have sung its praises. I had not yet gotten a chance to try it.
ClockworkGrue and ducksauce arrive and we talk some more. oakling presents ducksauce with a piece of toast, a star cut from the center. The waitress gives us an ultimatum over our table, we must sit now, or we will lose any chance of seating for at least an hour or more. So we take seats, have a space set for bindlenix, and are bewildered at the size of the menu, in comparison to the size of the restaurant. The menu consists almost entirely of small dishes, some 25-35 of them, the implication being that 2-3 would be adequate per person. Mugi-cha, potato dumplings, tofu chawanmushi, vegetable gyoza, vegetable sushi tempura, vegetable tempura sushi, inari sushi, fiddleheads, horse beans, and agedashi tofu, among others, are ordered. And what a feast once it all began to arrive! It was necessary to gorge ourselves, if only to keep up with the rate at which dishes arrived. After the gluttony, we headed south for gelato.
It is a warm summer evening, none of us have anything in particular in mind than hanging out. bindlenix observes that it has been a long time since either of us have met a group of noders for the first time. And that it is refreshing. As refreshing as two scoops of gelato, one caramel one cinnamon, with espresso poured over the top. As amazing as the transformation of a cane-wielding babushka into a 3 year-old ballerina at the mere taste of gelato while generic european dance music attempts to drown out verbal conversation. ducksauce is a quiet observer of people, dress, action; her eyes constantly dart among background humanity, her assessments betrayed by a smile or raise of eyebrow.
We peregrinate, and eventually settle at a nice café that will allow us to linger for a pretty hour. There are conversations to overhear, technology to enviously comment upon, artworks that must be "appreciated" and "put into perspective", and wandering discourse.
Thank you, oakling, for arranging a very pleasant evening. I have found a new-favorite restaurant and made several fine acquaintances.