Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Table for One Please
As I started the first sentence of this blog post I wrote, "Last week's research trip to Wisconsin . . ." Then I paused. It wasn't last week. It was two weeks ago! And that means that I missed posting anything at all to Writer's Journey last week. What happened? Summer madness in the forms of interruptions.
But, I digress. The point of this post isn't about time flying or forgetfulness. It's about courage and stepping out of my comfort zone.
When I wrote about my trip TWO weeks ago, I focused on the jewel of my trip. The Red Mill in Little Hope, Wisconsin. Today I'm focusing on a sort of personal victory for me.
Dining alone in a sit-down, formal restaurant has always been off my trodden path of life experiences. Not a drive-through, not a fast-food place. A bona fide restaurant where a person waits on you, takes your order, and brings you your food.
As one being single all my life you'd think I would be used to dining alone, but to me dining out like that is more for the social aspects than it is for the food. Without someone to share the experience of good food and conversation, why bother to go? I've often seen people dining alone. Usually that person will have their nose in a book. That makes sense, and will more-so when I have one out that they can be reading :-). But, sometimes they aren't reading. Just dining alone. Slowly. As if savoring every bite.
While I was in Wisconsin I couldn't resort to my old standbys of fast food joints where I could take a book and wolf down a cheeseburger. I had to go to places where my characters might like to dine. Experience the restaurant through their eyes. Take notes and pictures. Talk to the servers in some cases. I needed to step out of my comfort zone.
The first restaurant where I had lunch was a treat. It was rather eclectic in decor, but casual with unique twists on common dishes as its fare. I engaged the women who worked there in converstion and explained why I was there. I snapped pictures with abandon and made copious notes while I ate. That notebook of mine was my crutch. While waiting for my food I made notes. It was also my conversation partner.
That evening I took myself out again. Still full from my lunch, I probably wouldn't have gone to a sit-down meal, but I had to for the sake of the story. Again, my ever-present notebook served as my dining partner. That night I enjoyed a meal of deep-fried perch. A huge departure from the low-fat diet I like to maintain, but I was in Wisconsin, the state I grew up in, the land of traditional Friday night fish frys that are so much a part of the Wisconsin culture. So I indulged and enjoyed every minute.
The next morning I was tempted to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast my hotel offered, but I had one more place to visit before heading home--a small cafe someone had told me was the place to go to get a taste of the locals as well as good food. And boy did I! I'd forgotten that Wisconsin has no state-wide ban on smoking, and this place was so small it never heard of a non-smoking section! Other than that, it was perfect for what I needed. The decor was like a step back in time and so were the prices. I'll never forget the cap one man with a cigarette dangling from his lips wore, "Fish or Die." The breakfast was great.
In retrospect as I look back, I realize that in all the restaurants I visited, I attacked my food with a vengance. Since I had no one to talk to I focused on eating. Maybe I subconciously ate fast so I could leave and get back to my comfort zone. I don't know if I'll ever decide to eat alone in such restaurants for no reason except to go out to eat, but I learned a new thing about myself. I have the courage to do what needs doing.
And you need that in this crazy world of writing.