By Bob McPhail
I went through my closet three times trying to find the right outfit for a brunch date. I’d never been on a brunch date; fact was I hadn’t ANY dates since the Reagan administration.
I convinced myself that what I was wearing made me look hip, but not too hip, slender and approachable — hopefully the right look for a slightly pudgy 40-something widower on his first date in more than 20 years.
She’d picked a place called for brunch. I’d lived in the City for years but all I knew about Berkeley was that it was next to Oakland. I double checked Map Quest, glanced in the mirror in the hope that I’d morphed into someone younger and hotter looking and headed out. I found Berkeley OK, even easily found a parking space, and nervously wandered down Shattuck looking for the restaurant.
It was easy to spot, because it had a huge crowd outside. I’d seen a couple pictures so I knew that I was looking for a very short brunette with green eyes. And there she was! She was prettier than her picture and even from ten feet away, and wearing bifocals, I could see those amazing green eyes. We introduced ourselves and checked in for a table. The wait was “40 minutes;” restaurant talk for “forever.”
I was anxious. Natalie was really pretty and had seemed wonderful in our phone calls. I could feel the date slipping away. I would have suggested an alternative but the only place I knew of in Berkeley served barbeque and Nat was mostly vegetarian. I was desperately trying to figure out how to salvage things when Nat came up with the solution.
“If you don’t mind, I’ve got to pick up a package at the post office. We could do that and then walk around the farmers market. Do you like farmers' markets?” she asked.
On the way to the post office we discovered that we liked talking to each other. It was right before Christmas and there was a huge line at the post office too, but by that time it didn’t matter. We discussed anything and everything and then wandered around the farmers market. She helped me pick out a puppet for my niece, we had some excellent Thai food (likes spicy food, check!) and then we got Three Twins ice-cream. I went conventional and ordered vanilla and she picked cardamom.
As we sat contentedly eating our desserts she passed me the spoon. “This is wonderful. You’ve got to try it!”
Wow! This girl was smart, funny, and pretty and she even shared her dessert. I had a keeper.
And I still do. We now live together in Berkeley and we frequently revisit the scene of our first date. I’m sure people wonder why anybody would look that happy standing together in line to buy stamps. We’ve never actually made it to La Note for brunch though. Maybe we’ll go to celebrate the fourth anniversary of our first date. I just hope they have cardamom ice cream.
Happy Valentine's Day to Bob and Natalie! Do you have a love story to share? Email Berkeley@patch.com.