Last night, I found myself delicately deliberating over the prices of everything on the menu at a non-kosher restaurant that a new, American free-lancing journalist friend of mine suggested that we try. I can afford to get a hamburger, but I couldn't afford to get a drink. Wait, was the water free? I can't eat the bread, but will a salad cost more?
Between the meal and the price of the taxi that it took me to get to this side of town, I was seriously looking at a blowing my entire grocery and Namaste snacks budget for the next two weeks.
From behind the extortionary prices on my over-sized menu, I glanced over at my new friend, who looked so pretty and casual in the light. She was wearing a very nice new scarf that did a lovely job of accenting the brown leather designer handbag that she casually matches with her very cool, designer jeans whenever possible. "Everything in this place is divine," she gushed. "Whatever you do, you have to try the seafood."
As someone who grew up restaurants, I felt my eyebrows lift somewhat in disbelief. I certainly can't claim to be an expert on food, but I know a little something about eating. There are a lot of people in the world who don't know much about food. These are the people who claim that everything on a menu is "divine". In all seriousness, however, judging from the price of absolutely everything on the menu, it seemed to me that most people would have to sell a kidney to eat here. Including me. In this case, the last meal I eat this week better be divine.
I realized that one of the reasons that my new friend keeps inviting me to join her out on the town is because she's one of those highly intelligent, extremely flirtatious, remarkably attractive young women who likes to have this sense of self mirrored back to her. With her parent's blessing (and abundant financial support), she's in Jerusalem this year to make something of herself, to wheel and deal, build her career and earn a good reputation in the world of news making and such. I, of course, have no choice but to admire her for her ambitious nature. I also have no problem getting out from time to time, even though I know that these sorts of social situations don't personally interest me. Perhaps it's because I have a tendency not to take myself or these situations very seriously that I manage to always be at ease.
Still, my friend sees in me what she prefers to see in herself, a sophisticated, yet spunky young woman who is capable of getting whatever she wants with a feisty smile and a flirtatious toss of her hair. In fact, it was at the moment that I was observing this that two older (and obviously married) men from the bar sent over a nice bottle of wine for our dinner. They had been seated at the bar when we were escorted to our table. I unintentionally made eye contact with one of them as we passed by. When I did this, I realized that I recognized him from the last posh place that my new friend took me to the week before. The man smiled in a way that said he recognized me too, so I smiled back. Geez, you know this is a small town when you already know all of the lecherous married guys, I thought. As I passed, he turned and said hello and Happy New Year in Hebrew. I replied in kind. There was no flirtatious hair-tossing, it was just a simple, albeit somewhat mysterious, reply. After all, it never hurts to make a friend.
As the waiter opened the bottle for us, my friend looked at me and laughed loudly (for the men at the bar to hear, of course) in dramatic disbelief. "Damn, Namaste! You're really my good luck charm in this town!" Apparently one of the men was a reporter for another news source in town, which I unfortunately cannot disclose. It didn't take them long to invite themselves to our table for an excessively long evening of drinks, social maneuvering, and socially sophisticated conversation. I played my part of laughing at socially inappropriate jokes, and did more listening than talking.
Silently though, I couldn't help but wonder, if, for all of my novelty and generous playing along, if the guy who sent the wine would find it in his heart to pay for my $30.00 hamburger, too. I laughed at myself for this, because, of course, I would never let him pay for my meal. But, when the evening ended, the bill never came. Apparently, I was eating a $30.00 hamburger with VIP Jerusalem royalty.