It’s true, with my job as restaurant critic for Food World magazine, we went everywhere together. With a mission to cover all fourteen states of the Eastern Seaboard, the last 12 months had seen Jürgen and I move around regularly.
Typically, while I developed an extensive directory of remarkable places to eat, he’d take up casual employment, in whichever conurbation we found ourselves in. I hadn’t heard him complain too much about it. Picking and choosing whatever took his fancy, almost any form of manual work suited him.
Apparent to even the casual observer, Jürgen has a little less height and weight in comparison to me. His toned, athletic physique is impressive. I make comparisons to a competition-winning, middle distance runner … and with the stamina to match. His many attributes are widely recognised by other people too, the kind of folk who need a job done. I’m not sure if he’s altogether aware of it, but he has a social magnetism, drawing people into him. For sure, when out together he’d often get hit on by men and women alike. After a period of adjustment, it became something I’d gotten used to.
I’d guess it’s fair to say Jürgen and I were opposites in many ways. My work tends to be a solitary endeavour. Before we met, most of my acquaintances were involved in projects closely related to my own. You get to recognise the characters, top-end restauranteurs and event organisers, wine merchants and the rich who never cook for themselves. Reasonable-minded people might say the connecting thread for these types is arrogance, plain and simple. Well, nevertheless, I don’t hate them for it, I feel comfortable in their company. In the past I’ve shared time with them all … and occasionally whole weekends.
Next to my New York background, sits a proud Sicilian ancestral heritage; I’m Roman Catholic. Ultimately, I believe in the judgment of God and not that of bigots. In Jürgen, while he holds an immense regard for the architecture, art and atmosphere of churches, I see not a glimmer of faith inside of him.
Politically, my sympathies point towards liberalism, while, as far as I can make out, he holds no truck with any idealogical wing. Jürgen describes himself as apolitical. A person seeking power, he once told me, disqualifies themselves from suitability to hold office, by definition. I see his point, but I am less cynical. Despite our differences, I felt compelled and excited by this man, more than anyone else I’d ever known before. Across the time spent together, I experienced growth and insight from a perspective hitherto unknown to me. It sure as hell hadn’t happened immediately, but gradually, I did indeed fall in love.
Whilst finishing off in Georgia, the penultimate state on the list, I received a call from James, lifestyle editor at the magazine. He’d been instrumental in my successful application as restaurant reviewer. Originally, I’d met him and his husband Todd, at a members-only spa in the Village district on the west side of Manhattan. Over time, the three of us established a friendship featuring regular meet-ups, convivial late nights … occasionally late morning sleep-ins.
Ross, he says, for your next assignment, how does sunny California sound?
It sounded good. I wondered how fast he wanted me there.
How about you speed your way through Florida and get your sweet ass over to Los Angeles by … let’s say … this time next week. I’ll book a table at La Providence for Saturday.
No way could I turn him down. Lots of wonderful opportunities had opened up to me since meeting James. I hadn’t had so much fun in years, finding myself generously rewarded for travelling, writing and eating out in fancy restaurants. Looking back, I knew deep-down Jürgen wouldn’t want to go.
How am I going to get to California? he said. He disagreed with air travel, solely on environmental grounds. Well, when I’m finished in Florida, you catch a greyhound bus from Miami, I told him. By road or rail, factoring in stop-overs, that’s the best part of a week’s travel, just to get somewhere I don’t even want to go to, he’d said.
Ultimately, Jürgen caught a greyhound from Miami, but upon arrival at the first stop in Atlanta, from where we’d not long left, he carried on north via Little Rock and back to Omaha, Nebraska, his home state.
Over in LA, I had the time of my life. I loved the climate, the people, the restaurants, bars and cafés. Soon, I hooked up with contacts and made new friends. With their help, I discovered parts of the city tourists often miss, expanding Food World magazine’s directory for the city tenfold, over the course of just a few months.
Jürgen and I kept in touch. He’d found work, some happiness, alternating between Omaha and Gothenburg, a town just a few hours west on the interstate. One time, we met at a convention in San Francisco, six months after last seeing each other. Our lives had diverged, this much had become apparent. I came to recognise the differences between us extended to our entire outlook on life. Unable to understand each other’s point of view, felt like a blindness. Getting the time and distance between us, helped me understand this. But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ever miss him. Although, something that has just occurred to me, the asshole flew to San Francisco!
©Brinkinfield 2020 All Rights Reserved Part of the Ekphrasis Project (story inspired by a picture)