“The ‘WillowTree’ At Noon”


(July 31, 2018)

muted, happy cross-table

talk edged in sideways between

welcome loud lunch smells*

 

  • (I came in to the main dining area, found a table-for-two and sat down, put my camera bag and umbrella in the opposite seat and opened my new library book. I had not been “seated,” taking my usual route from The Bar and Chef Patrick Story’s sudden declaration that I must try the “new” Celebrator dopple bock from Ayinger brewery on tap.  As I began to wander out: a notion arose…and this is the tale of the notion in haiku form above.  The place had just taken in its first full seating – almost full but I had not checked the other two rooms.  I listened for a moment the happy chattering from my perch in the back of the main room, near the wait-staff’s pass-through to the dining area.  After five or so steaming platters of smells wafting out through the restaurant began to permeate Willow Tree Cafe in downtown Sanford, Florida, the cross-table conversations became muted as more and more diners lifted their attention to what was soon to be before their own tables.  The aroma of honest food done well with happy drinks from water to tea to wine to beer – and perhaps a bit of German liquid cheer as starter – matured into a softer form for there was more than mere verbal communication going on: the language of soups and salads and both simple and complex additions turned conversation into a multi-disciplinary symphony.  By the time I had half-finished my liter of dark chocolate thunder and side of water with a well of split pea soup and ham and a picture-pretty salad of dressed greens with splashes of tomato, cucumber and carrot shreds – and forget not the warm and crusty baguette rounds with butter – I looked up and the room was beginning to empty.  Lunchtime for The Employed is such short shrift.  I still had half a liter and the prospect of a Bee Sting cake to contemplate.  My nearest neighbors – semi-newcomers from nearby Mount Dora, a charming tourist-friendly town about 30 miles to our West in the lakes of mid-Florida becoming known as The Villages – and I conversed over bites.  He was a sailor.  And when I asked: Great Lakes? he replied: No – New London.  Oh! A Sub-Mahrinner! And I asked why they pronounced it that way instead of submariner, we both shared a laugh.  Then I told of the time I left America aboard a Naval attack troop transport, USS Cambria, in the Spring of 1968 en route to The Mediterranean, and we had an American Sub, The Thresher, following the Soviet Union submarine following our amphibious squadron.  The Thresher never came back, and presumably found itself in deadly colliding  with the SovUnion Sub.  My next-table mate replied to the obvious amazement of his spouse: “We can’t know that for sure. I was aboard The Scorpion then.” That was the sub following the two subs following us as Soviet tanks rolled into The Balkans to put down the Prague Spring which was a reprise of the 1956 Hungarian revolt.  Somewhat later I noticed the couple were sharing a monumental Bee Sting dessert as well as I.  My server, Diane, told me they had asked – without my noticing – what was the dessert I was having. She told them of the creamy compilation of honey and almond slivers and custards and such which I take at every non-caloric opportunity and they smiled their way through their shared finish.  Nothing really surprising there.  People talk not just ‘cross their own table at WillowTree. And they share with their fellow passengers on this trip through Germany by way of a homey tables full of friends – even if only just-met.)

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