Forgive the decidedly orange theme of the last few posts. I seem to be swept up in fall.
I'd actually been planning an entirely different post for today, but last night was so charmed that I wanted to get it down for posterity.
It started with an impromptu dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant: a family-run place just around the corner, where the food is nothing spectacular, just good, hearty fare with a decent pinch of spice. We're regulars enough here that our favorite server (who's been there for years, and speaks very little English) always follows John's order for enchiladas Michoacanas vegetarianos with "and extra meat, yes?" Sometimes she'll sneak their premium tequila into our margaritas, no extra charge.
Last night the family was celebrating a birthday in the back of the restaurant. We caught up with the owner's son, Saúl, who now runs a successful dogsitting service (and always congratulates us on our orders; he's extremely proud of his mother's recipes). Periodically a hilarious toddler would approach our table, smile, and run away--just to do the whole routine over again a few seconds later.
On the way home we ran into a neighbor, one of the guys of the alley crew--a couple dozen men ranging from their early twenties to late sixties who hang out, play cards, and drink beer every summer night it's not raining too hard. When we first moved in these were challenging dynamics: They sized us up, we did the same, all of us trying to figure out if there were sufficient sympathies there to make for friendly relations. Over time, though, we've become--what to call it?--compatriots, maybe. It's true that there are probably no group dinners in our future. But sometimes we'll join the party for a while. They'll teach me a little Spanish or tease us about riding our bikes so often. And this guy we saw last night . . . he recently admitted he thought our biking was cool, and said if things ever got too loud back there, we should just ask him to keep it down and could consider it done. Last night he was walking his white pitbull Spot, who hates us, so we had a friendly and distant hello and went on our way, smiling and waving as he scolded Spot and just kept saying, "I'm sorry!"
We were home just a few minutes when the doorbell rang. There, with a plate of the cupcakes you see above, was sweet, 9-year-old Priscilla Borja from up the street. "Freshly baked!" she said as she made her offering.
These may seem like everyday acts or small experiences to some, but after a difficult couple of months in the neighborhood, there was something so deeply decent and human in each moment that the evening seemed weirdly bewitched. I think I was overdue for some reminders of the reasons I love where I live.