On our way to the White Stag. Sorry; the picture frame is both dirty and curved.

Yesterday Lynn and I, sort of, marked four years of marital bliss, or 18 years of co-habitation, whichever impresses you more. It must not have impressed the two of us all that much, because our “celebration” consisted of opening the card my mother had sent.

Several others were kind enough to remember the day and send us good wishes, and I don’t mean to belittle that at all. But Lynn worked her regular day plus went to the Crested Butte Post Office to help out, and Kara and I took on an experimental project under deadline pressure, which is not the way it’s supposed to work but generally the modus operandi at Pat’s. Plus, I don’t know what’s in the air (besides smoke), but it has my sinuses clotted up, rendering breathing a conscious chore. Par-tay!

Many of our well-wishers wondered how we might be celebrating (although our friend Linda, noting that the gift for 18 years is porcelain, suggested we might want to sit on our porcelain throne and tell each other what we like about one another), many of them thinking a nice dinner would be a good way to acknowledge the day.

Pandemia aside, this would NOT have been an option for us, and here’s why: we have never, in more than 18 years, had a successful fine dining experience.

Regular dining? Sure, do it all the time — or we did, up until March. It’s been our standing Saturday date, to go to a restaurant and have lunch together. Even this summer we would hit the McDonald’s drive-through on occasion and enjoy our repast at the nearby park. But dressed-to-the-nines fine dining? Epic fail, every time.

I met Lynn officially, live-in-person, one wintry January night in the middle of Wisconsin. We had earlier gotten acquainted through the Miracle of the Internet, after mutually admiring one another’s Stargate SG-1 websites. (Oh. Watching sci-fi shows together on TV. That’s another thing we like to do.)

After e-mailing and telephoning, I decided I needed to meet her in person, so I got on a plane, which is a casual sentence if you don’t know me but one designed to shock and awe if you do, and flew to Wisconsin. She drove two hours to meet me, all green and in need of air after my nausea-inducing flight (all flights are nausea-inducing). We stopped at a Wendy’s for dinner — perhaps the date that set the tone for our relationship.

Wendy’s was fine, by the way, although Lynn wished for more sauce on her sandwich, but since this was a meeting of great import we wanted to go on a real date, dress-up clothes and fancy food. Her boss recommended the White Stag in Minocqua, so there we went, a couple days later, her in a black dress and me in a tie that maybe wasn’t even crooked.

Perhaps the White Stag is quite the place, but you’ll never find it among my Michelin stars. The dining room was immense, mile after mile of white pine tables under massive hand-hewn beams. Ties were not required, but we didn’t look out of place in our good clothes (which in true Gunnison and Park Falls fashion probably don’t even live up to “business attire” in serious places).

At least, I didn’t think we looked terrible, although we were steered to the farthest corner of the dining room. Directly above an active vent pushing cold air into this January room. And out of eyesight, apparently, of the matire-de, the waitstaff and the buspeople.

I can’t remember what food we eventually were allowed to order, never mind what even more eventually arrived at the table, never to be cleared, so I can’t honestly tell you whether it was good or bad, but in my mind I’m leaning toward “not what we expected,” because I just remember laughing — to this day — about how odious the entire experience was.

You will not find us recommending the White Stag.

We gave the dress-up fancy-place thing another try or two that isn’t arising in memory bubbles this morning, but I do vividly recall the time we wrote this nonsense off for good.

There has been a restaurant, off and on, three or four miles east of Gunnison since I can remember. It’s located between a hotel and a mechanic’s shop, but before you get there from Gunnison you go past a lot of pasture and the cemetery. The restaurant has changed hands, cuisines and names many times, and is currently shuttered.

It was on its way to one of its periodic shutterings, although I don’t know if we knew that, when it was named Josef’s and served French food and Lynn really wanted to give it a try. She made a Valentine’s Day reservation for 7 p.m. and we got on dresses, suit coats and ties and drove out to Josef’s.

Where we ran into a line. About five couples stood between the maitre-de’s stand and the door, so we obediently joined the queue, followed shortly thereafter by the man who is currently our county sheriff and his wife.

We waited. We waited. We waited. The line didn’t move. We waited. Active waiters dashed back and forth frenetically; the kitchen door swung in and out. But our line didn’t move.

Here is what you need to know about me that Lynn knows only too well: I get very cranky when I’m not fed on time. Hangry, I think they like to call it.

We waited. I got hangry. And then a little more hangry. And then a lot hangry. And then really mad. Lynn quickly yanked me out of line and into the car. We went back into town and reached the Quarter Circle (now also vanished) just as they were getting ready to close up. But they served us food, in our dress and coat and tie. Maybe it was basic, but it was hot, served promptly and priced affordably — and no one even complained about our late arrival.

The next time I saw the Gallowiches, who stuck it out in the Josef’s line, they said they — with a 7 p.m. reservation, just like us — made it to the restaurant bar at 9 p.m. and were seated at 9:30.

Lynn and I, while eating our hamburgers or whatever we ordered at Quarter Circle, vowed then and there to give up on fine dining. Maybe this is not as good a vow as those exchanged at our wedding four years and one day ago, but it’s worked for us.

Perhaps this Saturday we’ll supersize our McDonald’s fries while at lunch. You know, just to celebrate.

I’m trying to post a video, which isn’t working, I don’t think, but I am way past out of time. If at first you don’t succeed . . .

2 thoughts on “Gastro-versary

  1. What kids you were! I am so glad you succeeded at posting your wedding video bringing back such fond memories of a very special occasion. Whenever I open your blog on my phone, what first appears is your entry on a previous Valentine’s day with a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses and touching prose. Happy Anniversary.


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