Back in the early years of our marriage, Tim and a few of his friends got into online poker. Not like my friend Angie’s husband, who was good enough at it to play for a living — but just enough to make me grumpy.
I didn’t like it. For a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that my husband is quite competitive, and could get sucked into games for hours on end, staying up later than he intended, perhaps losing more money that he’d hoped. I envisioned a future that included a gambling-addicted-husband-slash-grad-school-dropout, our life savings flushed down an online toilet (because things go that far in a relentless pessimistic imagination).
To be fair, he never used our money. He would start a game with the incentive cash available on most sites (before the whole online poker thing was shut down a few weeks ago), and play until his purse was empty. Every once in a while he would withdraw a chunk of cash for us to do with as we pleased (read: pacify his wife).
That was then. At some point, he just stopped playing. Hadn’t played in years, until one night about 6 months ago. His mood was confessional one morning, as he told me that he’d gotten into a game of “speed poker” online the night before. Before the un-acronymed words behind WTF had left my lips, he sputtered out, “AND I WON EIGHT HUNDRED BUCKS AND I THOUGHT WE COULD USE IT FOR OUR ANNIVERSARY.”
Well, then. Why didn’t you just say so.
He promised to immediately withdraw $500, and have the rest in his purse. Short story shorter, he lost the rest that night, in about 15 minutes.
That safe $500 has been sitting in our bank account since then, virtually marked with the word Alinea. Because that’s what the whole shebang will go toward.
It’s not a weekend getaway, not a B&B. Not a jewelry store, not a spa package.
It’s a restaurant. And we will eat there on Friday, and we will give them just about every cent of Tim’s poker money.
Have you seen Babette’s Feast? Where a woman spends all she has to offer people who have no idea how to enjoy food the opportunity to do that, for just one night? I am thankful to say that $500 does not comprise our entire life savings; but it is probably the most we will ever spend on one night of food (you can read here about our 6th anniversary — the last time we spent a personal high on dinner, then in the able hands of Ann Quattrano and her crew at Bacchanalia in Atlanta — and it was worth every penny). Because — really, let’s be honest here — it’s ridiculous. Many of our friends and family will not understand why on earth we would drop that kind of cash on dinner. That’s two nights at a nice hotel — it’s a 3-day pass to Disney World. It’s a plane ticket, it’s more than our Christmas budget. It’s 7 months of cable tv, it’s a mortgage (for some lucky ones).
But for us, it’s one chance, to eat for one night, at perhaps the only Michelin 3-star restaurant (only 81 in the whole world, and 26 are in France) we will ever visit. Our only chance to eat at The Best Restaurant in North America, one of the Top 10 Restaurants in the World. It will be an experience unlike any we’ve ever had, nor will we likely have again. It’s our version of parasailing, hang-gliding, deep-sea fishing, canopy-camping, race-car driving, island-beach-laying.*
It’s the fact that my husband came up with this idea, all on his own. I’d never even heard of Alinea before he found it — too steeped in the world of diapers and home-cooking to keep up. He found it, he won the purse, and he’s taking his wife to dinner.
Fifteen courses. Plenty of time to reflect on a decade.
*To Keep it Real, we’re heading to Chicago on the Megabus. Here’s hoping for a drama-free ride.